The three victims were identified on Sunday by Sheriff T.K. Waters of Jacksonville as Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., known as A.J., 29, who worked at the store; and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 19.
“He took that opportunity to put his bulletproof vest on outside and to put his mask on outside and then proceed to the store where he committed this horrible act,” Waters told the press. Sherri Onks, a special agent for the FBI in Jacksonville, said they “opened a federal civil rights investigation” and “will pursue this incident as a hate crime.” While this language sounds reassuring, the shooter killed himself. So, while we will likely learn more about the self-avowed white supremacist in the coming days, their investigation will unlikely result in any arrests since evidence suggests he acted alone. The weapon he used, an AR-15 style rifle, had swastikas drawn on them with white paint, and according to Waters, the gunman’s manifesto said, “He wanted to kill niggers.” Since World War II, the swastika has become a popular symbol for white supremacists, who admire the heinous crimes committed by Nazis.
Perhaps one of the most terrifying aspects of this entire ordeal is the negligence of Americans to identify this as an act of terror. If we make the mistake, as in the past, of describing the event as a one-off, we’ll miss the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about the danger of endorsing racist beliefs. Killing Black people and leaving a manifesto encouraging more acts of violence is more than a hate crime. It’s terrorism, and it’s high time we describe it as such.
Despite this White man’s decision to hunt down Black people in their communities, America is reluctant to identify this problem as white terrorism. When a Muslim man commits a crime, Americans readily call this an act of terror. When a Black man commits a crime, journalists readily describe the event as gang-related. Yet, when a White man commits a crime, despite revealing ties to white supremacists, he is often described as crazy or irrational rather than acknowledging his violence is tied to something bigger. When a White person kills Black people in this country, it’s evident that he is not truly acting alone. He is, along with other racists, creating a hostile environment, actively terrorizing Black people in their homes, their schools, their local stores, and communities.