NAACP issues travel advisory for Florida, says state "has become hostile to Black Americans"
The NAACP issued a formal travel advisory for Florida on Saturday in response to what the organization described as Gov. Ron DeSantis' "aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools."
The civil rights organization is the latest to caution travelers against visiting Florida; the League of United Latin American Citizens and LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida previously issued travel advisories.
"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," NAACP President & CEO Derrick 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."
The advisory comes just days before DeSantis is expected to launch his presidential campaign.
"As Governor DeSantis announced last week, Florida is seeing record-breaking tourism," DeSantis' press secretary said in a statement on Monday, calling the NAACP advisory "nothing more than a stunt."
In an interview with CBS News, Johnson explained what went into the group's decision.
"We began to look at the pattern and the comments, along with the public policy that Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislative body began to enact. And we recognize that it is not only a direct attack on the African American community, but the Latino community, on women, the LGBTQIA community, and that's a problem," he said.
"He's using his platform as governor to try to promote 'otherism.' or racial hate and division," Johnson continued. "That should not be the case. And America needs to understand as he prepares to run for the presidency, we cannot stand as a nation another individual occupying the White House with this type of belief system."
The DeSantis administration in January blocked the introduction of an Advanced Placement course for high school students that focuses on African American studies, and DeSantis supported a measure banning the teaching of "critical race theory" in public schools.
"Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals," the NAACP travel notice states. "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."
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz responded to the travel advisory, calling it "bizarre" and "utterly dishonest" in a Sunday tweet.
"In the 1950s & 1960s, the NAACP did extraordinary good helping lead the civil rights movement," the senator tweeted. "Today, Dr. King would be ashamed of how profoundly they've lost their way."
Dr. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., responded to Cruz.
"What my father would be deeply concerned about is the harmful, discriminatory legislation in Florida," she tweeted.
This isn't the first travel advisory the NAACP has issued over discrimination concerns. The organization
previously issued a travel advisory in 2017 to people planning to visit Missouri.
In Florida, where tourism is a massive industry, an advisory could have a big impact for visitors. Around 137.6 million people visited the state in 2022, according to tourism agency Visit Florida. Visitors contributed $101.9 billion to the state's economy and supported more than 1.7 million jobs in 2021.
Disney, one of the biggest draws for tourists, has also been engaged in an ongoing dispute with Gov. DeSantis. Most recently, Disney canceled a $1 billion plan to build a campus in Florida. The feud started after Disney criticized the state's "Don't Say Gay" law.
Equality Florida issued its advisory after DeSantis signed the "Don't Say Gay" bill into law.
"That law, along with additional proposals being considered, has turned the state's classrooms into political battlefields and is telegraphing to LGBTQ families and students that they are not welcome in Florida," the group said at the time.
The League of United Latin American Citizens advisory cited strict Florida laws dealing with immigrants. Organization president Domingo Garcia called the new immigration laws "hostile and dangerous," saying they presented a clear and present danger to Latinos.
"Florida is a dangerous, hostile environment for law-abiding Americans and immigrants," Garcia said.
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