The NAACP Says Florida Isn't Safe for Black People. Data Tell a Different Story.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images).
May 23, 2023

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last week cautioned black Americans to stay out of Florida, claiming that the state’s "openly hostile" policies put them at risk. But a Washington Free Beacon review found that minorities are far more likely to be the victims of hate crimes in liberal states like California.

The NAACP's "travel advisory" does not cite any figures, which show that black Floridians enjoy lower unemployment, higher median incomes, and lower rates of both hate crimes and police killings than their counterparts in other states. Instead, the group cites Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's (R.) "aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools," particularly a bill that prevents public schools from offering AP African American Studies courses.

Left-wing activist groups have warned minorities against traveling to the Sunshine State in response to DeSantis’s educational reforms. The NAACP’s travel advisory comes after the League of United Latin American Citizens and the gay rights group Equality Florida issued similar warnings, the New York Times reported.

These warnings paint a much grimmer picture than the reality of life in Florida. Black unemployment in the state stood at 3.8 percent by the end of 2022, far lower than the national average of 6.1 percent, or California’s of 7.5 percent. Florida is second in the country for the most minority-owned businesses, which may explain why median black family income is higher there than the national average or blue states such as Illinois.

Those economic facts may also explain why Florida has one of the largest black populations in the country—and why it has grown from 1.9 million to 3.2 million in the last 30 years. That's much different from the troubling picture the NAACP paints in its advisory, which claims "Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals."

The NAACP warns black travelers to "be aware of the open hostility towards African Americans and people of color" in Florida. But blacks have enjoyed a higher degree of safety there than elsewhere. Florida law enforcement recorded 127 hate crimes in 2020, compared with 1,537 in California and 466 in New York.

Three years into DeSantis’s first term as governor, the state saw a significantly lower amount of hate crimes than California. The reported hate crime rate in Florida was 0.6 per 100,000 people, according to the FBI, and 3.1 per 100,000 people in California.

There is also evidence that blacks are far less likely to be killed by police in Florida than California or Washington, D.C. A 2019 study published in science journal The Lancet concluded that the black mortality rate due to police violence was lower than California, Oregon, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and others.

DeSantis's two successful gubernatorial campaigns can be in part attributed to his success with black voters. In both 2018 and 2022, DeSantis saw double-digit support from the black community, far higher than typical for a Republican candidate.

All of this could help explain why NAACP’s board chairman Leon Russell lives in Tampa Bay, and why at least five of his colleagues have traveled to Florida for vacation since DeSantis was first elected in 2018.

Neither Russell nor the NAACP responded to a request for comment.