ORLANDO (FinalCall.com) – Landing here to attend the National Association of Black Journalists convention and along a shuttle ride to my temporary residence, it’s clear that Mickey is the lord of all I survey.
The mega-entertainment Mouse’s face is everywhere. Signs declare discounted tickets for parks and rides, half-off t-shirts, cut-rate meals, and two-for-one trinkets–not to mention hotels along major boulevards, plush resorts and every imaginable restaurant.
Between the Walt Disney theme park empire and contenders to the throne offering rides, waters slides, and golf, Florida is the world’s playground.
But on a playground, you often find a bully and someone who needs to fight.
With the acquittal of George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin have come calls for a boycott and standing up against an outrageous verdict masquerading as legal justice. A trial doesn’t equal justice. In the 1950s the killers of Emmitt Till, the Black teenager murdered in Mississippi for offending White sensibilities, had a trial. It wasn’t justice.
But feet on the ground in the Sunshine State, the importance of tourism and image are manifestly clear. To work, a boycott needs to be targeted and sustained. It needs to make families with children uncomfortable, entertainers, athletes and organizations uneasy. Can you imagine an “I’m NOT going to Disney World” campaign? Visitors spent a record $71.8 billion in 2012, according to state officials. “Travelers to Florida spent an additional $4.6 billion in 2012, marking the second consecutive record year for visitor spending in the Sunshine State,” Republican Governor Rick Scott has noted.
The state marketing agency says last year visitors spent over 500 million vacation nights in the world’s top vacation destination. But wait, there’s more. According to state figures, 40 percent of all U.S. exports to Latin and South America pass through Florida; the space industry represents $4.1 billion of the state’s economy and employs 33,000 aerospace workers; the state produces about 67 percent of the U.S. oranges and accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply, and has significant income and jobs in service, software, health technology and university research.
No business wants a boycott. And folks who come to the land of sun and fun, don’t want to be questioned about why they are not supporting efforts to condemn the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager.
Imagine the lessons we can teach our children about why the family vacation, the school trip or the reunion won’t take place in the Magic Kingdom. Imagine the discussions that can be had when you put the orange juice back in the cooler as you notice it is from Florida.
Sometimes when standing up to a bully, it isn’t about knocking him out. Sometimes a good bloody nose is enough to get his attention and modify behavior–or at least get a little respect.
And this punishment, yes punishment, of Florida may be more about self-respect than anything else. It is one thing for someone to dehumanize you; it’s another to march silently into the death chamber without a fight. The verdict in Trayvon’s death was a sign that the lives of Black young men mean nothing.
They won’t mean anything if we don’t force the issue. Once moneychangers start feeling economic pain, there always comes a desire to negotiate. That means another opportunity to assert our agenda and push for Black folks to get a little more when it comes to tourism and other industries in the Sunshine State. Imagine the pride we can have in showing some unity, some spending discipline and plotting what we do next to help ourselves.
Finally, what should we do with the money that we save? How about some economic affirmative action on our own behalf? Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has called for supporting the Economic Program of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and amassing millions by literally collectively saving pennies a day. Others around the country have similar ideas about Black investment and economic development projects. It is tragic that Blacks will spend about $1 trillion a year but talented, well-trained, educated Black professionals and recent grads had to pursue jobs at a NABJ job fair but Black America had no entity that could employ them. We can do more with our money and our joint power.
Maybe we should start by punching Mickey in the gut, or the eye.
(Final Call editor-in-chief Richard B. Muhammad can be reached at editor@ finalcallnews.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and @RMfinalcall on Twitter.)