Boycott Florida: An idea whose time has come

RON D ANIELS | 8/5/2013, 1:47 p.m.

(NNPA) – In a recent article I called for economic sanctions against Florida to compel business and political leaders in that state to change the Stand Your Ground Law that provided the basis for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. There are times when there is a convergence of ideas, a meeting of minds, such that a particular strategy has the potential to galvanize a movement. This appears to be one of those times.

The idea of boycotting Florida is not a Ron Daniels idea or Institute of the Black World 21st Century call. Rather, it is one that is on the minds of many Black people all across the country.

Dr. Patricia Newton, president emeritus, National Association of Black Psychiatrists, was so outraged by the Zimmerman verdict that she walked away from a $1 million dollar contract she was about to sign for a conference in Florida.

I met an elderly Black professional couple I met at Penn Station in Baltimore, who were returning from a conference in Jacksonville, Fla. When I asked if they would be going back to Florida next year, I had hardly gotten the words out of my mouth when the wife said that they discussed the murder of Martin at the conference and had already resolved that they would not hold another convention in that state until there is significant change.

Of course, music legend Stevie Wonder said at a concert in Canada, “Until the Stand Your Ground Law is abolished, I will never perform there again.” Since his pronouncement Eddie LaVert, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick and Mary Mary are among the artists who have publicly stated they will follow Stevie’s lead.

While celebrities add credibility for the boycott, it will be the actions of the multitude of conscious, committed convention-goers, vacationers and consumers who will make the campaign effective. Economic sanctions against Florida is an idea whose time has come.

Just as Katrina ripped the scab off and exposed the raw naked structural/institutional racism in distressed Black neighborhoods in America, the murder of Martin has ripped the scab off the persistent phenomenon of the criminalization of young Black men, racial profiling, stop-and-frisk and the structural/institutional racism in America’s criminal justice system. The problem is that despite episodic protests and periodic mobilizations, there has not been a persistent sense of urgency in Black America about these issues. The murder of Martin may be a decisive turning point.

One week after the Zimmerman verdict, rallies and prayer vigils were held across the country to demand that the Justice Department bring criminal charges against Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights. While we agree that this is a correct strategy, there is little likelihood that this will happen.

At the end of the day, not only must we seek a conviction of Zimmerman, we must also indict and fight to change the law that is so flawed that it would permit an armed adult to pursue an unarmed teenager deemed “suspicious” and permit a grown man to kill a kid who fearfully sought to stand his ground against a menacing stranger.