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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Florida man strikes again

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In recent years some of the most outlandish news stories have come from the state of Florida. So much so, that it has become a running joke. Whenever a story is being told and it seems too strange to be true, listeners are often heard saying, “That must have been in Florida,” or “Let me guess, this was in Florida.”

On Donald Glover’s FX series Atlanta, there was an entire episode dedicated to ‘Florida Man’ – a fictional representation of the nearly unbelievable actions that some people have come to associate with residents of Florida. The episode featured a guest appearance by Katt Williams who lived in a small home with a fully grown pet alligator who roamed freely from room to room.

Florida’s fictional and actual reputation has for some come to represent the unthinkable.

The NAACP issued a travel advisory for those considering spending their hard-earned vacation days and dollars in the sunshine state.

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans,” said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson in a statement released to the public.

Florida has spearheaded the efforts to discontinue teaching Black history through cutting the Advanced Placement course for African American History, shutting down diversity, equity and inclusion positions at colleges and universities and banning books with race-related themes.

One Florida elementary school went as far as banning Amanda Gorman’s poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ which was presented at Biden’s presidential inauguration.

Home to Disney World, Universal Studios, and many other attractions, Florida has been a top destination for vacationers year-round.

Despite its attractiveness to visitors, the state’s legal stance has been anything but welcoming lately.

Senate Bill 1718 in Florida would hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring any undocumented workers. The bill would also require staff to request patients’ immigration status data upon admission to the hospital.  

While this bill may seem reasonable to some, the processes for obtaining legal documentation to live and work in the U.S. has not matched the pace of the dependence on migrant labor.

Opponents to the bill see Florida’s legislation as anti-migrant. The aftermath of the bill would likely devastate farmers and construction businesses who depend heavily on migrant labor. Without the migrant workers, who now fear legal repercussions, Florida farmers are at risk of losing entire harvests and work at some construction sites has already come to a standstill.

When Alabama tried to crack down on migrant labor in 2012, its economy took a major hit. The state lost up to $10.8 billion according to a cost-benefit analysis by Samuel Addy of the University of Alabama.

“Once again, hate-inspired state leaders have chosen to put politics over people. Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida have engaged in a blatant war against principles of diversity and inclusion and rejected our shared identities to appeal to a dangerous, extremist minority,” said NAACP Board Chair Leon Russell.

Florida’s attempts to strike out Black history and the migrant labor force seem unimaginable in 2023.

With all the progress that has been made in getting accurate Black history, which is accurate American history, into the hands of the people, Florida has made every attempt to reverse course and go back in time. 

Whether Black history is taught in classrooms or lecture halls, it does exist. Black Americans have contributed to this country’s formation in significant ways. And whether migrant workers are provided with the necessary papers to work in the U.S., the fact remains that Florida’s economy is indebted to their labor.

‘Florida man’ has not been successful so far in wiping out the ‘other’ that he seems to fear so much and none of the legislative efforts can erase the very real contributions of the people.

The ban on Gorman’s poem has only served to boost her sales, many migrant workers have simply chosen to work in other states and the NAACP is enlisting people to align with them in the fight against Florida’s extreme tactics.

“We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation,” said Johnson.

If ‘Florida Man’ has his way, many of us will not be invited to delight in the coastlines and rollercoasters. I, for one, enjoy Epcot and sunsets on the beach, but not at the expense of my history.

Contact Editor-in-Chief Camike Jones at CamikeJ@IndyRecorder.com or 317-762-7850. Check out another editorial by Jones here.

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