Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
A week after a white supremacist shot and killed three Black people simply for existing while Black in Jacksonville, Florida, members of two neo-Nazi groups took to the streets of Orlando to spread their messages of hate.
I am not surprised.
This is Florida, after all, a true paradise for unbridled and unabated hate enabled by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, a man who put the “bigot” in bigotry.
According to an NBC News report, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the entrance of Disney Springs on Saturday morning after a group of people wearing clothing and carrying flags with Nazi insignia showed up at a demonstration.
The Anti-Defamation League identified the group as members of three different white supremacist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ+ groups: Order of the Black Sun (OBS), Aryan Freedom Network and 14 First.
In the same press release, which denounced the demonstrations for the bigoted hate parades that they were, the ADL said another demonstration took place later that same day. The two extremist groups involved in that hate gathering were identified as the Goyim Defense League (GDL) and Blood Tribe (BT). The second “demonstration,” which the participants called the “March of the Redshirts,” included 51 people — all of whom were wearing red shirts, black masks and black pants. They carried swastika flags, performed Hitler salutes and yelled things like “white power” and “Jews will not replace us.”
USA Today reports that some of those involved in the demonstrations displayed messaging in support of Ron DeSantis, their resident bigot-in-chief.
Some Florida lawmakers have come out to denounce the demonstrations, but you know who has yet to say anything about them?
Through his words and legislative actions, DeSantis has created an environment where bigotry feels free to walk proudly in neon clothing out in the open. It doesn’t have to hide under the white hoods and sheets of yesteryear. It can show its face proudly because the highest-ranking member of the state government has given bigots a pass to do what they want.
Never mind that DeSantis came out to denounce the Jacksonville shooting; that was posturing for the press. He doesn’t care about the shooting or the Black people who died; he cares about the optics as he tries to run for the highest office in the country — a role where he would have even more power to spread his hateful agenda throughout the country.
DeSantis has a history of remaining silent in the face of such open displays of hate in his state. He only speaks up when forced to, and that is very telling.
In a press conference last year, he accused Democrats of trying to “smear” him as if he “had something to do with” a similar hate demonstration.
Other Florida Republicans had denounced that particular demonstration, but once again, DeSantis was mum about it until he got called out in a press conference.
Instead of condemning the neo-Nazis as he should have, he instead focused on the Democrats who were calling out his silence.
“They try to play games to try to politicize, why would they do that? Why would they want to elevate a half-dozen malcontents and try to make this an issue for political gain?” he asked, adding that the Dems were simply trying to distract from Joe Biden’s record.
Mr. DeSantis, the call is coming from inside the house, sir.
DeSantis has created a utopia for hate and hate mongers to thrive while simultaneously making it a nightmare for anyone who isn’t a white cis-hetero male.
What makes it even more disturbing is DeSantis’ lack of shame in openly being a bigot. In fact, he’s quite proud of it.
In June, the DeSantis campaign sent out a tweet that said, “To wrap up ‘Pride Month,’ let’s hear from the politician who did more than any other Republican to celebrate it.”
Included in the tweet was a link to a DeSantis political ad in which he brags about his “accomplishments” with regard to the LGBTQ+ community.
The New Republic described it as follows:
If you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to watch and study its full one minute and 13 seconds. Even by GOP standards, it’s frightening. It reveals more starkly than anything we’ve seen that the Republican Party wants to foment an epoch of moral panic and judgment like we haven’t seen in decades. And importantly, because this is the way things tend to work in the GOP, it will establish a new bar for the party’s base and therefore its presidential contenders: If you want to have a serious shot at winning this party’s nomination, your position on gay and transgender rights must be one of not only zero tolerance but celebration of open ostracism and bigotry.
The ad opens by attacking Donald Trump as soft on LGBTQ rights. It has him vowing to defend LGBTQ Americans (this was right after the Orlando nightclub shooting) and telling Barbara Walters that in the future, trans women should be able to compete in Miss Universe pageants. Then, having established this, it moves to a cataloging of DeSantis’s record, and that’s where we head into yellow-star territory.
With ominous background music that sure sounds like it was chosen to evoke terror, the ad flashes a series of headlines from mainstream newspapers calling DeSantis’s anti-LGBTQ initiatives extreme and even “draconian.” These of course are points of pride. Likewise, there are sentences critical of DeSantis lifted from press reports or attacks (“DeSantis is evil”). The culminating sentence is “a real wolf had finally arrived.” Then there’s an illustration of DeSantis with a couple of alligators behind him, in which the governor has, I kid you not, fangs.
DeSantis and his “Stop W.O.K.E.” legislation feeds into the inherent white supremacist origins of this country. His disdain for anything that would hold bigots accountable for their harmful beliefs and actions is apparent in the legislation he puts forth in the state.
This combined with his agenda to prevent the accurate teaching of American history, especially as it pertains to the treatment of Black Americans, demonstrates his regressive politics.
Ron DeSantis does not care about Black people, and he does not care about the LGBTQ+ community. His political agenda proves that.
When the NAACP issued a travel advisory in May cautioning people to avoid Florida due to its open hostility against Black people, other people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community, DeSantis fired back by relying on the old “What about Chicago” trope that racist white people like to throw out as if it is some type of Big Joker to end any conversation on the increasing open racism that is happening across America.
During a presidential campaign stop in Rochester, New Hampshire, in June, DeSantis said, “If you’re in Baltimore or Chicago, these kids have a better chance of getting shot than getting a first-class education.”
If DeSantis thinks what he’s doing in Florida passes for a “first-class education,” I have news for him.
DeSantis is a spokesperson for hate, plain and simple.
He ran for governor on a hate campaign, and he is campaigning to be the president of the United States and that same hate train.
He is riling up the white supremacists and their ilk in an attempt to turn back the clock in America to a time when Black people and members of the LGBTQ+ community could not exist in peace.
The most frightening part is it’s working.
It’s safer to be a neo-Nazi in Florida than it is to be Black or LGBTQ+.
If Ron DeSantis has his way, that will become the norm across the United States of America.
We have to do all we can to prevent that from happening.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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