White Supremacy, Domestic Terrorism and Us

Bullying or racism concept, white supremacy
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Just hours before Ryan Palmeter shot up a Dollar General in Jacksonville on Aug. 26 in a racist hate crime, Bernice King, daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, was speaking at the 60th memorial of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

It was at that 1963 march of 250,000 people where MLK gave his iconic “I have a dream” speech. Among the most quoted lines of the speech are, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Palmeter judged his victims solely by the color of their skin, shooting Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Jerrald Gallion, 29 and Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., 19, to death. Palmeter discussed his hatred of Black people and gay people and Jews in at least three manifestos that were found on his body, including those addressed to his parents, the news media, and federal agents.

The Jacksonville hate crime was the third in as many weeks. On July 29, Philadelphia dancer O’Shae Sibley was stabbed to death in a hate crime in Brooklyn. Dmitry Popov, a 17-year-old teen, has been charged with Sibley’s murder and other hate crime charges.

On Aug. 18, Lauri Carleton was allegedly murdered by 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi, who confronted Carleton about the Pride flag at her shop, spewed some antigay slurs, and then shot her in the head. Carleton died at the scene. Like Palmeter, Ikeguchi espoused white supremacist ideology that also included anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and antisemitism.

Hate crimes used to be so uncommon that we named laws after their victims, like The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed in 2009. That law commemorates two men killed in egregious hate crimes. Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, pistol-whipped then tied to a fence and left to die near Laramie on the night of Oct. 6, 1998. The 21-year-old was on life-support for six days before he died.

In Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998, Byrd was dragged behind a Ford pickup truck along an asphalt road. The 49-year-old was killed when his body hit the edge of a culvert, severing his right arm and head. His killers continued to drive on for another mile and a half before dumping his torso in front of a Black church.

These two hate crimes shocked and riveted the nation and drew attention to the violence against gay people and the ongoing threat of white supremacy in the U.S. 

But as they say, that was then, this is now. In 1998, when those two horrifying crimes were committed, it was before the U.S. elected Donald Trump, a lifelong racist with a history of racial bias dating back to his indictment in 1973 by the Nixon Department of Justice for refusing to rent to Black people at his New York properties. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times in 1989 calling for the execution of the Central Park 5, who were later exonerated. 

And Trump spawned the “birther” movement that claimed Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. Trump also became the most anti-LGBTQ+ president in U.S. history, enacting policies that still impact LGBTQ+ people.

It’s easy to forget, given the current spate of criminal actions taken against Trump, that in addition to fomenting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he also promoted white supremacy and anti-LGBTQ+ bias throughout his presidency. And yet it’s the Trump/MAGA movement that has spurred a series of hate crimes and inflamed white supremacy.

Many Americans recall Trump’s support for the Charlottesville white supremacists where he referred to them as “very fine people” or his veiled threat as he told the white nationalist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

And mere months ago, as a candidate for president, Trump had dinner with two avowed white supremacists and antisemites who are also anti-LGBTQ. But it’s not just Trump. It’s his followers, it’s his party and it’s young men like Popov, Palmeter and Ikeguchi who are listening and angry and ultimately violent. Trump opened Pandora’s Box.

In a 2019 report, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that white supremacist violence “is one of the most potent forces driving domestic terrorism.” 

White supremacy always includes anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry and antisemitism. It’s a triptych of hate: these are the people white supremacists consider most threatening to the established white order.

The far right has a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. In Charlottesville, they shouted racist and antisemitic slurs with chants of “They will not replace us” and also chanted “F–k you, fa—ts!”

President Joe Biden said it was the incident at Charlottesville that convinced him to run for president again. But as we’ve seen from the actions of the supposedly mainstream GOP, white supremacy is a bulwark and a tenet of their party’s Trumpism-based platform. 

One of the most obvious proponents of this is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He was booed in Jacksonville when he tried to speak about the hate crime killings. One person yelled out, “You’re not welcome here.” Another shouted, “Your policies caused this,” according to videos of the event. DeSantis has made the state’s gun laws among the most lax in the nation and curtailed teaching of Black history in public schools.

Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman stepped in and addressed the crowd.

“Put parties aside,” Pittman said. 

Oh no. 

As I wrote on Twitter/X when I saw that video, “‘Put politics aside for a moment’ is something no member of any historically marginalized community should ever say to or about a person in power. We can’t afford to pretend the people who want us erased or dead or both are ever equal partners in any conversation. Period.”

We are at an inflection point in this country. The confluence of extremist rhetoric, too many guns and a simmering undercurrent of male rage has resulted in more than 400 mass shootings this year.Anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are on the rise and at an all-time high according to a new report from the ADL and GLAAD. The extremist right has an agenda that echoes those chants from Charlottesville: They fear the people they hate. And that has put LGBTQ+ people and Black people in the literal crosshairs.

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