One of the ladies explained that the boycott is the result of the acquittal of George Zimmerman – the man who killed Trayvon Martin. We should not only boycott orange juice but also tourism in Florida. She said, “An innocent black boy was killed. We need that gun law to be changed.”
I continued my conversation with the ladies, trying to engage in a healthy, meaningful debate. It was hard for me to get a word in. My words were masked by their chant, “No O.J. Stay Away! No O.J. Stay Away!” I was thinking to myself, “Someone wrap my head with Duck Tape – my head is about to explode!” While I applaud those ladies for their passion and involvement, their focus was grossly misdirected.
This Florida boycott has taken on legs. It was recently endorsed by Martin Luther King III while in Orlando at an NAACP convention. In July, several hundred protesters gathered in Love Park, Philadelphia, calling for a boycott of Florida oranges. There have also been demonstrations in Florida, calling for a nation-wide boycott of Florida tourism.
If the true intent of the boycott is to change Florida’s gun laws, it will not work. A boycott will only punish Floridians and the local economy. Tourism is a major source of employment in Florida and a large portion of state revenue. This is an act of blackmail against the people of Florida to overturn the “Stand Your Ground” law. It is wrong to cause hardship and pain for those who had nothing to do with the Trayvon Martin case. The decent people of Florida are not the issue - it is the law itself. Change must come from informed individuals through lobbying, protesting and the voting process - not through a boycott.
As I continued my discussion with the ladies at Wal-Mart, I was informed that Black communities should only do business with each other. And that doing so would strengthen the Black economy and their prosperity. I am in support of the growth and the success of business, minority or otherwise. But I don’t see how this focus is relevant to the Trayvon Martin case.
This idea is a form of social segregation based on race. I do not wish to live in a world where each race associates only with its “own kind.” Are we looking to go backward in this country? Have we not learned from our past? Before and during the Civil Rights Movement, segregation was common. There were Black stores and White stores. Black theaters and White theaters. We as a nation have come a long way in the past 50 years, working to become a nation united as Americans, not divided by race.
To a number of individuals, the Trayvon Martin tragedy is about race. Unfortunately, racism is alive. Somehow, we must conquer racism - together.
The Trayvon Martin case has left many questions - many concerns. We must forge ahead, not through boycotts, but with intelligence, love and the power of the vote.