Saturday, July 07, 2012

Travyon Martin, Zimmerman, and gated communities in Florida

The massive influx of people to Florida has spawned strange living situations, like the gated communities where George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. I lived in Florida for four years, and encountered a lot of these places. There are actually different levels of gated-ness in Florida, with condo communities there that don't have actual gates but that have very strict covenants about who can and can't live there, and also neighborhood watches.

Depending on where you are, the names often incorporate the words "Colony" and "Plantation" into them. The first is more common in South Florida and the second in northern and central Florida. The "Plantation" label comes from the communities locations on land that was formerly part of slave plantations, but it's supposed to somehow conjure up pleasant memories of the Old South somehow, of nice scenes from Gone with the Wind, with oppression forgotten. Both of the labels are indicative of the nature of the communities.

There's a large African American population in Central Florida, particularly in the Orlando area where Trayvon was shot, and these folks are the direct descendants of slaves who were brought to the area. They did not migrate down to Florida from other areas of the South. Instead they've lived there from the start. The mentality of the residents of the new gated communities often takes on an us and them attitude towards people who already live there. After all, why else would they think they need protection? Although in fairness the mentality runs against poor white Floridians as well as others, but in the case of the Trayvon Martin killings, African Americans were clearly part of the "natives" that the community wanted to protect itself against. 

What killed Trayvon Martin was not simply racism, but racism combined with NIMBY politics transplanted from the North down into the South, into a community where upper class whites (and others) want to live undisturbed by the rabble outside their gates.

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