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DeSantis receives backlash after racist killings in Jacksonville

The governor, who has touted Florida as “where woke goes to die,” faced boos and widespread condemnation from Black folks after a racist attack in his state.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was loudly booed Sunday while attending a vigil for the three Black people gunned down by a white man at a Jacksonville store the day before.

Through his administration’s assault on inclusive learning plans that may make white students feel uncomfortable, its efforts to dilute Black voter power, its efforts to whitewash racist massacres against Black people and its efforts to tout the purported benefits that slavery afforded Black people, DeSantis has arguably become Florida’s most prominent face of anti-Black rhetoric. 

The governor, who’s vying for the Republican presidential nomination, routinely claims that his state is where “woke” — that is, the term denoting Black consciousness — “goes to die.”

And with that reputation in mind, he was the last person many Black Floridians wanted to hear from after three Black people were killed at a Dollar General store by a shooter who authorities say was motivated by anti-Black hate.

Here’s a video of DeSantis being booed alongside his wife, Casey, who has mirrored the governor’s rhetoric about inclusive learning plans. One of the audience members yelled, “Your policies caused this!”

Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., agreed with the icy reception.

“This is the energy needed,” Frost wrote on X. “I understand that some electeds + pastors want ‘unity,’ but folks have to understand that for Gov DeSantis, this is a campaign stop. Don’t let your community be used as a prop. If he wanted to help, he’d do something.”

Another Florida Democrat, state Rep. Angie Nixon, said DeSantis bears some responsibility for the racist hatred. Speaking on MSNBC on Sunday, she characterized the governor’s condemnation of the Jacksonville killings as “hollow statements” and added: “At the end of the day, the governor has blood on his hands.”

“He has had an all-out attack on the Black community with his ‘anti-woke’ policies, which we know very well was nothing more than a dog whistle to get folks up — and riled up — in the way in which it just happened,” said Nixon, whose district includes where the shooting occurred. 

Ironically, the reaction to DeSantis has given him a crash course in critical race theory, an academic framework he has sought to ban in Florida that focuses on the ways racism is interwoven with the nation’s law and institutions.

Understanding that relationship would help explain to DeSantis how he — as an executive who authorizes bigoted laws — is seen as culpable for, or at least permissive of, racist violence in Florida. DeSantis denies the existence of systemic racism, but the reaction to the Jacksonville mass shooting shows he’s a poster boy for it.

Because in many people’s eyes, white supremacy is no different whether you’re operating from the governor’s mansion or aiming a gun. Fundamentally, the goal is the same: to place Black people beneath you.