NAACP Missouri Chapter Issues Travel Warning For People Of Color

Aug 6, 2017
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STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

There was one more voice we wanted to hear from today, Nimrod Chapel, Jr. He's the president of the Missouri state chapter of the NAACP. It recently issued a travel warning for the state of Missouri. The advisory was announced earlier this summer, after a bill about workplace discrimination rules was signed into law by Missouri's governor.

The NAACP warns people of color who are traveling in Missouri to use, quote, "extreme caution while visiting." It's the first time the civil rights group has done anything like this. And I asked Chapel why they decided to issue a travel advisory.

NIMROD CHAPEL JR.: You know, we at the NAACP had worked for years but probably much longer than that about civil rights violations going forward in Missouri. You know, some of those are historical in nature. Some of those we've got historical data to support, such as vehicle stops with people of color. Some of those are anecdotal. And we looked at legislation that was going to further erode civil rights protections in Missouri.

And we're very concerned that unless we did something, people might come into the state thinking that they would have civil rights protections that, in fact, they do not. The purpose of the travel advisory was just to allow people to make informed decisions about where they want to be.

SMITH: Talk to me about this workplace discrimination rule. What's in it that caused such concern?

CHAPEL: It makes it harder to prove or succeed in proving discrimination in the workplace, in housing or in a public accommodation. And so...

SMITH: Like harder to bring a lawsuit?

CHAPEL: Harder to bring a lawsuit and harder to win. It used to be the standard was a contributing factor - was the sex or race or religion of a person one of the factors that went into this act that occurred to them.

SMITH: So whether the harassment was a contributing factor to something like getting fired or getting promoted or whether it was the whole reason. Is that the difference?

CHAPEL: Right. It is. It is. And so now, in order to show that, you know, a person was fired because of their race or because of their sex and that that was the motivating factor as opposed to some other allegation that would be launched by the defendant, some people are positing that you'd have to have a memo saying, we did it to Bob because Bob's disabled and have that written down someplace. And that evidence is very, very hard to come by.

SMITH: I can imagine. I mean, but does that rule make traveling in Missouri more dangerous?

CHAPEL: Oh, no, no. And so - and that's the other thing. It's not just the effect of Senate Bill 43 on people in Missouri or who might come into Missouri but also the vehicle stops report would show that if you're a person of color, you're 75 percent more likely than our majority brothers and sisters to be stopped on the roadways. That's not a fair way. And if that's what operating in Missouri, and that's what the attorney general's report says, then I think we have a duty to tell folks.

SMITH: Some people are saying that the travel advisory itself is a publicity stunt. Is there any truth to that?

CHAPEL: No. And you know what? I've been asked that by folks on the street. They said, well, you know, what are you going to get done with this? What does this really mean? And the way that I like to think of it is if the Missouri Department of Transportation had a road that washed out and you put up a sign and it says, you know, blinking light, travel at your own risk, that gives people an opportunity to decide, hey, I'm in a Corvette. I don't have any clearance. I'm not going to be able to make it over there. They may go a different route.

SMITH: That was Nimrod Chapel, Jr of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP. The anniversary of Michael Brown's death is this Wednesday, August 9. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.