Senate Bill 43 Has Been Signed, NAACP’s Missouri Travel Warning in Motion: Now What?

The president of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP spoke with DiversityInc about the organization’s next steps after issuing its first ever statewide travel advisory — and what it means.


He was driving on his way out of town and hopeful of positive news after his rallying efforts when Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, received a less-than-optimistic phone call from Gov. Eric Greitens.

“The governor calls and says, ‘Hey Rod, just wanted to call ya about Senate Bill 43,’” said Chapel, who was about to turn his car around and head back in the direction he came from.

“I fully anticipated he was about to say, ‘Come stand with me as I veto this bill,’ but unfortunately he tells me, ‘I’m gonna sign the bill’ and told me, ‘I understand we got some differences about this, but I just wanted to tell you before I did it.’”

The practicing trial attorney who handles 30 to 40 employment cases annually, said he was still trying to process the phone call when he immediately began receiving calls from people letting him know what had happened.

“He signed it unceremoniously. Not a lot of fanfare — nobody to my knowledge from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce — no representative of any of the businesses that he says this is supposed to help — no pens given out, no signed copies — nothing that I know of,” said Chapel about Greitens moving forward with the signing of a bill that Chapel says will reduce protections for minorities.

Senate Bill 43 requires alleged victims of religious, gender or racial discrimination to prove that discrimination itself is the “motivating” factor, rather than just a “contributing” factor.

Chapel’s call with the governor took place on June 30 and has left us here, a month later, with a “proceed with caution” travel advisory to Missouri put in motion by the NAACP, warning of imminent discrimination ahead — a first of its kind by the organization.

Chapel illustrates how SB 43 affects minorities by giving the example of working at a fast food restaurant where someone’s loved one gets harassed by a co-worker and the accountability of the harasser is waived — preventing them from being taken to court or suspended.

To add more context, he elaborated on his concern regarding potential caps in awarded damages: “If you have a company, for example, with 50 people, then it would be capped damages at $50,000 even though you can have a 50-person company and inflict way more than $50,000 worth of damage on a person through discrimination or harassment” — because, he said, damages can be both “verbal” and “physical” and “both of those are encompassed in that.”

The NAACP is now focused on educating minorities about how to protect themselves while in Missouri, and is preparing for a two-day rally slated for September.

The purpose of the rally, Chapel said, is “to talk about — from a political standpoint — what the travel advisory is for Missouri and how we should move forward.”

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The NAACP and allies rallied at the Capitol in Jefferson City to dissuade the signing of a bill that fails to protect minorities.

Prior to the signing of SB 43, the NAACP, together with around six dozen individuals, including Rabbi Doug Alpert and Rev. Rodney Williams, president of the Kansas City NAACP, rallied in Jefferson City to air their concerns to the governor. But it wasn’t enough to sway Greitens’ swift decision.

However, Chapel explained, “We have a Republican legislature who has been working to undercut some of the gains socially that we have made in the civil rights arena with Senate Bill 43.

“Ultimately, I’ve talked to the Republican legislature and many of them privately and publicly have said that it is not about morality — that it is not about whether discrimination is or is not a sin.”

He continued, “The truth is, and this is what they told me, they have the votes and so they’re going to pass it.”

Congress Passes Emmett Till Bill to Investigate More Civil Rights-Related Crimes

Emmett Till, who was 14 years old when he was murdered in August of 1955. Till’s lynching illustrates how racial nuances differ from state to state. Jim Crow Laws lasted from 1877 to the mid 1960’s.

Chapel equates the lack of accountability to that of Jim Crow, an era of rigid laws where Blacks faced discrimination — sometimes murder — with few options for justice through the law because “either they didn’t have standings in courts or the claims they sought would not be recognized.”

“This is the same way, but it will affect not only people of color but everyone, every senior citizen, every person with a disability, real or perceived, people of an international background and even people of faith,” Chapel said. “It’s much more wide reaching and far reaching than some of the historical limitations with some citizens, and we intend to have a full discussion about that in September.”

Missouri’s Checkered Past

Missouri isn’t new to what Chapel described as having a “long history” of civil rights being in question — even in education.

As an attorney who was silenced by a Missouri House committee chairman while speaking against the legislation earlier this year, Chapel said he was appalled after the University of Missouri system backed an earlier version of SB 43.

The university landed in hot water back in 2015 after a student was called a racial slur, resulting in student demonstrators forcing the president to resign for his inaction. Concerned Student 1950, a student activist group named in reference to the year the first Black students were admitted to the University of Missouri, spearheaded the protests.

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In Ferguson, Mo., the killing of an unarmed young Black man, Michael Brown, by a police officer in 2014 drew national heights and became the focal point of modern-day tension between the police and minority communities.

The NAACP’s advisory also depicts racial disparities after citing a recent attorney general report showing Black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites. Disproportionate numbers have appeared in reports since the Justice Department began releasing the data in 2000.

The Response

Chapel acknowledged that the governor had carved out time to hear his case at the Jefferson City rally — 30 or 40 minutes — painting the image of a politician who isn’t completely callous.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who was born in St. Louis, told a local Fox affiliate that SB 43 was a “really important bill.”

“What SB 43 did was it brought Missouri standards in line with the federal government and 38 other states, so now Missouri is using the same standards that are used to analyze claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Greitens said in the interview.

There’s no mistaking the confusion in the fine print that one man sees as a service to humanity and the other as a “Jim Crow Bill.”

When asked if the Missouri NAACP is considering a boycott in addition the a rally, Chapel said the possibility is not off the table. He explained  the difference between a rally and a boycott as a rally meant to send a message to “be careful,” whereas a boycott means “don’t come” or “don’t support business here,” something he said he wouldn’t want to happen to a city he loves and doesn’t want to leave despite his state’s regressive laws. “We want people to be aware that that is what’s happening in Missouri.”

Chapel said people should be “ready” for the very real possibility of being thrown in jail without money or means of contacting loved ones, similar to 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a Black man from Tennessee who took a wrong turn while driving and died in a southeastern Missouri jail, not having been accused of a crime to begin with.

Or be “ready” for a situation that can echo a similar outcome to that of Emmett Till, who was brutally lynched in 1955 while visiting family in Mississippi. Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, wasn’t aware of the racial nuances that took place just a couple of states below, despite racism being active throughout the country.

In 2017, nuances affect everyone.

“If you are driving along and the bridge was out and somebody put up a roadblock, that isn’t saying that you shouldn’t go to that area, that you can’t go to that area, but what it is saying is that you should be very aware that to travel over this bridge that’s partially gone or rickety, is not advised,” Chapel said. “And so that’s what it is, this an advisory to say: Be careful. Be aware. And if you come — be ready.”

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  • Wow. Remind me again – what year are we in? This is so tragic & scary. There simply are no words to adequately express my disbelief in this action.

  • I wonder if California will ban travel to Missouri as they have to these 8 other states. The 8 states for which a ban is in place is because of legislation that discriminates against LGBT people. Missouri has a law that clearly, according to the NAACP, discriminates against black people. The NAACP has issued a travel advisory for black folks going to, or through, Missouri.

    Do LGBT Lives matter more than Black Lives? What if you’re Black and a member of the LGBT community? What does one do then?

    • Charity Dell

      JAMES–If you are Black and LGBT, you STAY OUT OF MISSOURI.
      Clearly, Missouri’s legislature believes that it is OK to return to 1509.
      However, Missouri may discover that Black and LGBT people ALSO
      exercise their right to bear arms, and REFUSE TO BE VICTIMS.
      “Stand your ground” ALSO applies to people of color!

  • Only thing this all means is the Nat’l Assoc. for the Advancement is cynically, jealously trying to out-headline Black Lives Matter.

    • No, it means that the NAACP is on the ball. There plenty of injustice going around to have several organizations be relevant. By the way, where is the spokesman for cranky old white men, Bill O’Whatshisname? Is he out looking for more falafel?

  • Born and raised in St. Louis, lived in Kansas City a number of years; I’ve come to know White Missourians very well and more than they know themselves. As of the late 20th century and 21st century, Missouri and the Midwest is the new South. So what anyone is reading and seeing on television regarding this state is typical Missouri behavior.

    Racism is entrenched in White Missourians and Kansans blood it’s part of their DNA. If a White person tells me they are from the Midwest or Missouri, my assumptions for the most part are roughly accurate. I know exactly what I’m dealing with moving forward.

    It’s why I don’t live in Missouri and begrudgingly return for visits.

    • I have a disproportionate number of customers in that area – can you imagine trying to hire someone from a coastal city to work in any red state? I’m told that the best schools in the region are struggling for the best nationwide applicants. In the recent past, the number of students leaving Missouri for college was not as great as students come to Missouri, but I can’t find up to date numbers.

      The real question is how many who leave come back – and how many who come, stay?

      Keep in mind that a large majority of young voters voted for Clinton, but more young voters voted for third party candidates than she needed to win. Bernie would have swamped the youth vote. There’s your future- Missouri is aligned for a future that looks like Rush Limbaugh.

      • I can believe it. One of the reasons an organization succeeds is its culture’s effectiveness at convincing people they belong to it on a personal level. It’s imperative for folks to embrace and accept the organization’s culture as their own.

        Today in the Midwest you have a majority former White middle class rustbelt worldview of people other than WASP as outsiders, intent on taking away their quality of life. Never mind the “others” aren’t the responsible one, but White executives with favorable beliefs of the globalization culture made quick and easy for more profits.

        These Whites were myopic when they had it all. And are the same mindset without the “good life”. Their rhetoric has been passed along to their off springs who are exacerbating their parent’s situation if it was ever a bad situation. So much so the message to everyone who isn’t WASP in Missouri is “I’m not interested in change, it isn’t for me”

        White Missourians remind me of the penguins from Our Iceberg Is Melting. Good with things going the way they were because it was good for them, could careless about what is happening on the outside.

    • What if I said:
      “I was raised in this area, and let me tell you about the Black people there. They are _______________. It’s part of their DNA. This is their typical behavior.”

      Isn’t that sterotyping, and isn’t sterotyping one of the easiest ways to justify racist attitudes?

      • I’m sorry Dan, I don’t recall asking for White tears. My comments in this particular post won’t get better for you if you continue reading. My level of benevolence warning ends after this sentence.

        Yes it is stereotyping to the nth degree and have the right to do so as a Black man. That’s probably the only thing I can do without White people taking it away from me or taking my life.

        But if you give up your White privilege of having free reign to do whatever the hell you want to do in this world because you’re White, I’ll promise to drop the stereotyping. Calculate that well my friend because Whites stereotyping Blacks in most cases isn’t grounded in any truth. Black people stereotyping Whites however is based on repetitive destructive, immoral, illegal and unconscionable behaviors of Whites to literally every non White person on this planet.

        So if you really think this relationship we have between us is equal, you’re denying history an ignoring the present.

        • You didn’t ask for white tears, which is good because I didn’t shed any for you.

          What I did is point out that you are a bigot. You can excuse your bigotry all you want; it’s still bigotry.

          You go on living in your hate filled world, and I’ll go on believing that God created all people with equal value regardless of the color, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, etc.

          In the end, which of us do you think will have done more to promote racial equality and healing?

          • Good for you, champ! Now work harder and get more White people on board with that racial healing and equality dismantling White supremacy. Because in the end Dan this racial equality and healing ain’t my problem to fix. So yeah you better do more to promote racial equality and healing because White people are the ones who created this mess. Psst! There’s a 400+ year headstart, so I would recruit as many White people as possible to fix your mess.

            And while you do this, I’ll continue living in my world of hate; I the Black man and other Black people created as victims of systemic and institutionalized racism. LOL!!! Hilarious

  • Some years ago, my sister had a good friend and co-worker, whose husband got transferred to Missouri. They were relocating from Chesapeake, Virginia. I forget which city they went to, but “Val” told my sister that she had never been to a more racist and backward area of the country in her life. When Val went to interview for nursing jobs, every place she went to did not believe that a black woman could be a registered nurse. Some accused her of being a liar as a black woman could never have that position. This was about 20 years ago and I see that things have not gotten any better.

  • We are tired of the caucasian race as a whole….. I know there are good individual but everything they do is for self and evil just like the bible said. They stol our harritage called themself jews when they know we are tge real Israel then now this. We ate tired of them.

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