People of color and other minorities have been warned not to visit the state of Missouri after Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed a draconian bill into law that directly threatens minorities, advocates claim.
In a sweeping advisory from June that began gaining traction on a national level last week, members of the NAACP voted to approve the travel warning, which was extended to people of color, women, and the queer community. The NAACP advised those groups that their civil rights may be violated while visiting the state. The organization also advised “extreme caution” to both travelers and minorities currently living in Missouri.
Signed in June, SB43 requires workers claiming discrimination bias by employers to prove that bias was the clear reason for termination — something that is almost impossible to do. Employees are also blocked from suing the individuals responsible for any alleged bias; only businesses themselves can be sued. SB43 additionally removes whistleblower protections for Missouri state employees.
Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. has since called the measure a “Jim Crow bill” — an intentional nod to racial segregation.
Activists argue SB43 is a blatant attack on the rights of minorities, who they say are more likely to suffer incidents of bias in the workplace. Coupled with numerous incidents of police brutality, harassment, and discrimination, the bill has sparked alarm in a state where violence against people of color has made headlines. In August 2014, the murder of black Ferguson resident Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson sparked protests across the nation. Black students at the University of Missouri have also been subjected to racial slurs on numerous occasions, and a June report indicated that black drivers in the state are 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than their white counterparts.
SB43 is simply the latest in a long line of troubling developments, advocates say. “They’re legalizing discrimination in the state of Missouri,” Chapel said.
While a spokesperson for the NAACP said the warning was the first of its kind issued by the organization, similar advisories have seen an uptick in the past few months. In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a warning regarding travel in the state of Texas, where a hard-line immigration bill, SB4, is set to take effect in September. Targeting “sanctuary cities,” the bill requires all police officers and authorities to comply with federal immigration demands. Failure to do so can result in stiff fines, arrest, and even removal from office — drastic measures that have alarmed advocates.
“Because of the passage of #SB4, we are issuing a Texas travel advisory,” the organization tweeted on May 9.
The Mexican government also advised citizens to take precautions when traveling to Arizona in 2010, following the signing of another aggressive immigration law similar to SB4. More recently, in July, the Bahamas issued a warning to its citizens, the vast majority of whom are black, advising them to take precautions when traveling to the United States.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers,” a government statement read. “We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”
Warnings like those issued by the Bahamas and Texas proved to be effective rallying tools in combating discriminatory legislation. Chapel told the AP he hopes the NAACP’s advisory will do the same.
Now that the Missouri travel warning has been approved by NAACP delegates, it will go to the NAACP’s national board for ratification in October.