The Missouri State House in Jefferson City
The Missouri State House in Jefferson City. Mike Segar/REUTERS

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a travel advisory Wednesday for the state of Missouri. The advisory comes in reaction to a new state law that makes it harder to prove discrimination in lawsuits, and to troubling statistics about how much more often black drivers get pulled over compared to white drivers in Missouri.

“We felt like we had no other recourse but to warn people,” Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel told International Business Times in a phone interview Friday. “[The Missouri Congress] was unwilling to listen or change their position… What else could we do?”

This is the first time the NAACP has issued such a warning. “The NAACP Travel Advisory for the state of Missouri, effective through Aug. 28, 2017, calls for African American travelers, visitors and Missourians to pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently,” said the NAACP in a statement about the travel advisory.

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The state bill, SB 43, was signed into law June 30 by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens. The law requires people suing for housing or employment discrimination to prove race was the determining factor for the discrimination — not just a contributing factor.

This makes it harder to win discrimination suits, and Chapel called the law a new “Jim Crow Bill.”

The bill also sets caps for amount a company or organization will be forced to pay for discrimination lawsuits, and it prohibits suing individuals such as a supervisor at a place of employment.

The NAACP hopes that the warning will draw attention to the bill nationally, but also to a troubling statistic cited in the warning.

A June report issued by Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office found that black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers.

“As we look at the statistics for black drivers being pulled over … it’s crazy,” Lecia Brooks, Outreach Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told IBT. “They’re trying to save lives and bring attention [to the issues] … [It] encourages other states to pay attention.”

Hawley said that all people should feel welcome in Missouri.

“There is no place for racial discrimination in Missouri,” said Hawley in a statement. “Every law-abiding citizen, no matter their race, should feel welcomed and safe in our state.”

The NAACP has never issued a warning for a state before and likens it to State Department travel advisories for other countries. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued similar warnings for the states of Arizona and Texas over laws that it felt were anti-immigrant and created situations for people’s constitutional rights to be violated. Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney with the ALCU of Texas, talked about their advisory warning people about a Texas law that allows law enforcement to question the citizenship status of detained or arrested people.

“The (Texas) travel advisory serves to warn people outside the state of what could potentially occur, under this law, it could essentially become a ‘show me your papers’ state,” said Saldivar. “We don’t issue these advisories lightly so it is going to generate some publicity, but more than anything it’s ensuring people of what’s going on in the state of Texas.”

Chapel echoed the sentiment, saying that people traveling through Missouri might not know about some of the laws affecting people while they’re there.

“Attention should be paid to these issues for people not receiving their civil rights,” said Chapel.

Chapel has said that while the NAACP had seen progress in some municipalities over black drivers facing a harsher reality with law enforcement than white drivers, they aren’t seeing the kind of progress they want. He said that he hopes the advisory will help change that.

Supporters of the bill, which goes into effect Aug. 28, like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce said that companies were too vulnerable to lawsuits and that this measure adds protections against “frivolous lawsuits.”

“Trial lawyers profited by exploiting this situation, which forced businesses into a defensive posture and stunted their ability to make necessary personnel decisions to address workplace problems,” said the chamber in a statement.

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Missouri State Sen. Gary Romine, who sponsored the bill, is being sued in a discrimination suit by an employee of a rent-to-own business the politician owns. Though the law won’t affect his current suit, it would change how the situation he faces is litigated in the future.

The governor’s office did not return multiple calls and emails for this story.