Waffle House shooting victims Taurean Sanderlin and DeEbony Groves.

Tiffany Sanderlin/Facebook ChiomaMelan/Twitter Remix by Samantha Grasso

Activists ask if Trump’s silence on Waffle House shooting is mired in racism [updated]

This isn't the first time Trump has kept quiet about the deaths of people of color.


Samantha Grasso


Published Apr 23, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 5:44 pm CDT

The country continues to mourn the deaths of four Nashville-area Waffle House patrons who were gunned down by alleged shooter Travis Reinking early Sunday morning. As many people online have noted, the victims—29-year-old Taurean C. Sanderlin, 20-year-old Joe R. Perez, 21-year-old DeEbony Groves, and 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva—were all people of color.

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People have also noted President Donald Trump‘s silence on the issue. Since the shooting took place Sunday morning, Trump has yet to release a statement decrying the act of violence, let alone acknowledge the heroism of James Shaw Jr., the Waffle House patron who wrestled the weapon from the shooter and prevented additional fatalities. To critics, much of this silence involves the races of the victims and Shaw as well as the whiteness of the alleged shooter.


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Like many other recent mass shooters, Reinking appears to have also been a supporter of President Trump; he had attempted to get into contact with Trump last summer, going so far as to scale the White House perimeter to meet the president.

Though Reinking’s actions haven’t officially been deemed “racially motivated,” writer and activist Shaun King tweeted that local residents believe the shooter went to that specific Waffle House to target people of color. And much like other acts of violence committed by white men in the time since Trump has taken office, the president has been perceived as being slow to react, let alone condemn, the murders, particularly those of people of color.

Reinking considered himself as a “sovereign citizen,” part of an anti-government group that “believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States,” according to the FBI.

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Despite the lack of clarity around Reinking’s motivations, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate organizations nationally, states that the sovereign citizen movement is “rooted in racism and anti-Semitism,” though a majority of members are “unaware” of the origins of the movement. The SPLC states that in the early 1980s, the movement mainly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites under the premise that Jews were “working behind the scenes to manipulate financial institutions and control the government.”

“Most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene believed that being white was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. They argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed citizenship to African Americans and everyone else born on U.S. soil, also made Black Americans permanently subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves,” the center stated.

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After a daylong manhunt, Reinking was arrested on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, Trump still has not broken his silence, nor has the White House returned the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

Update 4:10pm CT, April 23: During Monday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders said the following regarding the Nashville shooting:

“I also want to commend the heroic actions of James Shaw Jr. early Sunday morning at a Waffle House in Tennessee. Mr. Shaw saved lives when he wrestled a gun from an active shooter who had opened fire. The president offers his condolences to the victims and their families. He is monitoring the ongoing situation and the White House is in regular contact with state and local officials.”

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*First Published: Apr 23, 2018, 1:27 pm CDT