Should Black people continue traveling to Florida?
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ordinarily issues advisories when a city or state is experiencing social unrest, a natural disaster, or war. But in May, the organization issued a travel advisory to Florida. According to the press release, the advisory was in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.
“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals,” reads the advisory. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”
What We Are Seeing in Florida Is Not New
The truth is that travel for Black people has always held a degree of danger in this country. Racially motivated laws allowed business owners to deny us service, even in places designed for public use. As a result, in 1936, a postal worker, Victor Green, published the first iteration of The Negro Motorist Greenbook. The publication outlined gas stations, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and more that welcomed and served Black travelers. It allowed travelers to safely navigate the roads of a country riddled with segregation, racism, and discrimination.
Years later, we still have the unfortunate viewpoint of witnessing Black people (and other persons of color) being berated, humiliated, and targeted during their travels at hotels, vacation rentals, or dining establishments. What we are witnessing in Florida can be likened to an extension of the divisive measures that have always plagued this nation. As we continually advocate for a better world, these racial issues will not dissolve overnight. It is ongoing work to tear down the systems that uphold these inequalities.
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I believe the travel advisory was necessary to keep people abreast of the current climate in Florida towards Black residents and travelers. But it’s equally important to acknowledge that the beliefs of DeSantis (and his following) are not the beliefs and feelings of the entire state. There are places within the state that are welcoming to visitors of all races and lifestyles.
The Overlooked Impact of the Travel Advisory
I am adamant about not spending money in places or with businesses that are not welcoming. However, in this instance, it is like a double-edged sword to cease travel to Florida. Like many states, tourism is the backbone of Florida’s economy. Between January and March of this year, Visit Florida estimated 37.9 million visitors. This is the highest number of visitors for an individual quarter on record. The state’s tourism board also reported almost 140 million visitors in 2022. There are no signs of tourism slowing down in the Sunshine State.
In my opinion, the reality of following the NAACP’s travel advisory is that a decrease in tourism will negatively impact the communities the advisory wants to protect. Numerous Black and LGBTQIA+ Floridians work in hospitality, restaurants, and other service industries directly served by tourism.
It behooves tourists to intentionally seek out and patronize Black and LGBTQIA+ businesses during our travels to the state when we can. Putting our dollars towards these places will not only continue to boost the economy but signify a direct rebellion against DeSantis’ attempt to devalue their contributions.
Should Black People Continue Traveling to Florida?
In short, yes. Since the advisory was issued, I have visited Florida on several occasions. At no time did I feel unsafe or threatened. But that is not the reality for others. Nor will all experiences be the same.
Although tourism is steady, what’s happening in the state should not be overlooked. Much like traveling internationally, travelers should enter the state erring on the side of caution and with a general knowledge of the laws that could have a detrimental impact. The travel advisory remains in place, and there is no indication of when it might lift. For updates, stay tuned to NAACP’s website or social media handles.