A Florida politician made a racially-charged comment about black candidate Andrew Gillum, and enough is enough
It’s been less than 24 hours since Andrew Gillum won the Democratic primary in the Florida governor race, becoming the state’s first black, major-party gubernatorial nominee. But Gillum’s opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, is already drawing criticism for potentially racist remarks made during an August 28th Fox News interview.
Specifically, DeSantos said, "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state."
While to “monkey” something up typically means to “mess it up” or “screw it up,” many on Twitter were quick to note that there’s a long and insidious history of white people calling black people “apes” or “monkeys” in an attempt to marginalize and dehumanize them. Many found DeSantis’ word choice questionable at best, and outright racist at worst.
Additionally, in the same interview, DeSantis called Gillum “an articulate spokesman” of liberal policies, leading many to (rightfully) note that calling a black person or any person of color “articulate” is classic and thinly disguised prejudice. It seems to imply that an “articulate” black man is something rare and worthy of note. DeSantis’s remarks quickly drew criticism.
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo condemned the comment in a statement to CNN.
"It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles," Rizzo said in her statement.
(A “dog whistle,” fyi, is a term used to describe coded language that only certain voters will likely pick up on. “Dog whistle comments” often enable political candidates to espouse racist rhetoric without “technically” using outright racist language).
The DeSantis campaign, however, denied all accusations of racism.
Communications director Stephen Lawson told CNN that DeSantis was "obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses," adding that, "to characterize it as anything else would be absurd."
But many Twitter users saw the comment as explicit racism.
As some pointed out, DeSantis could have used a variety of phrases without the word “monkey.”
Even though the DeSantis campaign has denied that the remark was in reference to Gillum’s race, we can’t ignore this lapse in judgement. Words matter, and so do all the connotations they carry in our society. Let’s hope our politicians do better. And let’s be sure to vote and make our voices heard in the upcoming midterm elections.