WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White supremacy “has no place in America,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday in the wake of what authorities describe as a racially-motivated killing of three Black people in Florida over the weekend.
“Even as we continue searching for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America,” Jean-Pierre said.
A 21-year old white gunman shot and killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday. The shooter, Ryan Christopher Palmeter later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Local sheriff T.K. Waters has said the shooting was racially motivated. Authorities say the shooter left behind several manifestos for media, his parents and law enforcement detailing his hatred for Black people.
Hate crimes in the U.S. surged nearly 12% in 2021, the latest data available, the FBI said in March. Hate crimes are those fueled by racial and ethnic bias.
“Over the last 60 years this country has come a long way,” to battle racism and white supremacy, Stephen Benjamin, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, told reporters at the White House press briefing. “People of good will have to lean into that progress.
President Joe Biden has spoken with the city’s mayor and sheriff about the shooting, Benjamin said.
Asked about a possible connection between the Florida shootings and attempts by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, to change how slavery is taught in the state’s public schools in a way that critics say minimizes its brutality, Benjamin said it was important to teach all of the country’s history.
“I don’t think its a stretch to suggest that trying to rewrite American history is wrong, but also encourages our children and those among us not to lean in to the beautiful and also the painful past of what our history looks like and encouraging people to move forward together,” Benjamin said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and David Gregorio)