Tag Archives: Social Justice

Boycotting Florida

23 Jul

In light of recent events, many performers have decided to boycott the entire state of Florida, and refuse to perform until a certain Stand Your Ground law is repealed. The Trayvon Martin incident has ignited people to speak out about the controversial law that has been on Florida’s books since 2005. During the actual trial, the Zimmerman defense team did not use Stand Your Ground in their argument, but Judge Debra Nelson did include it in the jury’s instructions, causing many people to blame it for Zimmerman’s being found not guilty.

As a result, Stevie Wonder stated in a concert soon after the verdict that he would refuse to perform in Florida or any state that has a SYG law until it is repealed, and other artists have followed in his footsteps, and I’ve also seen many not-famous people say that they will refrain from traveling to Florida until the law is abolished. I just want to make a few points regarding this idea and possibly suggest other ways to express indignation with the justice system.

To begin, Florida is far from the only state with a SYG law. As the map below shows, nearly half of the states have some sort of law stating that you have no duty to retreat and can use deadly force if you feel threatened.

Stand Your Ground States

I don’t see people calling for a boycott of every single one of those states, and I understand that they want to make an example out of Florida, but I think people should realize that Florida is not a special case, and the Zimmerman case only got a lot of attention because the Martin family forced the media to get involved. Here’s a cool interactive list of Stand Your Ground cases in Florida and how they turned out, and I’m sure not many people have heard of any of those cases. I’m saying all of this to say, the Martin case was not the first of its kind, and to make Florida out to be the bad guy is not constructive.

It is no surprise that Florida is one of the top tourism destinations in the world, and a boycott of travels to Florida would certainly wreak havoc on the state’s economy. However, I do not think a boycott of Florida’s tourism industry would have the influence that people are anticipating. When industries/companies suffer, the people at the bottom are the most likely to be affected, rather than those in charge. So, a boycott of the tourism industry would possibly have drastic effects on the women who clean up your hotel rooms and make your beds, and the people of color that work in the food service at all of your favorite amusement parks. In other words, not the legislators who introduced the law in the first place. A boycott on Florida’s tourism industry is misplaced, in my opinion.

Next, I understand that harping on Florida has been the thing since the 2000 election mishap, but I am tired of Florida getting a bad reputation for everything. Florida is not the only state with unjust laws, and frankly, the entire state and all the people in it are not to blame for the outcome of one court case. People were similarly outraged in 2011 when Troy Davis was executed in Georgia, but there were no calls for a ban of the entire state (and Georgia is about to unfairly execute another Black man). It was recently discovered that more than 100 women in a California prison had unauthorized sterilizations performed on them, but people are not nearly as outraged about that (I also understand that the stories in the media that get coverage and that are blown up is incredibly calculated, and I’m just a news snob so I know about these things while others, who may have heard about the Zimmerman case, do not). My point here is that egregious things do not happen solely in Florida, and an overhaul of the entire criminal justice system is needed to weed out discrepancies and inconsistencies.

There are more direct ways to guide your efforts to bring attention to SYG and other unjust laws and court cases, and I want to mention them. The Dream Defenders, a group of college students in Florida, are camping out in the capitol building in Tallahassee, demanding to meet with Governor Rick Scott in order for him to call a special session of the legislature to remove the SYG law. You can donate to them here and read more about their progress and other initiatives here. In addition, Cece McDonald and Marissa Alexander are two Black women who are currently in jail for defending themselves in a life-threatening situation (the fact that these cases are only gaining ground and becoming popular recently because of comparisons to the Zimmerman case is another post for another time), and more people need to know their stories. They each have support sites, as well as Facebook support pages and donation pages.

In essence, my main point is that a boycott of the entire state of Florida is incredibly misguided, vague, and short-sighted. I think it became a popular idea because everyone loves to hate Florida, it’s easy to do if you have no connections to the state, and people love to feel like they are doing something big. In all, I do not think that a boycott will be very effective because it will not hit the right people where it hurts, rather it will have negative effects on those who have nothing to do with making the laws. I think people should focus on the actual law and specific instances where it is being applied, rather than blame the entire state, just because the Zimmerman case happened to occur here.