Florida’s brand as a top tourist destination glistens as enticingly as the bright sunshine that dapples its white, sandy beaches. But in the wake of a Florida jury finding George Zimmerman not guilty for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, some want to disrupt this image, through a black tourism boycott of the state.
“Tourism is huge in Florida! Vacation some place else! Boycott Florida!” exclaims a commenter on a story posted on theGrio regarding Zimmerman’s acquittal. This user is not alone.
A Facebook page called “Boycott Florida Tourism – In Honor of Trayvon Martin” has garnered almost 2,800 likes as of this writing. Other Facebook pages such as “Boycott Florida” and “Boycott Florida Economy” have been created as well, along with numerous calls for a boycott of the state that have been posted on the “Visit Florida” Facebook page.
As of Friday, more than 11,225 people have signed a Moveon.org petition calling for a tourism boycott of the Sunshine State.
On July 18, gospel duo Mary Mary tweeted an Instagram image announcing that sister members Erica and Trina Campbell will boycott Florida, taking a stand to demand that the state change its Stand Your Ground law, which grants individuals the right to use deadly force without retreating in the face of a perceived lethal threat. This law was invoked when Zimmerman was initially not charged by Sanford, Florida police after shooting Martin.
Joining Stevie Wonder, who made a similar pledge in recent days, Mary Mary’s statement reads in part,”We love our fans but we MUST do something. We understand that a No from us is not as big as a No from Stevie Wonder, but if all our voices join together we can REALLY change things!”
Passions swirl on social media in reaction to verdict
Zimmerman said he shot Martin, an unarmed teen, in self-defense in February 2012. He was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter charges on July 13.
Passionate public conversations via social media have illustrated just how strongly many feel about the verdict, particularly African-Americans.
A Pew Research study released in the days following the verdict revealed that of the five million tweets sent during the first 26 hours after the verdict, 39 percent of all tweets offered straight news without opinion about the verdict, showing the manner in which the trial had captured the public’s attention.
Thirty-one percent of all tweets expressed anger at the verdict, while only seven percent supported it, a ratio of more than four to one.
“The sentiments decrying the verdict were often emotional and frequently evoked a racial subtext, according to an analysis of the Twitter response to the trial outcome from 10 p.m. July 13 to midnight on July 14,” according to Pew. “Among that group, the largest component (15% of the Twitter reaction ) was criticism of the criminal justice system, including charges that it is biased against African Americans.”
Social media has captured the view of legions of African-Americans — reflected in Mary Mary’s tweet among thousands of others — that justice was not served by the acquittal.
In response to this level of anger, some are saying that blacks and like-minded people of all races should, like Stevie Wonder and Mary Mary, boycott the state, specifically by pulling their tourism dollars from Florida.
Some have personally re-branded Florida as, “not a safe place to take your family for vacation as long as Florida law permits a citizen to shoot or kill you for merely looking suspicious, and to do it with impunity.”
TheGrio has requested comment from the Florida Tourism Board regarding revenue levels generated by black tourism to the state, and calls for a black boycott, but has not received a response.
Florida: A magnet for black tourism, conventions
Tourism is one of Florida’s largest revenue streams, rendering the state politically vulnerable to a boycott. Total tourism spending in 2012 was almost $72 billion based on preliminary numbers from the Florida Tourism Board.
Simultaneously, Florida is routinely chosen by black professional groups for networking and revelry.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) will start its annual convention in Orlando on July 31, a mere 40 miles from the city of Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed. The National Bar Association (NBA), “the nation’s oldest and largest association of African American lawyers and judges,” according to its site, will commence its 88th annual convention on July 27 in the city of Miami where Trayvon Martin once made his home.
With so many African-Americans expressing outrage, unease, and grief, over the verdict, some see great irony in the fact that members of black organizations — not to mention the national chapters of these organizations and their sponsors — will be spending a significant amount of money in a state some believe is the seat of a great civil rights travesty.
Should African-American groups like NABJ, which are tasked with the mission of protecting the social interests of blacks, lead a tourism boycott of the state as a reflection of their collective outrage?
Calls for a black tourism boycott
Some African-Americans adamantly say, “Yes.”
“I cancelled my hotel in Orlando for NABJ,” a New York City-based journalist told theGrio. (She prefers to remain anonymous for professional reasons.) “Florida does not need my tourism dollars. Not with all those crooked ‘laws,'” she continued, referring to Stand Your Ground, and the concealed carry gun permit ordinance that empowered Zimmerman (along with one in 17 Floridians) to be armed.
“NABJ should stand up and boycott as well,” she said. “They need to do the event in New York City or L.A., where the actual hiring managers and decision makers are. I don’t need passes to Disney World. Round table discussions with actual hiring managers is what members need. We don’t need celebrity golf. We need justice and for the press (which we have little control in) to keep this story alive.”
NABJ is not the only black organization facing this quandary.
The National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA) will kick off its 30th annual conference on Sunday in Orlando, and there are many more black groups that will host gatherings in 2014.