Matthew Riley is a sophomore journalism major at MU. He is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.
The NAACP issued a travel advisory for Missouri on Aug. 3, its first for a U.S. state. When Emmett Till was senselessly murdered in Mississippi in 1955, the NAACP did not issue a travel advisory. During the Ferguson, Missouri riots of 2014, the NAACP did not issue a travel advisory. Not once during the NAACP’s 108-year history of standing up for equality and justice has it felt the need to issue a travel advisory. So, why now? And why Missouri?
The warning to potential visitors comes in the wake of legislation by the Missouri state senate, SB 43, which makes it more difficult for those discriminated against based on their race to sue for such discrimination. The NAACP calls the law a “Jim Crow Bill,” while Missouri governor Eric Greitens claims it brings “Missouri’s standards in line with 38 other states and the federal government.” Suspiciously, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Gary Romine of Farmington, is currently being sued for racial discrimination at a business he owns.
So, why issue a travel advisory for SB 43, a bill that would seemingly only affect travelers should they decide to stay in the state, get a job and housing, and then be discriminated against? To draw attention to it. The NAACP’s move here is a brilliant one. It made headlines with the hope that people would read beyond it and draw attention to SB 43. But doing so shouldn't have been necessary. We now live in a society in which any and every news story must be dire. In this age of extremes, we’re perpetually at DEFCON 1, and that’s a problem.
In its press release regarding this advisory, the NAACP cites recent events of discrimination in Missouri as additional cause, but makes clear that its primary cause is this bill. The NAACP hasn't issued a travel advisory to Virginia, where white nationalists marched in Charlottesville and three people died, because it doesn’t have to. People are talking about Virginia; it's news. SB 43 should be news, too. A piece of racist legislation sponsored under suspicious circumstances in a state which lends its name to the infamous “Missouri Compromise” should draw headlines, but it doesn’t. It takes a historic travel advisory from a respected national organization to create a discussion. That’s the story here.