In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Boycott aimed at wrong Florida

 

fgrimm@MiamiHerald.com

Don’t boycott us. We’re not that Florida.

We’re Flor-i-da. With a subtle Spanish caress of the tongue across the last two syllables. Don’t boycott us.

We are not Flahhhhda, huffed out like a smoker’s cough, a hint of tobacco juice dribbling down the chin. That’s the place to boycott. Lower Alabama. Greater Georgia. Land of the creepy ass crackers.

Yet those calling for a national boycott of Florida have failed to make that crucial geographical and cultural distinction. They’re threatening to punish us for the Zimmerman verdict, blaming the state’s Stand Your Ground statute. Last week, MoveOn.org launched an online petition, calling for a Florida tourism boycott until SYG is repealed. “Your state is not a safe place to vacation if your citizens are able to kill anyone they deem suspicious," the petition proffers.

Martin Luther King III told the NAACP convention in Orlando: “We may have to look at not consuming Florida orange juice.” Of course, the Florida Department of Agriculture pretty well wiped out south Florida’s oranges on its great citrus canker vendetta over a decade ago. Lately, our orange juice concerns hinge mostly on the profitable flow of screwdrivers and mimosas on South Beach.

Stevie Wonder told an audience in Quebec City last week that Florida was no longer the sunshine state of his life and that he would not play another concert hereabouts until we repealed Stand Your Ground.

A California assemblyman from Pasadena and the fire chief from Englewood, N.J., joined the fray last week, saying tourists should stay away until we get rid of the NRA-crafted self-defense law.

They think of the glitz of South Beach and Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and Wynwood and Key West and Coral Gables and Boca Raton and imagine, somehow, that we might wield some influence on that congregation of wild-eyed yeehaw reactionaries in Tallahassee. They should study Florida’s much gerrymandered map. The location of the capital is not mere geography but a state of mind. Among legislators up that way, their only positive regard for sinful South Florida has to do with the disproportionate amount of revenue they can suck out of this region to fund their local projects. Otherwise, they loathe us as an Obama-voting aberration, a disgrace to the old Confederacy. The notion that a national tourism boycott might hurt Miami-Dade or Broward or Palm Beach counties — regarded by the good ol’ boys who run this state as a cesspool of foreigners, gays, Jews, Yankees, strange accents, tiny bikinis and liberal inclinations — will only bring joy to their creepy cracker hearts. Those folks abandoned South Florida, most of them, a generation ago. Folded up their Confederate flags, oiled their assault weapons, renewed their NRA membership and skedaddled.

Aside from the geographic misconceptions, the Stand-Your-Ground Florida boycott raises a few technical quibbles. Some 25 other states have similarly kowtowed to the NRA and adopted variations of the Stand Your Ground law. And while the Florida version is inarguably stupid, as if it had been crafted by a first-year law student on a three-day bender, its application hasn’t been particularly racial. A Tampa Bay Times study of some 200 Stand Your Ground defenses found that 66 percent of the black defendants who evoked the self-defense statute went free, while 61 percent of white defendants who claimed Stand Your Ground immunities saw their charges dropped.

The Times found that in mixed-race confrontations, four of the five blacks who killed a white person were freed after invoking Stand Your Ground, while five of six whites who killed a black person were freed through SYG.

There are plenty of reasons to disparage Florida’s Stand Your Ground, but mostly because the law allows killers with imaginative defense lawyers to find ever more creative applications to get out of jail. It ought to be renamed the Gangbanger Defense Act. Anyway, George Zimmerman’s exoneration, the object of this national burst of anger, was only tangentially related to Stand Your Ground. This was just as much about a weak case made weaker by the prosecution’s own key witnesses.

Besides, the teenager who was wrongly profiled and stalked and killed that night by George Zimmerman was from Miami-Dade County. He was one of our kids, shot up there, in that other Florida.

Boycott that place. It’s not us.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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