By Michael Dobson
Fl governors debate 1

When writing an opinion or sharing a thought in any manner, I often ask to what benefit  is this thought or observation being shared. Then I do ask how it may impact me if not clearly understood. I then always answer that if it’s true and in any way moves humanity forward to a better place, then it must be said

So, I start with this … did you notice? Did you notice that “Mayor Gillum” is not an “opponent”  of Congressman Ron DeSantis for the office of Governor of Florida? According to Congressman DeSantis,  he is running against a boy named Andrew or Andy.

Let’s be clear and speak as adults here. Mr. DeSantis continually addressing Mayor Gillum as “Andrew” and even “Andy” during a televised debate on October 21, 2018 was both knowingly (or unknowingly) considered by some as racist and by many as disrespectful. It is the oldest of tools from the tool box of the southern slave owner to demean a black male in the eyes of the world, to himself , to his wife and to his children. It is to never acknowledge his position, person-hood  or his manhood, but to instead refer to him as a “boy” … by first name only.. never a “Mister”, “Sir” or any titled at all.. preferring to simply call him boy.

In 2018, considering the strides we thought we have made with regard to race, we read headlines and see instances on our social media feeds almost daily to remind us that we uncorked the Champagne a bit too soon. But the governor’s debate in Florida displayed where we are in both a loud and subtle way,  all together. It was done by Mr. DeSantis articulately demeaning the person-hood and manhood of his opponent, making sure he “knew his place”… by never referring to him as a man of accomplishment, of equal stature, or  of having any professional title whatsoever... nor simply referring to him as "my opponent". It was more than a dog whistle. When asked about the “monkey  it up” comment, Mr. DeSantis deflected by pleading ignorance to how in the world the statement could be deemed offensive as it was no way near his intent or conscious understanding.  I believe Mr. DeSantis to be a man of above average intelligence, and as such believe he knew full well what he was doing and was doing it with a purpose when he continuously referred to Mayor Gillum as Andrew or Andy.  He may as well have called him “boy”.

And, If anyone believes Mr. DeSantis  is not running a bombastic and racially decisive campaign similar to what one would expect from his most ardent supporter in chief, then you are mistaking his better grasp of the English language (than his muse) for something more  loftier. Perhaps he knows that in 1972 the state of Florida voted overwhelmingly for George Wallace, who ran for President  on a segregationist platform. Being a smart guy, he knows that for some, the racist “Jim Crow” Florida of my childhood seemed like just yesterday, and for many , it would be a cold day in hell before someone of Mr. Gillum's pigment inhabit the governor’s mansion. His win strategy includes and depends upon that vote, and therefore likely,  that’s the crowd he’s playing to.. to follow the Trump play book, as discussed in "The Lowest White Man" .. an op ed by Charles Blow. After all,  a win is a win…. and its all about winning. But, at some point we have to ask the question, at what cost? At what cost do we continue to divide our nation by playing to and hardening divides that exist from ill-conceived and knowingly false  ideas of superiority and entitlement based on skin color or places of  origin. At what cost is it in the balance of humanity for us to continue these divisive tactics to perpetuate hate, when we have more in common than differences?  It is my hope that Mr DeSantis can begin to run a more respectful campaign and not play to what is the worst in humanity. That’s the kind of leadership we need.

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com or Michael@michaeldobson.org.

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