Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing renewed questions about his policies affecting the state’s Black community following a racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville.
On Saturday, a white gunman killed three Black people at a Dollar General store before taking his own life. The shooter, 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, reportedly had racist writings against Black people. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into the shooting as a potential hate crime.
Some community leaders and Democratic lawmakers argue that DeSantis’ education and redistricting policies have contributed to racial divides in Florida. They cite his efforts to ban diversity programs at state universities, restrict the teaching of systemic racism in schools, and oppose a proposed Advanced Placement African American Studies course. DeSantis has defended these actions as combatting “woke” ideologies.
Critics also point to Florida’s recently approved congressional map, which eliminated a north Florida district represented by a Black Democrat. DeSantis’ office argues the new map complies with federal and state laws. The map faces an ongoing legal challenge.
DeSantis attended a vigil for the Jacksonville shooting victims on Sunday. Some in the crowd booed the governor, reflecting tensions between him and segments of the Black community. DeSantis called the shooter a “scumbag,” while a local pastor labelled him a racist.
DeSantis pledged $1.1 million on Monday to boost security at a nearby historically Black university. He said he wants to ensure Black colleges in Florida are protected.
DeSantis is regarded as a possible contender for the 2024 presidential race. His handling of racial issues has drawn national attention amid a broader debate over race, education and discrimination in the U.S.