Hanging out at Virginia Key, Miami’s main beach for black residents during segregation
After six months of living in western Broward County – in a neighborhood with at least two Confederate flags on permanent display – I’m moving to Miami Beach (pending apartment association approval). The place isn’t fancy and the rent is a little more than I’d like to be paying, but the place is two blocks from the ocean. Did I mention that my new apartment is two blocks from the ocean?
The neighborhood offers up Brazilian and Cuban and Haitian and Colombian cuisine, gourmet burger joints and mom-and-pop coffee shops, two or three one-off gyms, a locksmith and a bail bondsman, a couple of t-shirt shops, an IHOP within walking distance, and the beach. I already feel connected to the place, even though I’m not moving until after the first of the month, if only because the area has a great plurality of people from all over the world. To me, its diversity is the single greatest thing about the United States these days.
Most of the residents in the area are working class. Most are brown or black. Most toil in hotels as cleaning staff or porters or maintenance crew, in restaurants as cooks and servers and dishwashers, in bars as bartenders and barbacks and security guards. Most depend on tourism for their livelihoods. Most would be the first to be laid off as the result of a boycott of Florida that supporters think will cause the repeal a law that disproportionately affects those same people (and me).
I understand the anger directed at the state because of the Zimmerman verdict and share in the desire for a change in the law. But, the gun lobby in Tallahassee is ruthless and relentless. It will take more than a general and unfocused boycott of products and services in Florida to overturn the heinous Stand Your Ground law. It will take pressure on the governor and the state legislature, who are the only people with the power – if not willingness – to do something. You can make your voice heard by contacting their offices directly (Florida House; Florida Senate).
Meanwhile, it’s easy to forget that there are 21 other states with Stand-Your-Ground laws on the books. And with the flags of all 50 states soaked in the blood of injustice and bigotry, shouldn’t boycotts be called for the other 49, too? In New York (Amadou Diallo) and California (Oscar Grant) and Georgia (Troy Davis) and Illinois (Jamaal Moore)? What about the people of color who live here, who have always lived here? I’ve seen commenters on other blogs brush away the concerns of black Floridians with quips like “casualties are a part of war” and “you have to break eggs to make an omelet.” I wonder if those people would be saying the same things if Zimmerman had been found not guilty in their state. As if that’s unlikely or something. Just yesterday, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the city council’s ban on racial profiling by police. It ain’t just Florida.
I’ve lived in the Gunshine State for 23 of my almost-36 years (gulp!) and I’ve never felt any less safe here than in Massachusetts, Maryland, or Mississippi. A boycott – especially if you already kinda sorta weren’t coming to Florida anyway – can be an easy way to feel good about being indignant without actually having to do very much. Hurting the hundreds of thousands of black and brown folk who depend directly or indirectly on tourism, services, or agriculture to make a living won’t make Florida – or the rest of the country – any safer for any of us.
If you are serious about effecting change in Florida, support the Trayvon Martin Foundation, then contact the state’s elected officials who support gun rights over human rights (half of whom I definitely didn’t vote for as a staunch Democrat, but such is the tyranny of the majority) and let them know that you feel the Stand Your Ground law is a travesty of justice.
Then come down and hang out at the beach house. We’ll be barbecuin’.
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