NAACP issues travel advisory to Florida over anti-Black history education laws

Advisory implores current residents to “defeat the regressive policies of this Governor and this state legislature"

Published May 23, 2023 10:16AM (EDT)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Truthout.

Over the weekend, the NAACP Board of Directors voted to issue a formal travel advisory warning people of color and LGBTQ people about "hostile" conditions in the state of Florida.

The advisory, which was published on Saturday, was originally proposed by the Florida chapter of the NAACP, which asked the national organization to issue such an advisory in March. The advisory comes just a week after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who has signed a number of bills restricting public school educators in the state from teaching core Black history subjects in classrooms — signed legislation banning diversity, equity and inclusion programs at public colleges throughout the state.

The advisory specifically states that DeSantis and other Republicans' attacks on the teaching of Black history create a hostile situation for nonwhite people.

"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," the advisory says.

The NAACP urged people who have to travel to Florida "to join the NAACP in our fight against the unjust attack on civil liberties, principles of diversity and inclusion, the right to vote and the right to assemble in peaceful protest." It also requests that current residents "defeat the regressive policies of this Governor and this state legislature."

The advisory remains in place "until further notice," the organization added.

Officials in the DeSantis administration dismissed the complaint, with one spokesperson saying they wouldn't "waste our time worrying about political stunts."

NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson warned that the actions taken by DeSantis and other Republican lawmakers were undemocratic and harmful to Black Americans.

"Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon," Johnson said. "He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We're not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation."

Barbara Ransby, a historian, author and activist based in Chicago, condemned DeSantis's laws restricting the teaching of Black history in an op-ed for Truthout in January.

Like Johnson, Ransby described DeSantis's actions as anti-democratic and "proto-fascist," noting that the laws are about "intimidation, silencing potential dissident voices, preempting critical thinking from young people that might lead to informed political action."

"In attacking African American studies, DeSantis has taken one more step toward not only a full-on embrace of white nationalism and authoritarianism, but also toward situating himself in a truly 'alternative reality,' where facts don't matter, research is irrelevant, expertise is sidelined, and young people are scurrilously miseducated," Ransby said.

Other organizations have issued similar travel advisories for the state, including mainstream LGBTQ groups like Equality Florida.
Equality Florida's travel advisory, which was published in early April, "comes after passage of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ+ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws and allow untrained, unpermitted carry, and foment racial prejudice," its leaders said.

"The Governor has also weaponized state agencies to impose sanctions against businesses large and small that disagree with his attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion," Equality Florida added in a statement last month.

By Chris Walker

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