A recent travel advisory issued for Missouri by the NAACP has people around the country questioning whether they want to move to the state, or even visit Kansas City.
The advisory made national news this week after the civil rights group warned of racial discrimination and abuse in Missouri, where Gov. Eric Greitens recently signed Senate Bill 43 into law, making it harder to win workplace discrimination lawsuits.
It was the first time the NAACP had ever issued a travel alert labeling one state as dangerous.
The warning isn’t a ban, and doesn’t tell people to stop traveling to Missouri — only to be careful. But some would-be visitors, both black and white, are thinking twice about setting foot in the Show-Me State.
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Among them is Tamara James, of Indiana, who as an employee at a national package delivery company occasionally has opportunities to apply for jobs in different states. James, who is black, wrote in an email Thursday to The Star that Missouri had been on her list of options but that she would have to reconsider that.
“I would not say that we would not move to Missouri,” she wrote. “However, with the current leadership in our country and the more revelations of police brutality we are skeptical of moving to areas where we will suffer more because we are minorities.”
Those worries echoed the warnings of the travel advisory, which noted an attorney general’s report showing black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites.
The NAACP also raised the issue of racial slurs made against black students at the University of Missouri and the death earlier this year of 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a mentally ill black man from Tennessee who took a wrong turn while traveling and died in a southeast Missouri jail even though he hadn’t been accused of a crime.
Such concerns aren’t limited to minorities.
James Jacewicz, who is white, wrote to The Star from Connecticut to say he was canceling his plans for a week’s vacation in Kansas City.
Jacewicz had hoped to enjoy eating some ribs in Kansas City, he said, but will instead travel with his family to Memphis.
“Good luck with racial slurs, profiling, etc.,” he wrote. “I don’t need that around my family.”
The travel advisory caused a storm on social media, where civic leaders weighed in and others debated Missouri’s place in the national landscape of prejudice.
Missouri state Rep. Jon Carpenter, a Kansas City Democrat, posted a news story about the travel advisory on Facebook, writing, “This should be concerning to all Missourians who care about equality.”
On Twitter, some people sarcastically wondered whether it was time to bring back “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a Jim Crow-era guidebook for African-American travelers published from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Many pointed out that Missouri’s problems were neither new nor unique in the United States. But the travel advisory, first issued in June by the state-level Missouri NAACP before being taken up by the national organization, had brought attention to the issue.
The travel advisory was voted on last week by national NAACP delegates and is scheduled to go to the group’s national board for ratification in October.