ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The NAACP over the weekend issued a travel advisory for Florida, joining two other civil rights groups in warning potential tourists that recent laws and policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
The NAACP, long an advocate for Black Americans, joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for the Sunshine State, where tourism is one of the state’s largest job sectors.
The warning approved Saturday by the NAACP’s board of directors tells tourists that, before traveling to Florida, they should understand the state of Florida “devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”
An email was sent Sunday morning to DeSantis’ office seeking comment. The Republican governor is expected to announce a run for the GOP presidential nomination this week.
Florida is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for tourists, and tourism is one of its biggest industries. More than 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency. Tourism supports 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, and visitors spent $98.8 billion in Florida in 2019, the last year figures are available.
Several of Florida’s Democratic mayors were quick to say Sunday that their cities welcomed diversity and inclusion.
“EVERYONE is always welcome and will be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Mayor Ken Welch of St. Petersburg in a message echoed by the mayor across the bay in Tampa.
“That will never change, regardless of what happens in Tallahassee,” tweeted Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa.
The NAACP’s decision comes after the DeSantis’ administration in January rejected the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course. DeSantis and Republican lawmakers also have pressed forward with measures that ban state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as critical race theory, and also passed the Stop WOKE Act that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.