By Jodi Yonder
Gadsden County Courthouse—Standing beneath the infamous hanging tree, Congressman Al Lawson, Gadsden County Commissioner Brenda Holt, Tallahassee Attorney Mutaqee Akbar and Pastor Tracey Stallworth wanted an explanation. They said Governor Ron DeSantis’ latest insult to African Americans in Gadsden County went too far. It was about Jeff Moore, appointed by DeSantis to the Gadsden County Commission three months ago. He abruptly resigned September 23 when a picture surfaced of him in Klu Klux Klan garb. For the Black community it was a stunning rebuke of their citizenry in the only predominantly Black County in Florida. DeSantis offered no explanation or apology. Meanwhile, his audacity makes news nationwide.
Akbar said the photo was a not-so-subtle reminder that the old mindset is still alive. “It’s about everything that comes along with seeing that picture, that robe and everything that (it) stands for,” he said. Congressman Al Lawson said the latest DeSantis afront is a part of a pattern of attacks on Black people. “It’s clear that the Governor does not like Black people. When I first saw it, I just couldn’t believe (it). It brought back deep wounds and memories not just for me but for many other African Americans in this community.” DeSantis is so extreme even the Republican legislature tried to defy him on redrawing of congressional districts including the one he created that eliminated Lawson’s seat.
This is not the first time DeSantis’ appointees have shocked Floridians. His Secretary of State Michael Ertel, appointed in 2019, resigned when a picture emerged of him in blackface mocking Black women wearing large earrings, a headscarf and a “Katrina victim” tee shirt. In May, DeSantis appointed Cord Byrd Secretary of State who presides over elections and his wife Esther appointed to the State Board of Education. They were seen sailing on a boat flying the QAnon flag according to several news outlets.
DeSantis ignores accusations of racism and pretends he’s unaware of the disturbing positions of his appointees. But the first signs of trouble were his interactions with opponent Andrew Gillum, the democratic gubernatorial nominee. When he asked if Gillum was calling him a racist, Gillum replied, “I’m not saying you’re a racist. It’s the racists who say you’re a racist.”