The Florida Boycott-Right Concern, Wrong Course Of Action.

The weather forecast for Florida the Sunshine State has been cloudy due to the racial injustice and travesty over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Many people are understandably shocked, outraged, numb, skeptical, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of disbelief as many in the Black community are saying out loud “Not Again!!” As a result of the verdict, Stevie Wonder among others has promised to boycott Florida until the “Stand Your Ground” Law is repealed. I must preface this by saying, I have the highest level of respect for Stevie Wonder. His humanitarian efforts and musical talent are second to none. I admire his passion, but I think the boycott is the wrong approach for him to make the kind of lasting impact that necessitates change.

Stevie Wonder
Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

Now granted, Florida has seen some rough days. You have the presidential election uproar of 2000 where the nation was introduced to terms like “Dimpled chads” and “Hanging Chads”.  Even when the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections came about, you can sense that the entire nation was giving Florida the side eye saying, “Don’t screw this up THIS time!” And now Florida is threatened to be boycotted. Florida seems to have had an identity crisis (Is it in the South? Or considered East Coast?) Truth be told though, Florida is hurting. Florida has had to deal with this tragedy since February 2012, specifically Sanford. People are angry, tensions are high, and Stevie Wonder is the antidote to this. That’s right, he’s the antidote. Stevie’s music spans at least 30 plus years and he is one of the rare artists that still command huge crowds wherever he performs.  However, Stevie’s music is what Florida needs right now. Stevie’s music is what this nation needs right now. His music is about love, unity, empowerment, uplifting one another, being insightful, yet evoking a mood of having a great time! You are hard pressed to find ANYONE that does not like his music. Florida needs love, Florida needs unity, Florida needs a cathartic experience to release the tension and anger, and Stevie’s music is the antidote. To deprive Florida of this, in my opinion, is a travesty.

Now imagine if you will, in an alternative universe, Stevie decides to do a free benefit concert in Florida to bring awareness to the masses about the importance of repealing the Stand Your Ground laws. Admission would only require your signature and valid email address to sign a petition to abolish this law. Can you imagine if you will, thousands came out to support this effort? Can you imagine Trayvon’s parents among other parents who lost their children to senseless violence as a result of the “Stand your ground law”? Thousands of supporters would have to get lawmakers attention. Can you imagine if each concert goer was only required to send one email per week to each lawmaker asking them to repeal this law? Do you think a boycott would actually be more effective than this??? Between the emails, the signed petition, not to mention the unifying concert experience of the Stevie Wonder, change can happen. This could be a catalyst for artists to do similar “awareness enhancing/grassroots level” concerts in their own communities. Now will this Kum-ba-yah moment end racism, end judicial injustice, end the racial stereotypes we have of each other? No not at all, but it will bring people together who otherwise would not even associate with one another, but who are together in one place for a common cause.  As Marvin Gaye once sang, “Mother, mother…there’s too many of you crying/Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some loving here today.” The opportunity to spread unity and love should NEVER be boycotted.

To many, this acquittal was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Black people seeking some semblance of the promise in the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance. Let’s not turn our backs on Florida now. The entire state did not shoot Trayvon, the entire state did not delay in pressing charges, and the entire state did not deliberate for hours just to render a “not guilty” verdict. Let’s look at the bigger picture here and see the opportunity that is right in front of us. Let’s not let the actions of a few have damaging consequences on the many. Looking back, MLK, Jr. never called for a statewide boycott of Alabama when Rosa Parks was arrested for not sitting in the back of the bus. MLK knew to hit them where it hurts and it worked. Boycotting an entire state in the hopes of repealing a law that may not have any impact on its economic viability is very shortsighted. Some people say they do not have a problem with the law; it is the selective enforcement of it.  It seems that skin color is a prerequisite in determining how it is to be enforced.  Having Stevie come to Florida would do wonders in bringing healing to a racially wounded state.

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin

In closing, a great man once said, “The truth is that — for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world — we can’t bring them back,” he said. “What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.” The man that said this is none other than Stevie Wonder himself. If this man who had the vision to spearhead the movement to have the aforementioned MLK, Jr. be honored to have a federal holiday in his name, how much more powerful would it be for him to spearhead this movement to repeal this law? If anyone can do it, it’s Stevie. I really hope he reconsiders his boycott; it would never have the impact he hopes it would have, because it would only galvanize a nation to be reactive and not proactive. We don’t need any more Trayvon Martins losing their lives so young, and we definitely do NOT need any more George Zimmerman’s taking those lives away AND getting away with it..It MUST STOP NOW!  The Martin family has already been through enough and to boycott their home state is like turning our back on them when they were minding their own business just like Trayvon was minding HIS own business walking home from the store NOT looking for an altercation or confrontation. If you must boycott something, boycott ignorance, boycott racism, you could even boycott hate…but please do NOT boycott a singular state!