TheGrio Daily

Jacksonville’s racist deadly shooting won’t be the last

Episode 149

“We can’t be surprised when a racist does something racist in a racist country.” Michael Harriot and fellow podcast host Dr. Christina Greer discuss the deadly shooting in Jacksonville, Florida that killed three Black people. Dr. Greer has strong ties to the area and describes the racist history that her family experienced firsthand. The pair also analyze Florida’s recent anti-Black policies that fuel hate and miseducation and call out the politicians who refuse to acknowledge that America has a race problem. 

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – AUGUST 28: Protest signs sit on the ground before a rally against white supremacy on August 28, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. The rally was held in response to the racially motivated murder of three Black people at a Dollar General store two days earlier. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Read full transcript below:

Announcer [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello. I feel like we’ve talked about this before. There was another racist mass shooting, this time in Jacksonville, Florida, where a racist gunman killed three people at a Dollar General. So welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that can make sense out of something that’s senseless. So to help us make sense of this, if we can, if that is even possible, we have what have I, I guess now you an old guest, my most frequent guest, theGrio’s Dr. Christina Greer. How you do it today, Dr. Greer? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:42] Always great when I’m with you, Michael. Even in hard times. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:45] Yeah. Yeah. I think these shootings have become so frequent. It’s almost like even though it’s sad, we kind of almost have a template of how to deal with them. They’ll be the thoughts and prayers. Then they’ll be the people who are blaming it all on whatever they’re blaming it on. As long as it it’s not guns, it’s no guns is not racist white people. As long as it’s not the political party, then we’ll find something to blame it on. So first, I want to know, when did you hear about the shooting and what you thought when you first heard of it? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:16] Well, per usual, Michael, sadly, we are in this perpetual state of checking the news just because it an hour to hour basis, you don’t know what’s going on. So I check the news quite a bit because in the same way that I check the news. But a day and a half ago, I also saw that there was a shooting on a college campus, you know, in North Carolina at UNC-Chapel Hill. So these all these incidents just keep happening with gun violence. But when I heard the word Jacksonville, you know, my grandparents were born and raised in a town just 25 miles north of Jacksonville in a tiny, beautiful town called Yulee. And anybody who, you know, golfs or goes to beach communities, there’s a beach community called Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach that’s been built up over the years. But right north of Jacksonville is this area called American Beach, which is one of the oldest and one of the few Black beaches where Black people were allowed to go and actually be free. And so my mother’s from that area. I spent a lot of time in that area. My grandfather worked at a paper mill and raised hogs on the side. So even though we were the New York City Slickers, they called us the Yankees when we’d come down there. It’s just a community filled with Black folks that have been there for a very long time. And it feels like the deep, deep South, even though you’re in northern Florida, even though you’re just a few miles away from the Georgia border. So yet again, as you said, we have a racist gunman who attempts to go to an HBCU first. We’ve seen this before and he gets turned away. And so then he goes and he specifically targets Black people in a space where Black people are, which reminded me of Buffalo, which makes me think, you know, it’s not a Southern problem, it’s an American problem. You’ve got a presidential candidate, Vevek Ramaswamy, essentially blaming Black people and saying. 

Vivek Ramaswamy [00:02:56] The reality is we’ve created such a racialized culture in this country in the last several years that right is the last few burning embers of racism were burning out. We have a culture in this country largely created by media and establishment and universities and politicians that throw kerosene on that racism. And I can think of no better way to fuel racism in this country than to take something away from other people on the basis of their skin color. I’ve been saying that for years, and I think that is driving, sadly, a new wave of anti-Black and anti-Hispanic racism in this country. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:29] Well, you know, because we keep talking about racism and we keep basically making white people feel bad and this is what we’re going to get. And I just Michael, I guess I’m I’m astonished. And, you know, my grandmother used to say, this my grandmother from Yulee, the only time you should be surprised is when you’re surprised. I just can’t understand how we have so many gun incidents, not just the racist ones, but just the general gun murders every day and we have an entire political party that supports it. And we then have another political party that seems a little feckless when it comes to preventing it. And so the culture of guns in our society, coupled with systemic racism, coupled with anti-Black racism, coupled with mental health issues, coupled with taking Black history out of school so people have no idea what this country is about, coupled with politicians from the Republican Party consistently saying, “Take back our country, take back our country,” we keep creating this recipe of hate and murder and Black people are consistently targeted. Whether it’s in church or a grocery store or Dollar General or nightclub. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:32] I’m glad you mentioned so much of that that I wanted to talk about today, because first of all, it’s being cast as a lone white supremacist gunman who was just like radicalized by a ghost. Like the ideas doesn’t exist. First of all, he went to a historically Black college. And it reminds me of when people say what Black people need to do. You know, that old phrase, Black people need to do this. They need to focus on Black on Black crime. They need to work hard and get an education. And I always tell people, right, like all the stuff that they say Black people need to do, we’ve already done it. Black people need to keep their money in their own neighborhoods. And when we do that, like in Rosewood, they’ll come and burn it down. When we focus on education, we forget about all of the HBCUs that have been burned down, like most HBCUs that you see or like on their second or third iteration of that HBCU because there was a fire, there was a Klan torching. And the same is true, right? You talk about Edwards Water College. First of all, I can’t imagine what would have happened. You know, we don’t talk about the heroic security officer who turned him way. Who kind of knew something was up. The ancestors spoke to him. When I covered Buffalo. I was in Buffalo. And I spoke to the guy who saw the gunman the day before and was like he told the security officer, watch this guy. Like, something’s up with him. And he held them for like 2 hours in conversation. And he came back the next day and shot up the supermarket. But as far as this is concerned, one thing that people aren’t talking about is, okay, he targeted Edward Waters. They turned him away and he goes to a Dollar General. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:09] Now, there is a very specific thing for people who know about Black neighborhoods, about these Dollar Generals, Dollar Trees, Family Dollars, and why they are so prolific in Black neighborhoods. And it’s because that area of town called Newtown, where this happened is an actual food desert. So the only way these people can go and go shopping and go food shopping is if you don’t have transportation, like you were a student at Edward Waters who might not even have a car, or if you just don’t have transportation to go to a white neighborhood, you have to go to one of these stores. And this white gunman knew that. Right. He specifically chose a place where he knew Black people would just be existing and living their lives. And the idea that this was a lone gunman who did this, it separates out the fact that, first of all, there is a such thing as a Black neighborhood, there is a such thing as an HBCU. And you can’t erase the historical needs for those institutions, right? That’s inextricably tied to the history of systemic racism in America. But the way he was able to target Black people has to do with the legacy and the history that Florida is trying to erase. And because it seems they’ve been successful at erasing it, we don’t want to talk about that part. So what do you think are the contributing factors to what happened in Jacksonville? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:35] I mean, Michael, you just laid out, I think, so much that we need to really focus on and unpack. One, if you erase the legacy of Florida, people don’t understand that burning down HBCUs is something that has been common practice in this country. Targeting Black people specifically for racialized and racist violence is something that has been a part of this country since its inception. So the fact that Governor DeSantis wants to take all of that out of schools. So then we keep saying it’s a lone gunman. It’s absolutely not. These people are being radicalized somewhere, whether it’s online, whether it’s in their families or whether it’s from the politicians they’re listening to. What you said about Buffalo was really I think I really want people to make this connection. The security officer spent time with the gunman the day before he came back and shot up the grocery store and killed nine innocent Black people. Similarly, Dylann Roof sat there in the church and prayed with or they were praying. He was just obviously waiting, but with nine people before he shot up the church. So we have these individuals who just fundamentally don’t see Black people as human. And it is important to make the connection also, Michael, that, you know, he had swastikas on his gun. And so oftentimes people who are anti-Semitic, they’re also anti-immigrant, they’re also anti-Black, and they tend to be anti-woman. When you really start digging through their records, they tend to have some domestic violence charges and other issues where they’ve had bad interactions with women. I think the history of violence in this country is something that we just don’t talk about. We sort of it’s like, oh, we you know, we had the founding fathers come over and they had this thing called the Civil War. But that was sort of like, you know, it happened 1865. And then we had Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement, and now we’re here. Barack Obama and, you know, things are just like a little awkward. And we’re erasing 400 years of rape and murder and violence and burning down full towns, full schools. And I do want to just put a footnote to the burning down of schools. My paternal grandparents, who were from Tennessee and Miami while my grandfather was in Tennessee and he ran a school, they didn’t burn it down to the ground, but Senator Gore senior shut it down and defunded it. And so that was another way. They didn’t just burn the school to the ground, they just took the money away from the schools, essentially bled them dry financially. So there’s another history of economic violence that’s happened to Black people that you mention in the in the form of the Dollar General. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:05] Right. Why in Jacksonville, both things happened. Right? So in that section of town called Newtown, it was also a college, an HBCU called Florida Baptist Academy, that they shut it down. And remember, Edward Waters College, this is its second location, moved to this location on Kings Road after Jacksonville Police Department allowed the third biggest fire in American history to burn down Jacksonville’s Black neighborhood so that they could save the white neighborhood. So that economic depression it was targeted at that neighborhood. They allowed it to burn down. And then remember, the Great Depression came and you couldn’t get a loan to put businesses and homes in those neighborhoods because of segregation. So that economic depression was specifically and intentionally engineered to be that way. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:57] Well, and also, Michael, in the entire state of Florida, when you look at the highway systems that connect, you know, obviously the panhandle and, you know, I-95, I mean, my great grandmother on my father’s side died of a broken heart because they destroyed her Black community in Florida. Right. And so we also see this long history of physical violence with guns and lynching and fires and all of the other ways that white people have harassed, targeted and murdered Black people in cold blood. But then this consistent economic violence of taking things away. And then if you don’t learn about any of this in school, you have media personnel talking about it’s a lone gunman. And we have no idea how this happened. You know, I mean, I just think that we have to consistently connect the ways that white people are eroding our communities and allowing violent white people to then come in and further exploit our communities as well. And we still have media personnel scratching their heads and saying, well, we think it’s you know, everyone keeps saying it’s racially motivated, it’s racist. Like the fact that we can’t even say the words lets us know that we’re we’re behind the starting line. And even the conversation about the reality of what is happening to Black people and the collective trauma. You know, like, yes, this is why we are hilarious. This is why Black people can laugh about anything. This is why we love comedy. And, you know, Black Twitter is undefeated and Instagram and TikTok. And we just we are collectively allowing ourselves to laugh through so much pain because if we actually sat and really thought about what has happened in the past, past, what has happened to our parents and grandparents generation and what is currently happening to us, we wouldn’t be able to function. So, I mean, I think that’s also where I’m fascinated about how we are still remaining resilient and finding community, even in this space of feeling as though we’re under threat consistently, not just from the police, not just economically, but from some random white and now a growing number of Latino men who feel the need to just walk into our communities and murder us in the name of taking back their country. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:09] So I want to ask you this question. Right. So I’ve been having this idea when they were talking about Florida and their whitewashing of history. Right. We keep saying that they’re kind of erasing Black history. And I have come to the conclusion that that’s not what they’re trying to do. They’re not trying to erase Black. They’re trying to erase what white people did. It’s white history that they’re trying to erase. They’re trying to erase the legacy of the schools they burned down. Like what they did. They don’t care. They’ll tell you about historically Black colleges as long as we don’t talk about the white people will burn them down. They’ll tell you about slavery as long as we don’t talk about what white people did to slaves. How white people conceived of race based, intergenerational, perpetual, constitutionally enforced slavery. They’ll talk about Martin Luther King, but they don’t want to tell you who Martin Luther King was fighting about or fighting, right. That he was fighting against people who didn’t what little white kids to hold hands. Nah, you have to remember, right, Like all of this we just said, right. This happened on the anniversary of the March on Washington. Right. Remember, the March on Washington was not King’s idea. It was the idea of A. Philip Randolph who left Jacksonville, Florida, and Edward Waters College because of the economic depression in that town. Right. Because it was so racist. You’re talking about laughing through pain and singing through our pain. James Weldon Johnson left Jacksonville after that fire and started this little movement called The Harlem Renaissance. So it’s all tied together. They’ll teach you about the Black national anthem and about the March on Washington, but not about why they left. Not about the racist fire, not about economic depression, not about redlining, because white people did it they want to erase white history. What do you think about that? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:56] Well, Michael, I mean, this is why you’re one of my favorite people, because, you know, on Blackest Questions. You know, I say Black history is American history. But if we’re being honest that we have to talk about white people as well and what they did. So I always remind my students, like Martin Luther King didn’t die of cancer. He didn’t die of old age. He barely saw 40. He was murdered. Right. Like, it’s not like, oh, he died in a car accident. He didn’t die in a car accident. He was assassinated. Right. I also remind people, you know, I. I tell my students I don’t use the word slave. Slave is a noun. Table. Chair. Pen. Microphone. Slave. Right. I use the word enslaved because it helps young people especially understand that that is a two person relationship. Slave isn’t like an identity. We know that many enslaved people, they had families. They fell in love. I’m sure that there were jokes every now and again. That’s the only way we know how to survive. But it’s like to say that someone is enslaved makes you have to think about someone is doing the enslaving. And so this idea that we’re taking even the concept was like, Oh, well, the slaves, like they had two, you know, two hots and a cot. So they were happy. It’s like, absolutely not. And so who were the white people? I mean, I think this is why Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors, because he actually does talk about white people. He does actually talk about sort of the relationship and the behavior of white people. I’ve learned more about white women in the North from Mark Twain than I ever have in a book. He’s like, oh, no, they got enslaved people as a wedding gift. And they came down there and they had to show out. Right? And so it was like, well of course, like, of course that’s the case. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:26] But we what I have learned that right. And so I think also what’s important to remember, though, Michael, is that we’re talking about, you know, taking out Black history and white history from schools. But hasn’t that always been the case because you and I both know that from K through 12, unless you went to a super Black progressive, damn near home school education system, if you went to a regular public private, a parochial school, you did not learn about the true history of this country. I don’t care how good the schools have been to some of the best schools in the country. I did not learn about the truth. It’s my parents who had supplemental books at home who were like, You were going to read these books. You’re going to watch Eyes on the Prize, right? Like, you’re not seeing that in school just yet. So I think that it’s always been a project since, you know, we were allowed to even integrate into public schools or go to our own schools. It’s always been a project to take away our history. And our history is intertwined with white people in this country because of the relationship of U.S. chattel slavery that existed for centuries. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:27] So it has these physical, emotional, economic, geographic ramifications, Right? Why Black people in certain places? Why you’re in South Carolina? My people from Florida. Right. Like why it is that, you know, some people are from California, but we all know they’re from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana. You know, when I moved to Chicago, I was like, oh, these boys are country. Right. Because they’re all coming up from the Great Migration, which is not just economic, you know, push pull from cities. It’s fleeing domestic terrorism. We can think about the history of movement of Black bodies in this country. And it boils down to racism and anti-Black racism and white supremacy that has been the founding principle that is fundamentally in the soil of this country. And as Bell Hooks told us in her brilliance, that this country is predicated on white supremacy and anti-Black racism, patriarchy and capitalism. Once you get that recipe, it’s like, what is it? You know, in French cooking like ameripet, like it’s the thing that that is just the baseline. It’s cooked into everything. And then from that, you build sometimes you build beautiful structures and sometimes you build what we got today, which is just a country that is just. It has some beautiful elements to it, of course, and it has some fantastic and wonderful people. But I swear we are dealing with a moment right now that I don’t think our parents foresaw it because of all their hard work. I think that they probably thought they were building a country that wasn’t going to look like this for their kids. 

Michael Harriot [00:18:51] Which brings me back where we began. Right. Because when we were talking about the guns and you know how frequent this is, we remember that it is not an anomaly to us. It is not a surprise to us. Like we know because we know our history. If you know your is, you can’t be surprised that the people who built this system, the people who perpetuate this system, the people who watch thus Main Street in a Black neighborhood get filled with predatory dollar stores because it costs more to be Black in America. We can’t be surprised when a racist does something races in a racist country. And that’s also why we know that this will happen again. It’s sad to see it, but it will be here maybe next week, maybe next month, maybe three months from now is just depends on how successful this racist is at enacting his racist plan. That’s what we are subject to, right? How good they plan to kill us, how elaborate their plan is, and how successful they are. Before we leave, we always end with a famous Black saying or saying our parents told us. I want to ask you, like, what is one of the ways? Because we there’s so many ways that our parents and grandparents summed up this phenomenon. And I want to ask you what’s one of the ways or what are the sayings that you remember your grandparents saying about the racist history of the subjectiveness of the white supremacist actions? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:36] Well, I mean, I think I mentioned it before from my grandmother when she was explaining, you know, white supremacy. And of course, she didn’t call it white supremacy. Right. But she just called it, you know, how white people be. And she would say, you know, when dealing with with that with them, the only time you should be surprised is when you’re surprised. It’s a relatively consistent set of practices and behaviors that she experienced. And time and time again, we’re confronted with, why are we shocked? And sadly, as you said, we’re going to see this again. So we can’t be surprised. I get mad at myself when I am shocked by something like this that happens because we know we know what it is. And I think that’s the one that I find myself thinking about quite a bit. 

Michael Harriot [00:21:16] Yeah, I think about it a lot too, and I think that’s why we have to keep having these conversations. That’s why you have to keep listening to theGrio daily. You’ve got to subscribe, you got to tell your friends about it. You got to download that Grio app and as always we’ll leave you with another Black saying. We’re going to give it two today. And today’s Black saying is, “The only thing I’m surprised about is that everybody else is surprised.” We’ll see you next time on theGrio daily. If you liked what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio and subscribe to the show and to share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

Announcer [00:22:01] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:08] I’m political scientist, author and professor Dr. Christina Greer, and I’m host of the Black Ops Question on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they? 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:22:21] I have no idea. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:23] This all began as an exclusive Black history trivia party at my home in Harlem with family and friends. And they got so popular it seemed only right to share the fun with our Grio listeners. Each week, we invite a familiar face on the podcast to play. What was the name of the person who was an enslaved chief cook for George Washington and later ran away to freedom in 1868. This university was the first in the country to open a medical school that welcomed medical students of all races, genders and social classes. What university was it? 

Roy Wood Jr. [00:22:56] This is why I like doing stuff with you, because I leave educated. I was not taught this in Alabama Public Schools. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:02] Question number three Are you ready? 

Eboni K. Williams [00:23:04] Yes. I want to redeem myself. 

Amanda Seales [00:23:06] How do we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure,. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:11] Diaspora, darling. Diaspora. 

Amanda Seales [00:23:13] This is like the New York Times crossword from Monday to a Saturday. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:16] Right or. Wrong, all we care about is the journey and having some fun while we do it. 

Kalen Allen [00:23:21] I’m excited and I also a little nervous. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:23] Oh, listen. No need to be nervous. And as I tell all of my guests, this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves because Black history is American history. So we’re going to have some fun. Listen, some people get zero out of five. Some people get five out of five. It doesn’t matter. We’re just going to be on a little intellectual journey together. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:23:39] Latoya Cantrell. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:42] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. 

Michael Twitty [00:23:44] Hercules Posey. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:45] Hmm. Born in 1754 and he was a member of the Mount Vernon slave community, widely admired for his culinary skills. 

Kalen Allen [00:23:52] I’m going to guess AfroPunk. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:55] Close. It’s Afro Nation. So last year, according to my research, it’s Samuel Wilson a.k.a Falcon. 

Jason Johnson [00:24:04] Wrong. Wrong, I am disputing this. 

Latosha Brown [00:24:08] Very, very, very 99.9999 sure that it is Representative John Lewis, who is also from the state of Alabama. That let you know, Christina, we got some goodness come out of Alabama. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:20] There is something in the water in Alabama. And you are absolutely correct. 

Diallo Riddle [00:24:23] The harder they come. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:25] Close. 

Diallo Riddle [00:24:26] Oh, wait. The Harder They fall. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:28] That’s right. I’m one of those people that just changes one word. 

Roy Wood Jr. [00:24:33] I just don’t know nothing today. I’m going to pour myself a little water while you tell me the answer. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:37] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825. With the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Roy Wood Jr. [00:24:44] You know why games like this make me nervous? I don’t know if I know enough Black. Do I know enough? How Black am I? Oh, my Lord. We going to find out in public. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:52] So give us a follow. Subscribe and join us on the Blackest Questions.