The NAACP Issued a First-of-its-Kind Travel Warning for Missouri

The NAACP this summer released a statement advising people of color against traveling to Missouri in light of recent events in the state and a new “Jim Crow Law” passed by Governor Greitens.

Wikimedia / Creative Commons

The law, SB 43, is a modification of another law on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual identity, gender identity, race, ethnicity and age that makes it more difficult for victims of discrimination to pursue justice. “Currently, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), a practice is unlawful when the protected classification is a contributing factor in the decision to discriminate,” SB 43 reads. “This act changes that standard to the motivating factor. The motivating factor is defined to mean that the employee’s protected classification actually played a role in the adverse action or decision and had a determinative influence on the adverse decision or action. The person must further prove that such action was the direct proximate cause of the claimed damages.

In other words, in order to win a discrimination lawsuit against an employer or company, one has to have definitive proof such as a memo explicitly stating that a decision was made based on someone’s sexual identity, gender identity, race, ethnicity or age. Nimrod Chapel Jr., attorney and President of the Missouri NAACP, summed up the dangers of the bill in an interview with CBS, remarking that “nobody writes memos, or when they do it  is so rare—and then getting that kind of evidence can be very, very difficult.” By putting the burden of proof on people of color facing discrimination, SB43 leaves them without recourse.

“A travel advisory has been issued in the State of Missouri due to the sad passage of Senator Gary Romine’s Jim Crow Bill–SB 43–and recent events throughout Missouri,” the NAACP’s travel warning reads. “The advisory means each individual should pay special attention while in the state of Missouri and certainly if contemplating spending time in Missouri. Unlike seasonal weather advisories, where no unnecessary travel on city streets or parking might be directed, the NAACP wants to make Missourians and our visitors aware of looming danger.” This travel advisory is the first of its kind—warning against travel to a single state due to discrimination.

The statement goes on to cite troubling incidents that have recently occurred in the state—including the 2015 protests when then-president of the University of Missouri Tim Wolfe failed to address harassment faced by students of color on the campus, an incident in May where racial slurs were spray-painted onto the windows of a barber shop owned by black man, the arrest and subsequent death of a man driving from Tennessee who became stranded in Missouri and a recent report that black drivers are more likely to be pulled over than others in Missouri.

Though the travel advisory has been in effect since June, SB 43 is not effective until August 28. The travel advisory is effective “at least” until Aug 28—if the bill is vetoed prior, the NAACP will revise the advisory.

Kelsey Cochran is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a senior at Gettysburg College majoring in Globalization Studies with a focus in Western media portrayal of Arab countries. She aspires to be a photojournalist and has previously been published in her hometown’s independent newspaper The Bay Weekly. When she isn’t tracking down subjects to interview for her next article, you can find her running on the rugby field, taking her friend’s next profile picture or talking about her time spent abroad for the hundredth time. Find her on Tumblr.

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