(Todd A. Smith)

One of the most iconic hood movies of the 1990s was the Ernest Dickerson-directed film “Juice,” which starred up-and-coming star Tupac Shakur.

In the movie, Shakur played the sociopath Bishop who eventually kills one of his best friends Raheem (Khalil Kain) and attempts to kill another best friend, Steele (Jermaine Hopkins).

The coldest part of his murderous rampage was the fact that Bishop actually showed up to Raheem’s repast at his family’s home and told the mourners he would do anything to help them get through the grieving process because Raheem was like a brother to him.

While I am not calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a killer or sociopath in any way, his appearance at a vigil to remember the victims of a racially motivated hate crime in Jacksonville, Fla., and claiming that hate crimes have no place in the “Sunshine State,” is especially appalling because his constant stop woke rhetoric only leads to such hate because it makes racism mainstream.

As a result, the audience at the vigil rightfully booed the governor who has said that advanced placement Black history has no educational value and has stopped diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at state colleges.

Juliana Kim of NPR reported, “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was booed and heckled on Sunday while attending a prayer vigil in Jacksonville for three victims killed in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack at a local Dollar General…

“As DeSantis approached the podium to speak, some people in the crowd began to boo; one yelled out, ‘You’re not welcome here.’ Later, someone shouted, ‘Your policies caused this,’ according to videos of the event. As governor, DeSantis has loosened the state’s guns laws, and curbed efforts to teach Black history in public schools.”

The alleged killer reportedly had hatred towards African-Americans.

He first went to Edward Waters University, a historically Black college in Jacksonville, but was turned away by school security.

Later, he went to the Dollar General and allegedly opened fire on his victims.

Now, no one can blame politicians like DeSantis for the alleged actions of a hateful bigot.

However, people can blame politicians like DeSantis and others for making hate acceptable.

Over the last few years, politicians like DeSantis have bragged about being anti-woke.

He has even said that Florida is where woke goes to die.

Although some on the political right have misused and misappropriated the term woke, the term originated from people in the African-American community urging their brothers and sisters to stay conscious, or woke, of racial inequality.

Unfortunately, many politicians on the right have taken the term woke to mean anything and everything that is not status quo in America.

Right-wing media stars like Tucker Carlson got rich and famous telling their audiences about White replacement theory and how people of color and immigrants are determined to replace the White man.

Therefore, White people (or people who support right-wing causes) must take back their country from the woke left.

Political candidates and criminal defendants like former President Donald Trump have even invoked the term “civil war” when describing how angry some of his MAGA cult followers are because their lord and savior was kicked out of office.

While Trump and DeSantis are not the first racist politicians, because many presidents from the left and right supported racism in the past from Nixon to Johnson to Reagan to Biden, many of those politicians had the good sense to keep their bigotry hidden as much as possible.

Back in the day, bigots in the back rooms of a mobile home or their mother’s basements probably felt ashamed to express their hatred because it was not accepted by the masses.

However, if the leader of a large state like Florida or the former leader of the free world can be an open bigot, then why can’t the regular John Doe?

And that is not just conjecture.

Research from the FBI showed that hate crimes increased dramatically during Trump’s four years in the Oval Office.

But research might also show that Republican politicians can appeal to a certain part of their base, and get them motivated, with such nonsense at the White replacement theory.

Those wannabe leaders can get people riled up by calling actual American history critical race theory and erroneously telling parents that if their children learn the truth about America, they will be indoctrinated to think that all White people are racist.

That might work for a primary.

However, politicians who strive to be president often must win the moderate independent voters because their party support is a given if they can motivate them to get out to the polls.

Furthermore, political leaders like Biden, Stacey Abrams, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and others have shown how critical the African-American vote is to secure the White House.

Therefore, politicians like DeSantis must appear to be anti-woke and woke at the same time and that explains his ill-advised visit to the prayer vigil in Jacksonville.

Political pundits can criticize the African-American community for being too loyal to the Democratic Party all they want.

But one thing that is for sure, the African-American voter is a very savvy voter.

Lip service does not work when the community knows the person speaking has hatred in his heart for them.

Photo-ops will not work when the people around you at the vigil have looks of suspicion and utter disgust written all over their faces.

What might work is being a good person and caring about all your constituents, not just those who look like you or vote like you.

What might bring people together across racial lines is actually teaching the true history of this country, whether good or bad, so that the next generation will not make the same mistakes as previous generations.

What might prevent hate crimes is learning about the diversity of this country and how we have more similarities than differences.

If DeSantis did those things, maybe he would have juice (respect) from the African-American community.

But with his actions, maybe it is too late for him just like it was too late for Bishop in the end.

Todd A. Smith
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