If there were ever two words that should be scrubbed from the media and political lexicon, it’s the words “racially motivated.” Virtually anything involving race can be considered “racially motivated.” Musical genres like jazz, blues and hip-hop are “racially motivated,” as they were created by a racial group (Black people) and motivated by our communities and experiences. Black historical films, books, documentaries and TV shows are “racially motivated,” as are the monuments to civil rights leaders. In fact, one could even call the movement itself “racially motivated”—but it was a byproduct of racism.
Ryan Christopher Palmeter didn’t travel to a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, armed with an AR-15-style rifle adorned with swastikas and a handgun and specifically target Black people, three of whom he shot and killed, because he was “motivated” by race. He did it because he was racist. He didn’t presumably attempt the same type of attack at an HBCU prior to going to Dollar General because race “motivated” him to do so. He did it because he was racist.
Media outlets, politicians and law enforcement officials use the words “racially motivated” and “racially charged” as softer language for what is clear and unmistakable racism. But who is that softened tone even for? Certainly, not Black people.
It might seem to some like it’s a petty, arbitrary and largely semantic distinction, but think about the fact that “motivated” and “inspired” are synonyms, and then think about how silly you’d sound saying the horrific murders of Black people by a violent white supremacist were “racially inspired.” Think about how far out of your way you would have to go to choose those words in order to avoid calling a thing a thing. It’s the kind of thing that would be expected from people like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who would sooner ban the word “racist” into “woke” oblivion before he acknowledges that anti-Black racism is still a problem in America.
But it’s not just people like DeSantis who do their best to soft-serve the subject of racism. It’s people—mostly white people—who are so uncomfortable with the subject of racism in America that when they’re forced to talk about it, they’re as vague as they can be, both for themselves and for the benefit of white people in general.
Take, for another example, what Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan told people who gathered to honor the victims the day after the shooting.
“The division has to stop, the hate has to stop, the rhetoric has to stop,” Deegan said. “We are all the same flesh, blood and bones and we should treat each other that way.”
Besides the fact that “the division has to stop” is the same kind of thing conservatives say when blindly attacking “wokeness” and “critical race theory,” it’s truly an “all lives matter” and/or “I don’t see color” approach to discussing what happened on Saturday. The shooting wasn’t something we did to each other. A white racist did it to Black people. The “division” and “rhetoric” that “has to stop” could refer to anything. It could refer to racist “rhetoric” or anti-racist “rhetoric.” Hell, even her use of the word “rhetoric” is rhetoric.
And yet, “rhetoric” didn’t kill anyone in Jacksonville on Saturday—racist action did. If anything, the rhetoric Deegan was referring to might be considered “racially motivated.” Either way, her use of “division” only serves as the same kind of soft alternative for what really “has to stop,” which is—you guessed it—racism.
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters, who is Black, had no problem acknowledging that Palmeto “targeted a certain group of people and that’s Black people,” or that he left behind racist writings that revealed his “disgusting ideology of hate.” Waters said all of this plainly because he “wanted the people to be able to see exactly what happened in this situation and just how sickening it is,” but he still appeared hesitant to use the R-word.
Waters also said this:
“Our community is grappling to understand why this atrocity occurred. I urge us all not to look for sense in a senseless act of violence. There’s no reason or explanation that will ever account for the shooter’s decisions and actions.”
And yet, there is a clear explanation: Racism. The act, as horrific and heartbreaking as it was, does make sense. A violent white man wanted to kill Black people and did so because he was racist. Not “racially motivated.” Not “motivated by hate.” Even calling it “hate” often sounds like a way to avoid what specific type of “hate” is responsible for racist actions.
The core issue is this: The language used to describe racism is a direct reflection of public officials’ effort to actually do something about racism in America. It’s almost as if they can’t explicitly call it racist for fear of offending certain people (not the ones who tend to be victims of racism though). In fact, some might argue that the very use of the words “racially motivated” to assuage white guilt is, itself, racially motivated.
Others (*raises hand*) might argue it’s simply racist.
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The Jacksonville Shooting Wasn’t ‘Racially Motivated,’ It Was Racist. There’s A Difference was originally published on newsone.com