A road sign reading "welcome to Florida" with palm trees behind it.

114-Year-Old Civil Rights Organization Recommends Serious Travel Warning for the Sunshine State

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is pushing for the formal issuing of a travel advisory for the state of Florida. The Florida State Conference proposed the idea following Governor Ron DeSantis’ signing of The Individual Freedom Act. This bill, often called the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act, regulates the teaching of kids in school and of employees in the workplace. In particular, it will block the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and anything it deems as being connected to or inspired by CRT.

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Under the Stop WOKE Act, Florida recently banned AP African American studies from being implemented in its high schools, arguing that the subject lacked “educational value.” Many are deeply concerned about the Stop WOKE Act’s erasure and censorship of African American history, which is a vital part of American history as a whole. In response to the recent actions of Florida and DeSantis, the NAACP may be issuing a travel advisory to the state.

NAACP to issue travel warning for Florida

On March 24, 2023, the NAACP Florida State Conference issued a statement recommending the advisory. The NAACP Florida State Conference voted unanimously in favor of it, meaning a request for one will go to the NAACP Board of Directors and be reviewed and potentially approved between May and July. If the advisory is formally issued, it will advise African Americans against traveling to the state and moving to the state. The Florida State Conference expressed fear over the kind of hostile and racist environment Florida may be fostering with its decision to censor and deny African American history.

Meanwhile, the NAACP Board of Directors seems in favor of the travel advisory, as well. The Board’s Chairman, Leon W. Russell, stated:

The recommendation from our Florida State Conference is a clear indication of just how egregious Governor Desantis’ actions are. Any attempt to intentionally erase or misrepresent Black History is a direct attack on the foundation of comprehensive education. Be clear – Black history is American history. We are proud of our Florida State Conference for meeting this moment with the equal aggression and intention that is a necessary response to these attacks. Any location in America where our history has been erased does not offer us, or our children a bright future.

Has the NAACP issued travel bans before?

If passed, this will be only the second time in the NAACP’s 114-year history that the organization has issued a travel advisory at the statewide level. The first time the organization did so was in 2017 when a travel advisory was issued for African American travelers to Missouri. Similar to the Florida situation, the advisory was issued following the passage of particularly egregious legislation. Around the time of the travel ban, Missouri passed Senate Bill 43, which made it significantly harder for individuals to prove they were victims of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race or gender.

Individuals pursuing a lawsuit against an employer, for example, over being terminated from a job because of their race, would have to provide proof, such as a written memo, that explicitly shows the defendant’s motivating factor was racism. Obviously, this is near impossible for many to provide, and raised the ease with which people of color could be fired, pulled over, or arrested on the basis of race with the perpetrators avoiding consequences.

However, Senate Bill 43 was really just the final catalyst in pushing the advisory after years of Missouri fostering an unsafe environment for African Americans. Statistics found that Black drivers were pulled over by police at a rate 75% higher than white drivers. Additionally, the NAACP also took issue with how hate crimes were prosecuted in the state. At the time of its passage, the NAACP explained the advisory would not be repealed until Missouri took steps to rectify its civil rights issues.

What does the Florida travel advisory mean?

As with Missouri, the Florida travel advisory won’t prohibit or ban individuals from traveling to the state. It will merely serve to raise awareness for those choosing to travel there. When the advisory was passed for Missouri, it urged individuals to spread the news by word of mouth and ensure everyone traveling there was aware of the possibility of being pulled over, arrested, searched, or suffering other discriminatory incidents. It even urged travelers to secure bail money and, essentially, be cautious and prepared for anything to happen when traveling.

Florida’s travel ban is likely very necessary given Florida’s increasing hostility to both African Americans and the LGBTQ+ community under DeSantis. Despite DeSantis’ desire to erase Black history, this past January marked the 100th anniversary of the Rosewood Massacre, an incident in which a small Black Florida town was attacked by a white mob that murdered 30 African American men, women, and children, and burned the town to the ground. Rosewood’s descendants have fought hard to keep awareness of this incident alive to show the true history of their people and the injustices they faced. There are still people alive today who were deeply impacted by the horrors of the Rosewood Massacre and seeking justice, as no arrests or criminal charges were made in the massacre.

The Rosewood massacre shows that racial injustice and discrimination are very real in Florida. For the state to want to pretend this never happened and prevent children from holding any awareness or empathy for the past, is very scary. Hopefully, the NAACP will be able to further raise awareness of the seriousness of the situation with the passage of a travel advisory.

(featured image: Pgiam/Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.