Uh Ron DeSantis just said FL shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum pic.twitter.com/nDPp3Hx7zc— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) August 29, 2018
Recent comments from Florida gubernatorial candidate and current United States Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) warning voters in his state against electing his Democratic opponent are deplorable and undeniably racist.
DeSantis’ Democratic counterpart, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, is vying to become Florida’s first African-American governor. But during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, the day after both candidates won their respective primary contests, DeSantis’ words delved into outright racist, dog-whistle politics.
DeSantis wants to continue the supposed successes “we’ve had [with] Gov. [Rick] Scott,” he said. Then, attacking Gillum’s progressive bona fides by trying to label him a “socialist,” DeSantis used racist imagery to criticize his opponent.
“The last thing we need to do is to ‘monkey’ this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said.
The statement is insensitive and ignores historical context that any grade school student could be aware of. For hundreds of years, African-Americans have been animalized by racists, oftentimes compared to monkeys during these bigoted and reprehensible statements. DeSantis’ comments, seemingly coinciding with this sad tradition, were condemned by Florida’s Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.
“It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” Rizzo said.
Others on social media pointed out the absurdity of the candidate’s word choice, including activist and journalist Shaun King, who lampooned DeSantis by satirically tweeting a warning to Florida voters against voting for him.
Hey Florida,— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 29, 2018
Quit the honkey business (that's a real saying right?) and elect Andrew Gillum to be your next governor.
Don't cracker around (people say that in real life right?) and vote for Ron DeSantis.
That would be KKKrazy (normal spelling, right?)
DeSantis’ campaign dismissed charges of racism from the candidate.
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” DeSantis spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”
But any which way you look at it, DeSantis’ choice of words were inappropriate. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, at best his words exemplify his ignorance on the history of racism in this country and within his state. At worst, DeSantis was aware of the racially-charged wording, yet chose to use it anyway, demonstrating his own racism in the process.
Either reality is something Florida voters need to contemplate while choosing their next governor. But hopefully, sooner rather than later, DeSantis will issue an apology to his opponent for engaging in such disrespectful and tactless rhetoric.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters