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A young white man wielding a weapon marked with a swastika. A trail of manifestos espousing far-right ideologies. Victims killed because of their race.

It’s a situation that should be impossible, or at least uncommon.

“We have three people who are dead because they are Black,” Democratic Florida state Sen. Tracie Davis said at a vigil in Jacksonville, Fla., this week after the gruesome attack at a Dollar General store. “Shopping. In our community. Gunned down. Because they were Black.”

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But the shots fired by a 21-year-old — leaving families grieving and a community at loss over yet another act of gun violence — are no longer so unusual in America, say experts who study gun violence and racist extremism.

In fact, data show that racist shootings are becoming more common.

In a report released this year, the Anti-Defamation League tallied extremist mass killings and attempted ones, finding that 46 took place since the 1970s. Each was at the hands of extremists motivated by far-right, far-left or radical Islamist ideology, with a small number connected to lesser known extremist ideas. But since 2011, it’s been right-wing extremists behind the majority of attacks. Most of those were carried out by white supremacists.

“We not only have an epidemic of gun violence in this county but rising activity by white supremacists trying to spread their ideas, which can also be seen in more white supremacist attacks,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL Center on Extremism. “Since 2011, excluding Jacksonville, there were 26 mass casualties tied to extremism. In the 40 years before that, it was 20.”

The ADL found two recent years — 2021 and 2020 — when no deadly mass shootings or violent attacks spurred by extremism took place. Still, the civil rights group found that right-wing extremist violence and activity grew overall each year.

In Jacksonville, officials said the gunman attacked an employee and shoppers in the parking lot and in the store. At a news conference this week, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said the shooter drove to Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, where he was seen putting on a bulletproof vest before leaving for Dollar General.

Sheriff Waters said the extremist writings left behind along with a suicide note by the shooter made clear his intentions. “He hated Black people,” the sheriff said. The sheriff said that the man was not affiliated with a group and acted alone.

After the attack, some Democratic elected officials angrily criticized state policies pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential hopeful, including one that restricted the teaching of Black history in Florida.

A federal hate crime investigation into the attack is underway. If the shooting is found to be a hate crime, which experts said is likely, the violence would be an additional act in a decades-long trend in which anti-Black incidents have topped the list of hate crimes counted by the FBI each year.

In 2022, the FBI found that nearly two-thirds of hate crimes targeted a person’s race, ethnicity or ancestry. Of the 10,840 hate crimes the agency counted that year, nearly a third targeted Black people.

“These shootings are getting to the point where they are sadly not surprising but all too common,” said Omekongo Dibinga, a professor at American University and author of “Lies About Black People: How to Combat Racist Stereotypes and Why It Matters.”

“There is so much racist violence in this country that we don’t even really see it in the news anymore unless it is a mass shooting or in a place where we believe it’s not supposed to happen, like a mosque, a church, a middle school or a store,” he said.

Below are a few of the most prominent recent shootings of the last decade connected to racist or antisemitic ideology.


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