“Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION,” a statement from the Missouri chapter of the NAACP said.
The recent passage of a new law that makes it harder to prove workplace discrimination spurred this disturbing advisory.
The advisory was initially issued in early June after Senate Bill 43 passed through the state legislature. Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed the bill into law shortly after. More recently, the advisory was picked up by the national organization.
The new law, which is set to go into effect Aug. 28, requires that anyone claiming workplace discrimination must prove that their race, gender, or religion was a “motivating” factor—rather than just a “contributing” factor—for the discriminatory action. Additionally, the law would eliminate whistleblower protections and prohibit workers from making claims against individuals.
“This is unprecedented,” said attorney Rod Chapel, Jr., President of the NAACP’s Missouri chapter. “It legalizes discrimination and if you are in a protected category you are losing your ability to protect your civil rights.”
The statement goes on to mention recent incidents of race- and sexuality-based discrimination in the state, as well as disparities in traffic stops.
The incidents mentioned include a February incident in which two Indian men were shot and killed in Kansas City by a man yelling anti-Islamic slurs, as well as the May death of Tory Sanders. Sanders—whose death remains unexplained—died in police custody despite having been neither arrested nor charged with a crime after he ran out of gas in southern Missouri.
“We felt an obligation to warn people that there is a heightened level of risk,” Chapel told BuzzFeed News. “And the assaults that have taken place against minority groups and people of color are not being treated as hate crimes.”
Chapel’s statement included a statistic released by Missouri’s Attorney General which said that black drivers are 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than their white counterparts.
While this is the first warning of its kind issued by the NAACP, other organizations have taken similar actions in the past.
Last year, the Bahamas’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration issued a travel warning cautioning its citizens (90% of whom are black) about police violence, and recommending that they “exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with police.”
In June, the ACLU issued a travel warning for Texas in response to the passage of a law penalizing local law enforcement for failing to detain people on immigration violations. The organization had previously issued a similar advisory for Arizona in 2010.
The current advisory is set to expire on Aug. 28, when the new Missouri law takes effect.
Chapel also told BuzzFeed News that he met with Greitens several times to talk about the need for “civil rights and justice” in the state, but he said, “nothing worked.”
Greitens hasn’t made any public statements concerning the bill since signing it into law.
The NAACP Missouri Travel Advisory “means each individual should pay special attention while in the state of Missouri, and certainly if contemplating spending time in Missouri,” the document reads.
Follow the Missouri NAACP to learn more about the effect of Senate Bill 43.