Thoughts on a hate crime, a few days after the news cycle has moved on
As someone born and raised in Jacksonville, and educated in its integrated public schools in the 1970s and 1980s, I appreciate this thoughtful reflection so much. "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the Black National Anthem, was composed and first performed in Jacksonville. The city is rich in Black history, and has a growing Black population that is increasingly influential both politically and economically.
No doubt, Florida's largest city is changing, and the White supremacists -- of all varieties -- are very worried about what it means for them, though many of them no longer live in the city itself (which is one and the same with Duval County). Palmeter, who was from neighboring Clay County, was one of many White folks living in the mostly White counties bordering Jacksonville and, from afar, decrying it as a crime-ridden wasteland while barely hiding the racist undertones of their laments.
The latest wave of White flight has, indeed, left many holes in the fabric of the city, but it's hardly a crime-ridden wasteland. Quite the opposite. Its population is growing, with a burgeoning Black middle class and immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Jacksonville just elected their first woman mayor -- a (White) Democrat -- and the county went for Biden in 2020. There's even a big, beautiful new park named for "Lift Every Voice and Sing." For sure Black folks in Jacksonville aren't apologizing for their resilience, joy, and self-determination. But the surrounding counties are deeply conservative and pro-Trump & DeSantis. It makes for a tense mix sometimes, with those folks on the perimeter looking at Jacksonville as an avatar of what the right wing has convinced them is "wrong" with this country. Palmeter was sadly not at all unique in his views, and I fear he may not remain alone in his actions. Florida under DeSantis is a frightening place for a lot of people and for a lot of reasons.
I think you're totally right that these violent extremists are a kind of release valve that -- on some level -- helps us feel less awful about our own internalized racist attitudes and behaviors. "I may not be perfect, but at least I'm not THAT guy." For that small, cold comfort, Black folks pay with their lives. But how many "release valves" are too many? When will we decide that enough is enough?
Thanks for the book rec. “The far more common reason has nothing to do with the people being demonized. It’s when you hate another group because their resilience, their joy, and their glorious existence is impossible to square with the stories that have animated your life. It’s when you hate a group for what they reveal about you. Hate is one way human beings react to truths we can’t metabolize, but there are others as well: Performative guilt, tokenism, “listening and learning.” We’ve got lots of tricks. Some are deadlier than others. None are helpful.” Thanks for writing this.
Having grown up in 100% white White Bear Lake, MN (a suburb of St Paul), I know this weather, the Fair debates, and bready sandwiches. And was raised on monsters justify war and violence. When I attended Gustavus Adolphus (St Peter, MN) in the 70's, the college had an initiative to recruit a cohort of Black students from the south, predominantly Mississippi. I didn't understand why they largely roomed and ate and studied together nor why they were so loud. I'm guessing some relationships were built between white and Black students but largely we were apart. Since then I've lived in white communities in Idaho and Washington State. I've never had a friend who wasn't white. Segregation is real in rural and suburban areas and I think it matters. I think that our implicit bias and sense of difference associated with skin color are also real, no matter if we are progressive and denounce racial hate.
So much good stuff here, Garrett. I was struck by this section in particular "There has been an immense beauty in all of those conversations I’ve had that end with “oh my goodness, are we really the monsters?” There’s always been an ellipsis there… an opportunity to ask the next logical question." You said once (I can't remember if it was to me directly or during Barnraisers) that "fear is an ellipsis" and I return to that regularly, reminding myself that my own fear and fear that comes up when I'm talking with other white folks is, at least in part, a desire for a different world.
I also really resonate with this "It’s when you hate another group because their resilience, their joy, and their glorious existence is impossible to square with the stories that have animated your life." It reminds me so much of what we see when folks are enraged about trans folks and our existence. It's not actually about us, it's about how we can't exist the way that we do alongside what they think about us or have been told about us.
Woof, this one hit me hard. I feel like I (as an Asian American)/Asian Americans have a hard time reckoning with how we're the "golden/prized minority" and the privileges that affords us within the carnage that is White Supremacy. I find myself thinking in "white adjacent" frames, where I ally myself closer to Whiteness because it's safer and more powerful/comfortable. I think of all of the Affirmative Action rhetoric and how we're dumb enough or just... complicit enough with White Supremacy/ignorance/the "Monster" that we aid and abet it because "at least we're benefiting" (when the data shows that we most assuredly are not-- irony at it's finest when we're "so good at math").
Going to chew on this one and do better.
I found this post by clicking through from Wonkette. Thanks so much for this perspective. It's dense (in a good way) and worth another read. I also appreciate the intelligence of the comments. I am subscribing now.
When my family moved to Little Rock, in 1992, I went to a school in a white suburb that bussed black kids in from North Little Rock. I noticed I had almost every class with two people, Cesalie & Deirdre, who were drill team leaders, and black. I approached them, in an effort to forge a friendship, and they asked me “what I wanted” and explained that cross-racial friendships weren’t really a thing.
When we moved to St, Augustine, FL (40 miles south of Jacksonville), in 2010, my daughter was playing with a black girl in her class (3rd grade). This little girl asked her what she wanted and told her other white kids didn’t really try to be friends with her.
18 years. Little change. Broken system. Broken heart.
You really get into that thing of white guilt. I can identify a bit, but my burden is more varied.
I am 78, grew up in a small Ohio no colored after sunset town. I have worked with Blacks,, especially in a title xx program in the 80xs. I like them , spirit,. resiliency, culture, sense of humor. I do a lot of self analysis but not on this particular subject. Great .read
Thanks for this Garrett and asking the bigger questions--one of my biggest insights from The Inheritors is the very thing you write about in this piece.