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Some political leaders in Florida perpetuate hateful rhetoric, state Rep. Nixon says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And now let's hear from Florida State Representative Angie Nixon, whose district includes Jacksonville. Representative Nixon, welcome to the program.

ANGIE NIXON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: I want to note that I was looking at a map. Edward Waters University, where the gunman went first, is less than a mile from the Dollar General where he opened fire. So he's moving through a specific neighborhood along a specific road. What's that area like?

NIXON: That area is the Newtown area, as well as the Grand Park area. Yeah, I've actually done some work over in the Newtown area before as an organizer. In certain parts, it is a very close-knit group. However, it is an underresourced area. You know, it's a low-income community there in parts, but then they also have - specifically, like, around the Newtown area, there are former educators and community leaders that live there.

INSKEEP: Diverse community, right?

NIXON: Yes, it's diverse, but it's primarily African American.

INSKEEP: Got you. There is often some ambiguity about the role that race plays in a violent incident, you know? What was someone really thinking? What do they admit to really thinking? But in this case, there seems to be no doubt at all based on the shooter's manifesto and what he did. How does that affect the way that people are thinking about this?

NIXON: Folks are scared. Folks are frustrated. People are tired of the rhetoric that they hear from the leadership in our state. They have - they are the ones who basically helped fuel these types of actions. They've emboldened these types of behavior for the past few years. And honestly, it's just a way in which people - it's just the way in which they've done it - to really just throw out red meat to a base because they wanted to gain cheap political points. But it's really hurting people. At the end of the day, it's hurting people.

INSKEEP: I want to name names here, if that's what you're comfortable doing. You said the leadership in your state. Are you saying that Governor Ron DeSantis and others who've led this kind of campaign against what they see as woke indoctrination and that sort of thing?

NIXON: Yeah, for sure. We know that the anti-woke, the stop woke terminology was nothing more than a dog whistle. Woke - if you replace it, it's Black. They have a problem with Black people. And their anti-Black policies and their continually attacks on the Black community are - illustrate that perfectly. Over the past few legislative terms, we have seen a concerted effort for Ron DeSantis to silence Black voices, to silence Black pain, to devalue our humanity, to erase our history. And people are frustrated and tired. I am so saddened by the loss of Angela, Anolt and Jarrald. But, you know, I am angry. We are angry that leadership in our state continue to perpetuate this hateful violence through rhetoric.

INSKEEP: We've just got a few seconds left, but I want to follow up on that. Governor DeSantis came to an event over the weekend in the community. He was booed, and then a local leader said, whoa, whoa, whoa, take partisanship out of this. Let him speak. And he did promise aid. In a few seconds, how would you view his response to the immediate incident?

NIXON: I believe his response was very hollow. And the fact that he still could not call the man a racist - he still did not let everyone know that it was Black lives that were lost - he's afraid to say certain things to upset his base because he wants to run for president and win.

INSKEEP: I - in fairness, I'll have to note as we end, he did say that people were targeted because of their race. But you may be right - he didn't say racist. Representative Nixon, thank you so much.

NIXON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Florida State Representative Angie Nixon from Jacksonville, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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