Warning to Black Folks: Looming Danger in Missouri

In an unprecedented move, the NAACP has issued the first travel advisory in its long history. It advises African American travelers, visitors, and Missourians to pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state of Missouri.

Although the advisory falls short of telling Blacks not to go to Missouri, the NAACP wants to assure that minority travelers are aware of the risks.

The state’s branch of the NAACP issued the first warning in June and it was recognized by the national organization late last week.

The initial advisory reads: “Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme caution. Race, gender, and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri.”

Some examples of Black experiences in the state noted by the agency included references to the following: Tory Sanford (a Black man), recently died in a jail cell, but was never arrested, after running out of gas when he traveled into the state accidentally; racists attacks on University of Missouri students while on the state’s campuses, as the University spoke in favor of the Jim Crow Bill (SB 43); a Missouri’s legislator recently argued that homosexuals are not human beings according to his faith; Black high school students in St. Louis have been attacked with hot glue while denigrated racially; two internationally-born men were gunned down in Kansas City after their killer thought them to be Muslim, among other incidents.

In addition, the agency highlighted that the over-zealous enforcement of routine traffic violations in Missouri against African Americans has resulted in an increasing trend that shows Blacks are 75 percent more likely to be stopped than Caucasians.

The stops, according to the NAACP, have resulted in increased traffic fines, senseless searches of vehicles and persons, and, on occasion, unnecessary violence. This has been defined as “unconscionable and simply unacceptable in a progressive society. We share the alarm and concern that Black individuals enjoying the highways, roads, and points of interest there may not be safe.”

In addition to the tensions resulting from incidents like the ones detailed above, there is growing concern over the state’s recently-passed SB 43. The national NAACP office will be closely monitoring the progress of the Missouri governor’s review of the legislation, even though he signed it into law on June 30.

Many consider the law to be a frightening and dangerous throwback to the days of Jim Crow. According to the NAACP, the legislation seeks to legalize individual discrimination and harassment within the state and “would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in Missouri.” The advisory is currently set to expire on August 28, 2017. View the NAACP travel advisory at http://www.naacp.org/latest/travel-advisory-state-missouri/.

Missouri Senate Bill 43 is available here.

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