October 19, 2022

New Timeline Initiative Builds Awareness of Florida’s Policy Past, Shares Lessons in Cross-Racial Solidarity

Think tank’s initiative details how racism in historical laws and regulations continues to affect Floridians’ ability to thrive and prosper

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Florida Policy Institute (FPI) today unveiled The Florida Timeline, a new multimedia initiative that examines how laws and regulations implemented throughout the state’s history have driven disparate outcomes by race and ethnicity.

The initial focus of The Florida Timeline, which is housed at www.floridatimeline.org, is historical tax and criminal justice policy. FPI will continue to build out the initiative to include other issue areas.

Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI, said: “When we talk about disparities in access to health care, wages, housing, and countless other areas, it’s important to understand why these disparities exist in the first place. And it’s not a short answer. It’s the culmination of nearly 160 years of state laws and regulations built on a foundation of racism in post-Civil-War Florida. That’s why The Florida Timeline initiative is so incredibly important-–examining how remnants of past policies are still driving policy decisions today can help our state do better. We look forward to working with our partners in building out this project and increasing awareness around the systemic racism embedded in public policy.”

At the core of The Florida Timeline is a lesson in shared prosperity. As Heather McGhee describes in her 2021 book, The Sum of Us, when we join together to remove historical barriers to racial and ethnic equity, the vast majority of us benefit.

Alison Yager, executive director of Florida Health Justice Project, said: “In a moment when our state has made it more difficult to have honest conversations about systemic racism and its role in our past and present, this work is critical. The Timeline is an essential education tool, and a reminder of the legacy of racism that continues to shape so much of our present day policy.”

Melissa Erickson, executive director of Alliance for Public Schools, said: “Every child in Florida should have access to well-resourced public schools. Providing people with information about the historical barriers that lawmakers have erected to raising revenue, which has led to the current underfunding of K-12 education, is an important first step in working together to change the state’s trajectory. We are proud to work with FPI on this crucial initiative.”

Kim Johnson, president/CEO of Florida Impact to End Hunger, said: “There are examples throughout the state’s history of Floridians working together to achieve great things and saying ‘yes’ to investing in shared resources, like safety net programs. Also evidenced by our history, however, is that families are on the losing end when policy decisions are made to benefit wealthy special interests. The Florida Timeline aims to shed light on both the good and the bad in the state’s policy past, lessons that can be used to help nurture our communities.”

FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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