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RICH LOWRY: The NAACP’s stupid anti-Florida smear

The NAACP is on high alert — a Republican governor, with an unabashedly conservative agenda and some chance of winning, is running for president. It has duly sprung into action with a travel advisory warning people what they’re getting into if they take the risk of visiting Florida’s sunny beaches or world-class attractions.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the statement says. “Before traveling 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.”

This is a shameful lie even by the standards of the NAACP.

The political play is obvious — use “travel advisory” to get attention that a mere harsh statement about Gov. Ron DeSantis wouldn’t garner and hope the resulting media coverage helps drive negative associations with the state.

We are used to taking travel advisories seriously because the State Department often issues them and for nonfrivolous reasons. When it says we shouldn’t travel to Burma “due to civil unrest and armed conflict” and urges “increased caution due to wrongful detentions and areas with land mines and unexploded ordnance,” most of us pay attention. The NAACP wants people to think of Florida as a hellhole where the peril isn’t physical but ideological — DeSantis is pursuing an agenda that, ipso facto, is hostile to certain minority groups.

The group makes it clear that it is thinking of the governor’s fight against diversity, equity and inclusion programs, critical race theory and gender ideology in the schools, as well as his rejection of an Advanced Placement African American studies course. This is a classic instance of progressive goalpost shifting.

DEI is a relatively recent fad, but now if someone wants to keep it out of education, it’s the equivalent of George Wallace standing at the schoolhouse door. It’s the same thing with gender ideology — no one thought that LGBTQ rights depended on teaching young children about gender fluidity until the day before yesterday.

As for the fight over the African American studies course, it’s false to suggest the state’s stance against overly politicized material in the course makes it opposed to the teaching of African American history as such. In fact, the state’s curriculum requires the teaching of key aspects of African American history, and these provisions have been made more robust under DeSantis.

Again, none of this has anything to do with travel — if someone wants to read Ibram X. Kendi while standing in line at Universal Studios or brush up on their DEI training on an airboat in the Everglades, there’s nothing stopping them. Even if you come down in a different place than DeSantis on these various controversies, to suggest that his positions constitute some kind of malice toward African Americans or other groups is a stupid libel.

Florida is a vibrant, diverse state, where people from all backgrounds stand to benefit from good government. The state has an unemployment rate under 3 percent, and the earnings of African Americans have been increasing smartly. The schools are excellent, and minority test scores are strong. Crime is at a half-century low.

Of course, if Florida were really a hotbed of antagonism toward minorities, Americans would have noticed and wouldn’t be moving there en masse. The state has gained 700,000 people since the 2020 census. The U-Hauls are coming because Florida has a well-earned reputation as an open place full of opportunity.

If the NAACP were truly concerned about the welfare of African Americans instead of trying to score points against a Republican potentially on the rise in national politics, it would issue travel advisories about going to Chicago or Baltimore, poorly governed cities where it is affirmatively dangerous for young Black men to live. Such places could learn from Florida.

If the NAACP were thinking clearly and didn’t have an agenda, it wouldn’t be denouncing the state but considering moving its headquarters there.

Rich Lowry is on Twitter @RichLowry.

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