The racist Florida shooter’s ideology extends to ordinary people | Jason Stanley
"On Saturday, Ryan Palmeter, a 21-year-old gunman, entered a dollar store in Jacksonville, Florida, and killed 52-year-old Angela Carr, 19-year-old AJ Laguerre Jr and 29-year-old Jerrald Gallion. All three victims were Black Americans. This shooting comes on the heels of an even larger mass shooting of Black Americans last year, in Buffalo, New York, where 18-year-old Payton Gendron murdered 10 people.
In less than two years, two young white men have committed two mass murders of Americans motivated by an explicit desire to kill Black people.
In the manifesto Gendron published online, which revealed in detail his motivations and thinking, the very first goal he listed was “kill as many blacks as possible”. None of Palmeter’s three manifestos have been revealed to the public. We have been told by police that they reveal “a disgusting ideology” that tries to justify the irrational hatred of another group, and this ideology of hate is certainly disgusting when it tries to justify the kind of mass killing Palmeter committed. Yet describing Palmeter’s ideology this way, as accurate as it may be, also incurs a risk. Few ordinary people think of themselves as sympathetic to “a disgusting ideology of hate”, even when it bears a close resemblance to a view they themselves possess.
Ideologies don’t kill people. But they do motivate people to kill. Some ideologies lend resentful and angry individuals a justification for mass killing. But ideologies have also motivated perfectly ordinary people into participation, active support or deep complicity in mass atrocity. The view that Black people are naturally subordinate to white people was once widespread in the United States. It justified a system of almost inconceivable brutality, in which whippings and rape were normalized for centuries. It was held by many ordinary people.
Gendron’s manifesto laid out his ideology clearly and consistently, in the question-and-answer style that has become a hallmark of this genre:
Are you a fascist?
Yes, fascism is one of the only political ideologies that will unite Whites against the replacers. Since that is what I seek, calling me a fascist would be accurate.
Are you a white supremacist?
Yes, I would call myself a white supremacist, after all, which race is responsible for the world we live in today? I believe the White race is superior in the brain to all other races.
Are you racist?
Yes I am racist because I believe in differences of capabilities between races.
Gendron’s ideology is white supremacy, which he believes to be under threat from higher birth rates among non-white people. Gendron also thinks that identifying as transgender is a mental illness, and that gender fluidity is a plot by Jews to subvert the west (AKA white civilization). According to Gendron, critical race theory is a (Jewish) plot “to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people”. We have been toldthat the Jacksonville killer also harbored anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic views.
Aside from these, something very close to Gendron and Palmeter’s ideology is held by many people today. The idea that white people face a threat of replacement by non-white people is behind the brutal treatment of immigrants in Europe and the United States, including the tolerance of mass drownings on the borders of Europe, family separations in the United States and the widespread denial of food and water to small children on borders. It emerges in the mass incarceration of Black Americans, the lack of action on the vast racial wealth gap and the militarized police force Black Americans often face. Gendron and Palmeter’s ideology is recognizable in the harshness and violence towards gender fluidity, and in the bans on critical race theory and Black history. It is, also, increasingly tied to the reemergence of antisemitism, as Jews, in racist ideology, tend to be viewed as those behind movements for racial equality, as well as intolerance of sexual minorities. As has been increasingly clear in recent years, on the individual level it also justifies murdering non-white people.
Ron DeSantis’s Florida recenters the world through the lens of an America defined by whiteness and Christianity. Through this lens, it certainly does appear that America is under threat by non-white mass immigration. Critical race theory is indeed a threat to such a perspective, as is an education that also allows a Black perspective on US history, or one that normalizes LGBTQ+ citizens. It is a politics that has justified DeSantis’s treatment of immigrants as things. More recently, DeSantis has essentially suggested shooting migrants even suspected to be drug smugglers – here, he connects immigrants to crime, and uses that connection to justify killing some of them on sight.
Payton Gendron also justified his mass killing in Buffalo by connecting Black Americans to crime. It is not unreasonable to see, in the spate of mass murders of Black Americans, an all too predictably violent echo of Florida’s own emerging ideology."
Jason Stanley is a professor of philosophy at Yale University, and the author, most recently, of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them