Commentary: If You Want Blacks in Florida, You've Got to Change Florida

Why African-Americans probably won't be flocking to the Sunshine State any time soon.

Posted: 04/26/2013 05:48 PM EDT

In a new article in the Black publication The Florida Courier, writer Derek Hankerson made the case that "the future growth of Florida is tied to the African-American traveler."

"Market data shows that the middle and upper income segments of the African-American community have grown enormously in the past 10 years, and more than 13 percent of households headed by African-Americans have incomes above $50,000," writes Hankerson. He later adds, "The African-American market alone is a large and growing market, approximately 32 million people with close to $300 billion in spending power."

Hankerson is not alone. Last year, a press release from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau touted the benefit Black tourism can have on a locale. "Greater Fort Lauderdale has become the destination of choice for the country's largest and most influential Black professional organizations," it bragged.

These kinds of articles and press releases and enticements to Florida are all part of a broader shift in the understanding of "Black buying power," which is the term people use to describe the fact that Black people actually have money and will spend it, meaning companies shouldn't ignore Black consumers. They also, however, tell of a bit of tone-deafness behind such efforts.

Let's be real: Florida is not necessarily the best vacation spot for Black people these days. Some Floridians have gotten so upset with America as it is, beneath our Black president, that they'd like to secede from the union, just like the secessionists of the Civil War era. When it's not the Florida police shooting Black people, it's people like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn gunning down young Black men under the state's controversial "stand your ground" law. One Florida man who shot an African-American neighbor last year commented that he "only shot a n----r."

Suffice it to say, Florida is — and has been for a long time — a bad environment for Black people. And, no, racism certainly isn't unique to the Sunshine State, but Florida's recent incidents certainly don't present a welcoming portrait of the place. Trying to get them, and their money, into the state by talking about all the great tourism is a bit shortsighted without addressing all the awful things that happen to Black people there. In other words, and what everyone trying to get in on "Black buying power" should know, is that you shouldn't expect Black people to give you their money if you don't also treat them like human beings.

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