By Stephen Goldstein
Ferguson is Florida redux. In Miami, in 1980, after four white police officers were acquitted by an all-male, all-white jury of killing Arthur McDuffie, an African-American, some of the worst race riots in America occurred.
The violence that erupted went beyond the perceived injustice of the verdict and the particulars of the incident. (At trial, the prosecutor said the officers had cracked his skull “like an egg”; McDuffie had even shouted, “I give up.”) The riots were the result of pent-up frustration on the part of the city’s African-American population with patterns of discrimination, violation of civil rights, and economic disparity.
McDuffie, 1980, and the particulars of a single case may seem like a long time ago, but those who feel injustice have long memories, especially in light of harsh realities that persist. Today, much has changed, but too much has stayed the same. Florida remains two states, “separate and unequal” — a cauldron of social conflict ready to explode at the slightest provocation, at any moment.
The first Florida is a cynical myth, the stuff of marketing brochures, a developers’ conspiracy of enticing fiction to make their cash registers ring — the American Dream come true for retirees claiming “the good life,” a vacationers’ paradise from Disney World to Key West, an investment haven for the foreign mega-rich, a business-friendly climate for CEOs who relish playing golf and/or tennis between board meetings and not paying income taxes, the ultimate vitamin D-enriched environment in which to raise a family.
The upbeat goes on ceaselessly, in vapid articles like “23 Reasons Florida … Is Quite Possibly the Best State in America,” in The Huffington Post. Among the alleged positives: “Everyone is jealous of Florida’s weather,” “Florida’s varying landscapes and cultures make it easy to take a weekend vacation without ever leaving,” “Florida has Cape Canaveral, the place that launches spacecraft into the sky,” “The Miami Heat is arguably the best team in the NBA,” “The absolute best stone crabs are in Florida.”
The second Florida trumps the dream world of the first. It is a bitter, brooding reality beyond sugarcoating. Here is a sampling of a litany of indisputable, depressing facts about the second Florida from “The Condition of Florida by the Numbers,” a just-released report from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy:
1, Florida ranks 49th in the nation in per capita state and local spending for education.
2. The state is 43rd in the quality of services for the elderly, disabled and their caregivers.
3. Florida’s unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in June 2014 exceeds the national rate of 6.1 percent.
4. Florida’s June unemployment rate ranked 29th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
5. As many as 750,000 new jobs would need to be created for the same percentage of the working population to be employed as at the state’s pre-recession peak.
6. The average wage in Florida continues to trail the national rate, and declined further in 2013, to 87.6 percent of the U.S. average wage.
7. The median household income in Florida was $46,071 in 2012, 39th in the nation.
8. The number of Floridians filing for foreclosure during the first half of 2014 was the highest of any state.
9. Florida is the nation’s second most poverty-stricken state, and the number of people living in poverty has increased since 2000.
10. The state is the fifth-worst in income inequality.
11. Florida leads the nation in the incarceration of young people for misdemeanor offenses due to zero tolerance policies.
12. The state’s tax system is the second-most regressive in the nation, hitting low- and middle-income Floridians harder than upper-income residents.
13. Ronald Reagan famously said, “Facts are stupid things.” Instead, he should have said, “only the stupid ignore them.” After nearly 40 years of fact-denying since McDuffie — economic, political, and ideological gobbledygook masquerading as coherent social philosophy — it would appear that Florida is a lot worse than ever.
So, the question isn’t will Florida become Ferguson redux — but when?
Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale.
Something tells me the author always views the glass as “half empty”.
Sherry Epley says
Excellent “factual” article. . . unfortunately, it sums up what I have observed after moving back to the state where I was born and where my ancestry goes back for hundreds of years. Florida’s traditional myopic conservative culture in some ways has not progressed beyond the 1950’s. There is still a “hankering” for those “bad ole days” when gender, religious and racial biases were the norm and homophobia ran rampant.
Even those good Christians with the best of intentions need to open there eyes to the entire world beyond Flagler County, beyond Florida and beyond even the USA to realize that the cultures/politics/societies/economies of our planet are now permanently intermingled and dynamically changing. Like it or not, we all now live on a world stage. It is no longer possible and acceptable to secretly carry out lives filled with the hatred of/bias against other human beings based on prejudice.
The injustice of Trayvon Martin incident has not been forgotten. Fuel is being added to the flame of our “separate and unequal” culture.
Cultures begin dying where education is not passionately encouraged, were cracks are created by dividing citizens and pitting them against one another, where the decisions of leaders move away from the “common good”, where there is little financial investment in the culture’s future success. . . etc. etc.
Any of this sound familiar? If not, just read again the numerous comments on this web site from those who are “hell bent” on ripping us apart. “United We Stand! Divided We Fall!”
3 short points Mr. Goldstein
1. Your first sentence “redux” — the definition is brought back, restored, REVIVED. What is your journalistic purpose here. Are you bringing information to the readers or ATTEMPTING TO CREATE an atmosphere of mistrust and division?
2. Your string of statistics without explanation about awful Florida — how does that relate to Ferguson? Why do you live here?
3. We have made many efforts as a country to repair the damage that historically unfair practices have done to our people. And I’m not Pollyanna but I know we can and do live and work together in harmony. We are more alike than different. You are not helping. What have you done to help?
Let’s find out ALL the facts about what happened in Ferguson before dragging us all into this hole you are creating along with Sharpton et al. Every day more facts come out about the Missouri situation. Are you going to write about those? Or is it that they don’t fit your agenda?
All our elected officials and running candidates should be as concerned as I am, regarding the realities pointed in this editorial. In spite of the fact that I like Florida, the above mentioned inequality has to be addressed by no longer wasting our taxes just benefitting the already wealthy but instead invest funds in job creation ventures by attracting new manufacturers and businesses and more tourism to our Sunshine State. Address and build/offer shelter to the homeless that migrate to our warmer weather from other colder states to reside in our woods. Make a census of the homeless and contact their states of origin to agree and collaborate with financial help for their rehab back into to society. Other than buying overpriced derelict real estate and utilities and build Taj Mahals to the ones in office, help those like Pastors Silano and Gardner and the volunteers at The Sheltering Tree, and our other religious organizations, working on their goal to address and help our country men, women and children fallen in financial despair and or self destructive addiction and some are our military veterans.
In other states they are doing it why not in the Sunshine State?
What I would like to know is what is the inventory of military hardware on display in Ferguson that has been delivered to our local Law Enforcement agencies. And being an election year, just where do our local candidates stand on this issue?
Seminole Pride says
Here in Northern Florida, we are enriched in Southern Tradition, focus on family values, Conservative, and part of the Bible Belt. I did not know many Black families growing up in Northern Florida, but the one’s that I did know shared the same beliefs and values. as I did. We all showed respect and concern for each other and Incidents that did occur in our small town as many towns in Northern Florida were disturbing to all races. We knew they would be dealt with in accordance with the law, and that those who were brought to justice would be innocent until proven guilty. So Mr. Goldstein, please try not to place your beliefs into those who live here in Flagler County. Miami and Northern Florida are worlds apart in their culture, beliefs and values.
“Here in Northern Florida, we are enriched in Southern Tradition”. And no mention of that great Southern Tradition of lynching the uppity? That’s funny.