By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
On May 20 the NAACP Board of Directors issued a travel notice for Florida, warning individuals that Florida is “openly hostile” concerning Black Americans, people of color and people within the LGBTQ+ community.
The notice advises the aforementioned groups to “understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color” before traveling to Florida.
“Let me be clear – failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO.
According to the release, DeSantis has driven the state to reject African-American studies courses in March and has banned certain books pertaining to race and the LGBTQ+ community under the state’s laws.
“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. 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.”
DeSantis’ office released a statement saying the book ban is a “hoax” and that an African-American history course is still a required subject with “high quality standards” in Florida.
Under Florida education requirements, the civil rights movement, the history of African people before political conflicts that led to the development of slavery and the history and contributions of Americans of the African diaspora to society are required to be taught.
“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 Chair of the NAACP Board of Directors, Leon Russell.
“We will not allow our rights and history to be held hostage for political grandstanding. The NAACP proudly fights against the malicious attacks in Florida, against Black Americans. I encourage my fellow Floridians to join in this fight to protect ourselves and our democracy.”
While tourists can choose to avoid traveling to the state, those who must travel to Florida for work could encounter pushback from their employers.
Nicole Price, a leadership development coach, said her clients are already seeking advice on how to handle business travel to and from Florida. Her company, Lively Paradox, provides organizations with leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion training.
“Too often, in industries, people say to leave your politics at the door, but that is in direct contrast to DEI statements where we are saying we want to be inclusive and create spaces of belonging,” said Price. “Meanwhile, legislation is literally attacking people’s identity.”
A resident of Missouri, Price remembered when her home state faced similar travel advisories from the NAACP in 2017. She urged business heads to lead with integrity and to exemplify their companies’ missions and values while navigating the notice.
“Business leaders must live a life of integrity where what they’re saying and doing in private matches their public and private stances,” said Price. “The governor of Florida would not have this much leeway to do this much harm if he did not have private support.”
Business travel expert, Anuja Agrawal, warned employers to refrain from minimizing employees’ concerns regarding the travel advisory. She runs Health Flights Solutions, a global medical travel company.
“At no time should employers ignore any type of risk, however minimal it appears, because it’s their responsibility to take care of their employees. There have been multiple organizations that have issued travel advisories; therefore, they have perceived a risk,” said Agrawal.
“That risk perception doesn’t come from nowhere, it has a basis. There needs to be some constructive internal conversations on how these realities may impact particular employees.”
Agrawal, a native of Florida, said the state appears to be suppressing the expression and teaching of residents’ realities that diverge from lawmakers’ personal ideologies.
She advised companies to have proactive discussions with their employees about the travel advisory and to examine alternatives, like teleconferencing, to Florida business trips.
“Every employer has a social and moral obligation to support the diversity and freedom of expression of their employees to the extent that it’s not detrimental to the company,” said Agrawal.
“I am not a proponent of an employer doing anything adverse if an employee expresses their opinion or concern.”
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