Last week a White man walked into a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, and opened fire, killing three Black people in a racially motivated attack. He left behind a rambling, nearly incoherent manifesto, in which he propounded his racist ideology and declared his intention to kill Black people.
The shooter was armed with a handgun and an AR-15, both of which he appears to have purchased legally, even after having been taken into custody a few years ago under a law that allows officials to intervene when someone is having a mental health emergency. The law stipulates that such persons are no longer allowed to buy guns, but we all know the gaps in enforcement of such laws are big enough to drive a Mack truck
My position on guns is well known (if you aren t aware of what that is, just ask me), so I m not going to go into that today. What I want to talk about today is the broader context of this attack. Not only did it take place on the 60th anniver sary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but it also happened in Florida. And thats an important detail.
Governor Ron DeSantis has loudly declared that Florida is where woke goes to die, and has taken measures to prove it. For instance, his so called Dont Say Gay bill prohibits public school teachers discussing LGBTQ+ issues with students at certain grade levels. But more germane to the subject of last Saturday s shooting are his and his cronies efforts to whitewash the teaching of history in their state.
Florida is not the only place where this offensive initiative has taken root, but it one of the places where its architects have crowed about it most proudly. With the misguided goal of preventing White students feeling bad about them selves and their heritage, Florida lawmakers have placed strict limits on what teachers can talk about when it comes to slavery, Jim Crow, and the pervasive, systemic racism that still plagues our nation. To protect our little darlings from having their fr agile sense of self esteem threatened, DeSantis and friends are willing to teach lies, or, at best, to refuse to teach the whole truth. I for one think that kids are tougher than the Governor gives them credit for, and it does them a disservice to teach th em history based on the principle of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.
Before driving to the nearby Dollar General, the shooter first tried to take out his racist wrath at Edward Waters University, a historically Black institution, but he was rebuffed by campus security. Gov. DeSantis this week announced that Florida would give the university $1 million to beef up their campus safety protocols. We are not gonna allow our HBCUs to be targeted by these people, he said. I guess it didn t occur to him that to
some observers he himself is one of these people.
It is not my place as a pastor to tell anybody how to think or feel or vote, but it is most assuredly my job to tell you what I believe God, as revealed in Jesus, thinks about these issues.
issues. And I cannot imagine that Jesus approves of leaders who foment racial strife for political gain and then disavow any responsibility whenwhen unstable, hateful people take their ideas to their logical conclusion. I cannot imagine Jesus telling marginalized peopeopleple that not only do they have to live in food deserts with crumbling infrastructure, poor public transportation options, and job opportunities running the narrow range from call center operator to fry cook, but they also have to submit to the indignity of having lies told about how they got there. Racism and “anti-wokeism” (whichI contend are synonymous) are not victimless crimes, and Jacksonville is just the latest proof of that sad truth.
We can do better. For God’s sake, let us do better.
Grace and peace,