Following up after the NAACP last week issued a travel advisory for the state of Missouri, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay is calling for Gov. Eric Greitens and other state officials to confront the fact that a new Missouri law and other policies are discriminatory.
Clay, a Democrat from University City, says the state’s racial problems go beyond some of the legislative changes singled out in the the NAACP advisory, which warns travelers that they “could be subject to discrimination and harassment” in Missouri.
A new law soon will make it harder for Missouri workers to sue for discrimination, and weaken protections for whistleblowers.
Greitens, a Republican, signed the bill in late June; it takes effect Aug. 28.
“It’s not just about employment discrimination,’’ the congressman told St. Louis Public Radio. “It’s a host of other issues, like racial profiling while driving or walking’’ and the new state laws requiring photo IDs at the polls and blocking St. Louis’ $10 minimum wage.
Clay said the travel advisory, first issued by the state NAACP in June, is “a warning to the rest of the nation that Missouri has some practices that are outdated, and should be outlawed and that we as a state should try to improve upon.”
But state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, contends the advisory won’t mean much unless civil rights activists follow through with action. “An advisory, that’s fluff,” Nasheed said. “At the end of the day, there needs to be direct action.”
In particular, Nasheed said that Democratic officials and civil-rights supporters around the state should be more active in registering minorities to vote.
The best way to counter discrimination, she said, is to fight back by going to the polls.
So far, Clay and Nasheed are among the state’s few public officials — in either political party — to say anything about the NAACP’s action. And that includes local NAACP leaders, who have said little beyond their statements supporting the advisory.
Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP, said Tuesday that there have been private discussions about the next steps, which he expects to be a prime topic at a state NAACP meeting in September.
The St. Louis County NAACP initially opposed the travel advisory, saying it would hurt local minority workers. But the county chapter reversed itself last weekend and now supports the advisory. A spokesman this week said there would be no additional comments beyond the revised statement.
Clay said he wasn’t going to speculate on the decisions by the local branches, other than to praise them for ultimately siding with the national NAACP.
Greitens’ staff also has not replied to requests for comment. The governor said at an event last week in Kansas City that the new anti-discrimination bill will simply put the state’s legal standards “in line with the federal government and 38 other states.”
In reply, the Missouri ACLU contended that the new law “guts the Missouri Human Right Act — a piece of legislation that was both innovative, inclusive and modeled what our democracy should champion: equal rights for all.”
As for the travel advisory, the governor said that he hadn’t seen it, but that he was proud of his current relationship with the state NAACP.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson last week called for tourists to still come to the city, which she says supports “diversity and inclusion; it makes us stronger.”
But the mayor, a Democrat, added she opposed the state’s changes to discrimination laws and understood the NAACP’s action.
“We recognize that discrimination is real and many have and still suffer from its impact,” Krewson said. “Further, I call on local businesses, institutions and organizations to review their internal policies to protect against discrimination and recommit to the importance of those policies on behalf of our citizens and visitors.”
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