Florida’s surgeon general, whom critics have described as a “token” and “lapdog” for the governor, vehemently defended his boss from a Black man’s accusations he “caused” the Jacksonville shooting and has made the state a breeding ground for racists.
Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a Nigerian-born, Harvard-trained UCLA researcher, was incredulous at the accurate thought that Gov. Ron DeSantis – who’s been busy running for president on an unabashedly racism-fueled platform – could possibly harbor any ill will toward a community he has openly discriminated against.
It all started at a press conference on Thursday where the pair was expected to discuss COVID-19 guidelines. But things quickly got real when DeSantis took a question from a member of the audience.
The unidentified attendee, a Black man, accused DeSantis of creating an environment where “immature people” can buy the kinds of guns that “caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a couple weeks ago.”
The comment was a direct reference to the racist mass shooting in Jacksonville on Aug. 26 in which an avowed white supremacist targeted and killed three Black people. It was the latest instance of racist violence in Florida.
DeSantis immediately took umbrage and resented the Black man presenting him with actual facts.
“I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity,” DeSantis shot back. “I am not going to take that.”
But the Black man was resolute in his messaging.
“You have allowed people to hunt people like me,” the man continued.
“Oh, that is nonsense. That is such nonsense,” DeSantis said as a chorus of boos arose from the audience toward the Black man.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Ladapo quickly took steps to defend his massa boss from the warranted accusations.
“It’s terrible that people take advantage of the fact that he’s a different color from the poor victims of that tragedy to try and tie him into something,” Ladapo said before describing the Black man in the audience as “crazy” and “insane.”
The “Django” vibes are hard to miss.
It wasn’t the first time Ladapo has gone to bat for DeSantis over issues with racial implications.
After being introduced as a vaccine skeptic and anti-masker during the heart of the pandemic – views that line up perfectly with DeSantis’ – he went on to downplay testing for the coronavirus as cases surged in Florida. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Black and brown people “had higher rates of infection and death than White people over most of the course of the pandemic.”
Florida has increasingly been the site of displays of anti-Black racism.
One week after the Jacksonville mass shooting, Nazis marched in Orlando chanting “white power.”
In May, the NAACP issued a travel advisory warning Black people about living in and traveling to the state of Florida in direct response to anti-Black policies pushed by state lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said in the advisory. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”
One month later, a white woman killed a Black mother of four in Ocala, which is about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. In that instance, Susan Lorincz, 58, allegedly called Black children racial slurs before fatally shooting their mother, Ajike “AJ” Owens, 35. Lorincz was charged with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault, but not a hate crime.
This is Florida.
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