Alex Andrade Latest Florida Republican to Target Black Democrats

When state Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) took to the floor of the Florida House on Friday to argue the merits of teaching that a small number of enslaved Black people received payment for the harsh conditions they were subjected to, Black Democratic lawmakers took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

“The atmosphere in the house chamber is so insulting and disrespectful,” wrote Rep. Ashley Gantt (D-Miami). “White men telling me I may not be aware of facts about the enslavement of my people. WHO TF DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE!”

“Today was a lot. Starting with assertions that enslaved Black people got paid so slavery wasn’t so bad. There’s so much to say,” said Rep. Michele Rayner (D-St. Petersburg).

Rep. Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville), who missed Friday’s floor session due to personal reasons, added, “This man has continuously disrespected Black People, especially Black Women on the House floor.”

In response, Andrade spent the weekend lashing out at critics on social media.

In addition to arguing with social media users, Andrade quote-tweeted several posts from Gantt and Nixon with, “Facts don’t care about [your] feelings,” a reference to the catchphrase of conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, who once posted on Twitter, “Trayvon Martin would have turned 21 today if he hadn’t taken a man’s head and beaten it on the pavement before being shot.”

Andrade did not clarify in his follow up statements exactly which Democratic member had disputed the fact that in rare cases, some enslaved Africans received extremely meager compensation in return for their brutalization, nor did he provide a circumstance in which it would be appropriate to interject that fact into a school lesson on slavery.

This is just the latest instance of racial acrimony in the Florida House. Last week, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement after Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) was accused of calling a Black Democratic colleague “garbage” during debate on a bill.

“We are being forced to operate in a chamber where the rules of decorum apply to one party – a chamber where the Black legislators are constantly reduced to name calling and hostility for simply doing their jobs,” read the statement. “We continuously are verbally attacked by majority leadership for simply offering our concerns and criticism on the House floor and when that same party resorts to name-calling, it is never addressed nor are consequences doled out.”

Fine claimed that he was referring to the lawmaking ability of the representative.

When Governor Ron DeSantis broke precedent in 2021 and submitted his own proposed redistricting map, Republican leadership moved quickly to adopt it. The proposal cut Black congressional representation in half and was submitted on the evening of January 17, 2021 — the night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In protest, Rep. Nixon and other Black House Democrats led a sit-in protest on the floor of the House. Nixon has since revealed that her office was moved to the basement of the Florida Capitol as retaliation for her role in the demonstration. The map that passed is still being litigated in court.

And in 2015, after the House adjourned several days early over their refusal to expand Medicaid, Senate Democrats sued to force the House back into session. Then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz wrote, “This lawsuit reads like it was researched and drafted by Sen Joyner……and spell checked by Sen Bullard.”

Gaetz was referring to Florida civil rights icon Arthenia Joyner and Dwight Bullard, a high school teacher. Both Joyner and Bullard are Black. Gaetz never clarified why he singled out either Senator.

The backlash then was bipartisan, with even the Speaker of the House getting involved. “I don’t condone the Tweet by @MattGaetz,” wrote Steve Crisafulli. “He is an agitator, yes, but not a racist. Please accept my apology to those offended.”

As for this latest instance of bullying targeted at Black Democrats, others have decided to meet the moment with levity. After Andrade’s comments went viral on social media, state Rep. Yvonne Hinson (D-Gainesville) posted a picture of a Civil War general with Andrade’s face superimposed.

“No words needed,” wrote Hinson.

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