A US civil rights organisation has warned people of colour against visiting the state of Florida.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued the travel advisory discouraging tourists from visiting the state to protest Governor Ron DeSantis’ policies, which the civil rights group claim are “hostile to black Americans”, reports NY Post.
It came just days before he is expected to announce his candidacy for president.
“On a seeming quest to silence African-American voices, the Governor and the State of Florida have shown that African-Americans are not welcome in the State of Florida,” the travel advisory released on Saturday (local time) said.
“Due to this sustained, blatant, relentless and systemic attack on democracy and civil rights, the NAACP hereby issues a travel advisory to African-Americans, and other people of color regarding the hostility towards African-Americans in Florida,” the group added.
The statement cited several of Mr DeSantis’s controversial policies, including a law he approved last Monday banning colleges from spending public funds on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
The Florida governor also signed the Stop WOKE Act, curbing how schools can discuss race during required training or instruction, and blocked an Advanced Placement African American Studies course in the state’s public schools because he said it lacked “educational value”.
“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,” NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement.
“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,” Mr Johnson added.
He urged people to join the NAACP’s “battle for the soul of our nation”.
The group had noted that black students comprise 23 per cent of Florida’s public school population.
“Before travelling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African-Americans and other communities of color,” the advisory says.
Mr DeSantis also signed a controversial “Parental Rights in Education” law that bans grades K-to-3 classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity, which critics brand “Don’t Say Gay”.
The Republican governor said discussing sex and gender identity is inappropriate for young students.
The governor has defended the law against explicit or separate diversity instruction.
“DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” Mr DeSantis said during his bill signing.
Mr DeSantis criticised the proposed travel advisory when the Florida chapter of the NAACP requested that national leaders take it up in March.
“What a joke,” he said. “Yeah, we’ll see, we’ll see how effective that is.
“This is a stunt to try to do that. It’s a pure stunt and fine, if you want to waste your time on a stunt, that’s fine. But I’m not wasting my time on your stunts,” Mr DeSantis added.
The Sunshine State, is a tourism magnet and one of the state’s most important industries – with 137.6 million visitors last year, Florida’s tourism agency said.
Visitors contributed $101.9 billion to Florida’s economy and supported over 1.7 million Florida jobs in 2021, according to the agency.
While the NAACP travel advisory alleges Mr DeSantis is racially intolerant, it may provoke conservative Republicans to rally around him as he takes on former President Donald Trump in the GOP primary.
Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again” base opposes race-based instruction.
Mr DeSantis’ spokesman Jeremy Redfern told the Post in an email, “This is a stunt,” before forwarding a GIF of Mr DeSantis calling it a stunt previously.
The governor’s political aide Christina Pushaw also took to Twitter on Sunday morning to flippantly mock the NAACP’s advisory.
“Does this mean no Urban Beach Week?” she wrote, along with, “Keep the travel advisories coming. It’s hard enough to get a dinner reservation in this town [Miami].”
This article originally appeared on New York Post and was reproduced with permission