Destin Florida: Drawing Lines in the Sand

If you’ve been keeping up with the Fosters (that’s us) you’ll know that prior to two weeks ago, our family had not been on a family vacation since 2019. We were over it and decided to book a vacation. Of course, we followed all safety precautions because it’s still a pandemic. (We actually booked a vacation last year but decided against going) We settled on a family and friends trip to Destin, Florida before spring break because that’s our business. (Insert Tabitha Brown’s voice) 

We went the Airbnb route to host 13 people and mainly because we wanted to save money and be near a beach. I’ve heard so many people rave about Destin over the years so I was looking forward to finally leaving Houston and seeing something new. We all needed it.

 

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But dare I say that I didn’t get the “warm and fuzzies” while in Destin? Like not at all. It was based on a few collective and individual experiences that we had that just didn’t sit well with my spirit. 

The first red flag was when we all got to the beach for the first time. This was my kids’ second time being to the beach in their lives so they were beyond excited. The Airbnb we stayed in was technically within walking distance which was a selling point. It was a Thursday, midday. Not many people out. As mentioned, this was the week before Spring Break so there were no crowds. 

Of course, we noticed that no one “looked like us” on the beach but that’s not a new experience when you’re black in America. As we unloaded and began to walk on the beach we were met by a “beach attendant.” He was maybe early twenties at best.

He made a direct line for us and met us before our feet even hit the sand. He proceeded to tell us that it was a private beach and that if we stayed, we had to stay on the “public part of the private beach.” Mind you that this beach was listed as part of the Airbnb’s amenities. What bothered me the most is that he never asked if any of us have access to the “private beach.” Maybe my sugar daddy was letting me use his access for the week, he doesn’t know my life! I digress. 

Keep in mind that there are at least 4-5 adults in our group and a whole bunch of kids clamoring to get to the water. 

So beach boy decided that he would further explain that the “public” part of the beach was any area that had WET sand. The sand had to be wet which meant damn near in the water only. I felt myself getting hot but I decided to stay quiet because I didn’t want to call it what it really was. 

By this time, there were definitely eyes in our direction. To be honest, if it was up to me, I would have left but the kids would have been devastated. There were also more level heads in our group and they handled it way better than I would have if it were just the four of us. 

Eventually, we conceded and let him know that we understood that the WET sand was the only area we could occupy. Do you know this fool had the audacity to walk over with us and draw a literal LINE in the sand so that we knew where we couldn’t cross?!? By this time, I am boiling hot. My friend shut him down immediately and explained that we don’t need his artwork to help us understand. 

The kids got in the water. We all did our best to power through the experience and not let it affect the kids’ visit. The kids played and splashed while I kept not so secretly staring at beach boy anytime he was in my peripheral vision. It was not lost on me/us that no one else around looked like us. There were some teenagers that were with us and I hate that this will be one of their memories. 

That was the most outstanding experience but not an isolated feeling while in Destin. I remember being at the Boardwalk and standing in line at a food truck. I was quite obviously being ignored so I left the line and went somewhere else. 

Don’t get me wrong. We still enjoyed each other and our stay. There were plenty of drinks and good food, swimming and laughing had by all. 

Because that’s what we do right? We make the best of situations. I am also fully aware that these are isolated incidents and likely to happen again if we stayed somewhere else or even just went on a different day or a different time. But I personally have no intentions of finding out. 

It was still a great road trip and some much-needed fellowship with some of our favorite people in the world. 

Update: I did a google search. This is what came up. 

What is a private beach in Florida?

The sandy part of the beach above this line, if it’s not public beach, is usually private. Most Floridians have understood this as the “wet sand/dry sand” law. In other words, every part the water touches is public while dry sand is private. – Sep 3, 2020

I guess what’s most frustrating was the humiliation of the experience. For this young kid to offer to draw a line in the sand for a group filled with adults was degrading. I get rules, I do. But it’s how you handle people. And again, how did he know that we didn’t have access to the private part? We assumed that because we had access through the beach house that this included walking on the beach. Miscommunication? Probably? The beach was not even close to being full so I didn’t understand the urgency. And I also noticed personally that other people who were just arriving at that same entrance of the beach did not get approached. Will I return? Nah. Unless we own the private beach! Adding to my list of goals!

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  • That sucks that and sadly not surprising that you all were singled out. And I’m sure he didn’t learn his lesson. With how often people of color do go to Destin for vacation and live in the surrounding area that kid acted like he never saw anyone darker than him before out at that beach.
    I use to live in Ft. Walton Beach and hang out in Destin, back in high school. And as an adult I’ve been back on several occasions. I totally feel a vibe now as an adult, than when I was younger.

    I have to always remember the panhandle is closer to Alabama than let’s say Miami or Orlando. A lot of backwoods, redneck state of minds. No matter the income level.