I won’t be home for Christmas. That is saying a lot given that my immediate family lives in Winter Park, Lake Mary, and Davenport.
The NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state on May 20, calling Florida “openly hostile” to non-whites and LGBTQ+ people as the conservative government of Gov. Ron DeSantis devalues African-Americans and restricts diversity efforts in the schools. The alert from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People follows those from the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights organization that issued a travel warning to Florida a week earlier, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Equality Florida. , a gay organization. human rights advocacy group that issued one last month.
Critics have called these ads political stunts. For me, Florida’s weather alerts for people of color are long overdue and only solidify my decision to limit my visits to the state. For now, I’ll stay away completely.
I have never felt comfortable in Florida, even though my family moved to Altamonte Springs from snowy Detroit when I was 11 years old. Our move was a reverse migration for my Hawthorne-born father, but it still surprised me, given that I grew up hearing about my ancestors being driven out of Florida by a mob of white men who coveted their businesses and land. My first scorching summer there was the first time I was called a racial epithet, as my parents were home unpacking moving boxes. I was on my dad’s bike exploring our new development, when a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, yelled as I passed, “Mommy, there’s a… out here.”
Florida would never feel like home. And then, in 2012, self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed a teenager named Trayvon Martin who was returning to his father’s girlfriend’s apartment after buying a pack of Skittles and iced tea at a convenience store in Sanford. , just a few minutes. 10 minutes by car from my parents’ house. The Zimmerman acquittal forever colored my views—and stoked my fears—about Florida.
Florida’s concealed weapons law passed in April has also been triggering. Starting July 1, gun owners no longer need a permit or training to carry a concealed weapon outside of the home, putting people of color at even greater risk.
In recent months, the DeSantis administration has nixed an AP African American studies course in schools, restricted how workplaces can approach identity and barred universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, measures Which indicate that brown and black people like me are not valued in the Sunshine State.
It is also targeting undocumented immigrants, including “dreamers” who came to the US as children, with new laws that would jeopardize their stay.
The NAACP travel advisory does not explicitly recommend travel to Florida. Instead, he warns minorities who choose to visit that they will be entering an unwelcoming environment. There are many people of color who choose to continue to travel freely in Florida, as an act of resistance at a time when no one should have to choose whether to avoid traveling in this country.
I am choosing to stay away. I will encourage family gatherings in safer and more welcoming places.
Monica Williams grew up in Altamonte Springs and Lake Mary.