Is this the beginning of a Florida exodus?

The Florida Legislature reviews and votes on several controversial bills. Photo courtesy: Miami Herald

The Florida Legislature has been in session for roughly four weeks, and certain bills that have been filed or passed have stirred up emotions and left some Floridians feeling uneasy about the future of their state.

Governor Ron DeSantis has expressed his support for gun rights and permit-less concealed carry throughout his political career. Now that the Legislature has approved the bill for concealed carry without a permit, DeSantis’ signature is the final step in green-lighting this initiative.

This new law would eliminate all preliminary training prior to Florida residents obtaining a gun. This would also allow residents to roam public spaces at their leisure with firearms as long as the weapon is not outwardly visible.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, almost 10,000 U.S. citizens have died as a result of gun violence just in 2023.

Jasmine Welch, a graduating senior at Florida A&M University from Gainesville,  says she plans to stay in Florida for “the least amount of time as possible.”

“I’m obviously going to have to stay here until I have the foundation and funds to relocate, but my choice to stay here is not voluntary, it’s just I don’t have the funds to get out the state right now,” Welch said.

College students in Florida are also taking to the streets, demanding that their academic curriculum and college experience remain unharmed by the Legislature.

House Bill 999  contains measures that would alter the current state of college life on all public campuses in the state. This includes the removal of degree programs related to race or gender studies, and it would prohibit university funding to be allocated for initiatives or activities that promote diversity, equity and inclusion. It would also permit the governor’s appointees to review a faculty member’s tenure at any time and create curriculum requirements that highlight Western European views and perspectives.

If enacted, this legislation could result in Black sororities and fraternities such as the Divine Nine to be banned from all campuses in the state followed by any other clubs or organizations whose purpose is to create inclusive environments and opportunities for marginalized groups.

Faculty, staff and other campus positions would be hired without consideration of diversity, equity or inclusion regardless of the position.

The bill advanced in the Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee on March 13 by a 12-5 party-line vote.

College students are not the only members of academia under fire by the Republican super-majority in the Legislature.

Roughly five weeks prior to the start of the 2023 legislative session, the Florida Department of Education banned the African American Studies Advanced Placement course from all public high schools.

The FDOE decided on the ban due to the course’s lack of educational and value and historical accuracy. The state wrote a letter to the organization responsible for the curriculum, College Board, saying AP African American studies is “explicably contrary to Florida law”.

Earlier this week the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at its Florida State Conference voted unanimously to recommend the national NAACP Board of Directors to issue a travel advisory for the state of Florida.

If approved, the NAACP would urge Black people to avoid traveling or moving to Florida until further notice.

Adora Obi Nweze, the Florida State Conference chair, says the history of injustices in this country does not represent a “feel good” version.

“Our question to Governor DeSantis is, ‘What sort of future are you fostering for Black American throughout Florida while eradicating our historical contributions to this nation?’”

Governor DeSantis called the potential advisory “a joke” and challenged the likelihood that the NAACP’s recommendation would be affective.

“They would end up being spotted on the beach somewhere vacationing,” DeSantis said.

FAMU NAACP President Sydney Aitcheson says that leaving the state would only grant DeSantis an easier pathway for destruction.

“Given that Blacks are being attacked, I do think Florida is no longer a secure place for African American people. I believe that instead of avoiding the issue, we should confront it head-on and carry on standing up for what is right because things could only grow worse,” Aitcheson said.  “Allowing our governor to have full control over where we should migrate to or visit only allows him to continue to make terrible decisions to execute his plan.”