As It Happens

Why the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Missouri

As It Happens speaks with Nimrod Chapel — the president of the Missouri NAACP.
The Gateway Arch monument and Old Courthouse are seen in the background as a man skates through Kiener Plaza in St. Louis, Mo., July 22, 2015. (Adrees Latif/Reuters )

Story transcript

For the first time in its history, the American civil rights organization, the NAACP, has issued a travel advisory for an entire U.S. state.

The Missouri NAACP announced the advisory in June, citing recent incidents and the passage of Senate Bill 43 — which has since been signed by the governor. Critics say the law will make it more difficult for individuals to prove they have been racially discriminated against in the workplace.

"Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri," reads a press release from the Missouri NAACP.

The national NAACP has since backed the state chapter's advisory. The local St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, however, disagrees with the advisory suggesting in a statement that it be rescinded:

 

Nimrod Chapel is the president of the Missouri NAACP. He told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay he thinks things have gotten worse in Missouri since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, which sparked protests across the country.

He said complaints to his organization of "individual incidents of racially-motivated attacks" have increased.

"I'll just tell you. It's a volunteer organization. We do the best that we can to assist people with issues when they come. But, they are so great now that we're having a very very hard time keeping up. And so we've seen more of those." 

Here's more of Chapel's conversation with As It Happens

Why is a travel advisory necessary?

It's a two-fold reason. The first is we recognize there are a lot of civil rights violations that were occurring, both on an individual basis — those might be indignities in or outside of the workplace — but then also on public roads.

We know that vehicle stops report shows that if you're a person of colour you're 75 per cent more likely to be stopped than our Caucasian neighbours and other residents of the state.

Then, even when there were crimes that could be prosecuted as a hate crime under existing state or federal laws, that they were not being prosecuted.

We looked at that and noticed that the governor had an opportunity, or as some might call it a terrible chance that he was taking with the community, when he signed Senate Bill 43.

We did it before he signed it because we recognize that that law takes away the ability of the people to hold those who discriminate or harass against other people accountable.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks at a rally in May. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

You yourself as a black man, a black Missourian, have you noticed it personally — things getting worse?

I can tell you that long before this, there have sections of different cities that I just simply wouldn't go in, not because I worried about crime, necessarily, but because I worried about my civil rights being respected.

Currently, you know, I can tell you stories from my own experience where I've been told during my public service as an administrative law judge, "Don't stay in this town because that's not a good place. You may not be safe."

Not 100 per cent that something would happen, but much along the lines of a travel advisory where my Caucasian brothers and sisters have been concerned about my safety and then … giving me a warning based on the knowledge that they had of the area or the people there.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear more from Nimrod Chapel, listen to the audio above. 

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