In recent news, Florida’s race for a new governor sparked a frenzy when Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum shockingly won the party’s primary. The 39-year-old Tallahassee mayor, endorsed by Bernie Sanders, is the first African American Democratic candidate for governor in the state of Florida’s history.

Surprising no one, his opponents have seemed to latch on to that simple fact, turning the election into an ugly, race-baiting battle.

It all began when Republican nominee Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox News for an interview following Gillum’s victory. What started off as a relatively normal response to an opponent’s victory quickly took a turn when DeSantis stated that, “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.”

Viewers quickly latched on to the “monkey this up” portion, calling out DeSantis for his (obviously) offensive comment. Despite the frequency of these occurrences (just ask Michelle Obama, or H&M), some just cannot seem to understand that likening black people to monkeys is a historically racist aggression. It is deeply concerning that this continuously needs to be clarified in 2018, after “we’ve come so far”.

Have we actually improved on any race relations truly? The story jumps to just two days ago when racist automatic calls were discovered targeting Florida residents. An openly white-supremacist group based in Idaho, called Road to Power, are the sources of these calls. The robocalls claim to be Gillum himself, speaking in an exaggerated voice of a minstrel about mud huts while drums and monkey sounds play in the background.

With so many debates and opposing views on the future of Florida to pick from, why is race always the focused issue? Why does politics fix itself on the physical aspects of a candidate, instead of his proposed policies or history as a public official? This isn’t to say that Gillum is the perfect pick for governor. The fact is, there are plenty of issues over which Gillum and DeSantis can have an honest disagreement about, without Gillum’s identity as a black man becoming a talking point or a reason to vote against him. Ideally, that is what the election process is supposed to look like.

But how long will it take for this ideal to become reality?

Picture Credit: City of Tallahassee

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