Most Everything You Need To Know About Why Black Folks Are Afraid Of Greitenstan—I Mean, Missouri

By now, most folks in Missouri (and most outside) have heard of the NAACP’s travel advisory involving my state. Most people, however, probably haven’t read the actual text of the travel advisory, the first ever issued by the group at the state level. So, because this is the Internet, here is part of it (first issued by the Missouri NAACP State Conference), which I have slightly edited:

A travel advisory has been issued in the State of Missouri due to the
sad passage of Senator Gary Romine’s Jim Crow Bill – SB 43 – and
recent events throughout Missouri.

The advisory means each individual should pay special attention
while in the state of Missouri and certainly if contemplating spending
time in Missouri. Unlike seasonal weather advisories, where no
unnecessary travel on city streets or parking might be directed, the
NAACP wants to make Missourians and our visitors aware of looming
danger which could include the following by example of what has
happened to some residents and visitors:

Tory Sanford who recently died in a jail cell but was never arrested
after running out of gas when he traveled into the state accidentally;

Racist attacks on University of Missouri students while on the states’
campuses – as the University of Missouri System spoke in favor of
Romine’s Jim Crow Bill;

Missouri’s legislature Representative Rick Bratton argued that
homosexuals are not human beings according to his faith;

Black high school students in St. Louis have been attacked with hot
glue while denigrated racially;

Two internationally born men gunned down outside in Kansas City
after their killer thought them to be Muslim;

According to the Missouri Attorney General African-Americans in
Missouri are subjected to excessive traffic – 75% more likely to be
stopped and searched based on skin color than Caucasians,
Public threats of shooting ‘Blacks’ that terrorized University of
Missouri students and members of the public.

Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme
CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history
in Missouri. Missouri, home of Lloyd Gaines, Dred Scott and the
dubious distinction of the Missouri Compromise and one of the last
states to lose its slaveholding past, may not be safe…

The Missouri State Conference NAACP asked that you do the
following:

warn your families, co-workers and anyone visiting Missouri to
beware of the safety concerns with travel in Missouri,

notify members of your trade associations, social and civic
organizations that they are traveling and living in Missouri at their own
risk and subject to unnecessary search seizure and potential arrest,
and file and seek help on any existing claims for discrimination,
harassment, retaliation, and whistle blowing ASAP…

Now, you can investigate all of the incidents listed in this advisory and decide for yourself if the advisory is warranted. But I will focus on SB 43 itself—which is now law in the state after our Tr-mpian governor signed it in June—and show why it is that this law is not just a Jim Crow-type law for African-Americans, but why it represents a danger to all those who have been at least partially protected by Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws.

But the first thing you need to know about this ridiculous law—which amends the Missouri Human Rights Act—is that its sponsor, Republican Senator Gary Romine (whose district comprises counties south of St. Louis) is the owner of a business in Sikeston called Show-Me Rent to Own. That business is one of those “Don’t Need a Loan, No Credit Required” furniture and appliance stores where you can rent a couch or a coffee table or a TV or a potted plant for a week or a year or whatever. In my experience, places like that tend to prey on those with poor credit, which usually means, of course, the poor. So, let that speak or not speak to the character of Sen. Romine.

In any case, allow me to quote extensively (you should read it all) from an April story involving Romine that was written by Sarah Fenske of the Riverfront Times:

In March 2015, a man who used to work at Show-Me Rent to Own in Sikeston, Missouri, filed a lawsuit alleging that his supervisor regularly used racial slurs against him, telling him, among other things, to “quit acting like a n*gger” — and Related imagethat a map on the wall of the store circled a majority black neighborhood with the words “do not rent” written next to it.

The owner of the business is state Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington), and in response to the suit, his lawyers acknowledged that, yes, a map in the back of the store had those very words written upon it. Everything else, he pretty much denied.

In any other state, that kind of admission might be a scandal — or at least grounds for future questioning. “Hey, Senator Romine! Who was redlined by that ‘do not rent to’ directive? And did any employees tell you about the allegations against your supervisor? If so, did you take any action?”

But hey, this is Missouri. And instead of Romine’s business practices forcing him into the hot seat, he’s instead using them as the basis of a folksy anecdote about “frivolous litigation” to advance legislation that would gut workplace protection against racial discrimination in Missouri…

Sarah Fenske goes on to describe what now is the law. She calls it,

a toxic stew: a mess of bad provisions that manages to exempt state employees from whistleblower protections, gut workers’ ability to allege racial discrimination, and protect Romine’s own interests, all in one package.

She then quotes Representative Steve Roberts, a Democrat from St. Louis:

“I honestly don’t understand how this hasn’t gotten more media attention.” He notes that when he questioned Romine about being sued for discrimination, the senator had a telling answer: “Which time?”

“It’s so bold to have a senator who’s been sued for this, multiple times, leading the charge,” Roberts says. “It is clearly self-dealing.”

Clearly. But even if it wasn’t, the law is horrific. I’ll allow Fenske to describe why because I think she does it so well:

SB 43 would gut the state’s Human Rights Acts (which is already fairly limited — among other things, sexual orientation is not covered). But under these new provisions, instead of showing only that race or gender are “a contributing factor” to discrimination, Missouri residents would have to show that it was “the motivating factor” (emphasis added).

So let’s say someone works for … just to come up with a totally random example … Gary Romine’s rent to own business. And let’s say they were subjected to the barrage of invective described in the lawsuit against Show-Me Rent to Own, which includes phrases like “black people are the worst to work with,” “black people are the worst to rent to,” “as long as I am manager, there will never be two black people working here again,” and, of course, the n-word. (Romine, for the record, didn’t respond to either a phone message or email seeking comment yesterday.)

Then let’s say the employee was fired. Under the new law, it wouldn’t be enough to show that race was one of the reasons he faced termination. His lawyers would have to show it’s the single biggest reason — an incredibly difficult standard.

I have to stop here and tell you that as someone who has occasionally represented employees who filed complaints of workplace discrimination, Fenske is absolutely correct to emphasize how difficult it is under ordinary discrimination laws to win a judgment against an employer. And she is also correct in emphasizing how harder it will be under SB 43 to win such a case. It will essentially require a business owner to stand up and say, “Yep, I fired the black guy because I don’t like n*****s.” It’s really that bad. Thus, that’s part of the reason the NAACP referred to it as a Jim Crow law.

But the law is bad for an even more onerous reason, one so bad it caused my own local state representative, a reactionary named Bill White, to reject it. Here’s how The Missouri Times reported that part of it:

The bill also removes provisions that would prevent the actual discriminating party – be it a supervisor or fellow employee – from being named in the case, which horrified Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin.

“What this bill does in its current form, the person who hung the noose in somebody’s locker, that person doesn’t get named in this case in this bill,” White said, citing a specific discrimination case in which a white employee racially discriminated against a black employee.

Kudos to Bill White for having at least some limitations on his shortsighted, radical conservatism. (And I think I’m being way too generous to say he has some limitations; maybe this is the only one).

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the law also limits damages in cases where a complainant actually wins. So, even if you get the owner to admit he fired you because you’re black and he hates blacks, his liability is capped. And that’s not all. This law doesn’t just make it harder for African-Americans to sue for discrimination, it also makes it harder for those pursuing age or sex or religious discrimination. If you’re an old fart no longer wanted because you’re old, a woman no longer wanted because you’re a woman, or, say, a Muslim working in a “Christian” environment, well, too bad for you. Businesses need protection from the likes of you and your ambulance-chasing, litigation-loving lawyers!

Which, of course, is how this damned thing, which was rammed through the legislative process in the most unseemly manner imaginable, was justified. It’s good for business. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has been demanding this law for years. And here’s how The Missouri Times reported that angle:

“It was a priority for us and it’s been a priority for us for over a decade,” House sponsor Rep. Joe Don McGaugh said after session. “When you talk to the business community, the examples that they share are pretty broad with the number of people who come in and say, this was a real factor for businesses coming into the state. So, hopefully, it has a pretty quick impact.”

Rep. Kevin Engler, who has carried the legislation in the past, noted during floor debate the bill was needed to ensure Missouri remained competitive with other states.

“Privately, this is a number one cost driver,” Engler said. “We have to make Missouri a better place to bring jobs and development and workers.”

So, there you have it. We have a test case here in Missouri, similar to the “experiment” conducted by Sam Brownback and radical Republicans in Kansas. That Sunflower State experiment was a miserable and enduring failure, and the deeply unpopular Brownback is hightailing it out of the state for a job Tr-mp offered him in the federal government, a strange job of promoting “religious freedom” around the world. Good riddance. But meanwhile, we can now sit back here in Missouri and either watch the jobs flood in and government revenues increase because businesses are much freer to discriminate, or we will watch a continued decline in Republican-dominated Missouri, reflected in this AP report in June:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — New data show it’s unlikely Missouri revenues will grow enough to fully fund the budget passed by lawmakers last year.

State Budget Director Dan Haug on Friday announced state revenues grew 2.6 percent through May compared to the same period last fiscal year.

That’s well under the 7 percent needed to fully fund spending outlined in this year’s budget and the 3.4 percent legislators originally estimated.

Revenues also are below the scaled-back 3 percent-growth mark that Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and lawmakers predicted in January.

Lower-than-expected growth means funding cuts made by Greitens and his predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, likely will stay in place.

“Funding cuts.” Sound familiar? It should. That’s the kind of language used in Brownbackistan. Soon we will have our own Show-Me state version: Greitenstan.

Romney And The NAACP

About Romney’s speech to the NAACP, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell told TheGrio’s Goldie Taylor the following on Wednesday:

Tell me, Goldie, if I’m being too cynical, to think that the Romney campaign actually went in that room today with the hope of getting booed, at least three times, because they want the video of their candidate being booed by the NAACP to play in certain racist precincts where that will actually help them.

There were other liberals, including Nancy Pelosi, who offered up the notion that Mittens had an ulterior motive when he went to Houston and deliberately used the word “ObamaCare,” as in,

I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like ObamaCare…

Pelosi said that Romney made a “calculated move” to “get booed,” which he most certainly got after the ObamaCare remark.  Now, I wasn’t one to initially and cynically think Mittens deliberately sought the disapproval of a room full of black folks in order to exploit white angst around the country.

But then I saw this report:

Mitt Romney says he wasn’t surprised by the chorus of boos he received Wednesday morning when he said in a speech to the NAACP National Convention that he plans to repeal President Obama’s national health care law.

“I think we expected that,” Romney said in a taped interview with Fox Business Network, scheduled to air Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Well, although I am normally quite ready to suspect the worst of Republican presidential candidates, I am not quite ready to believe that Mitt Romney went to Houston and exploited his father’s memory in order to appeal to American racists.  Romney said this to the group:

The Republican Party’s record, by the measures you rightly apply, is not perfect. Any party that claims a perfect record doesn’t know history the way you know it.

Yet always, in both parties, there have been men and women of integrity, decency, and humility who called injustice by its name. For every one of us a particular person comes to mind, someone who set a standard of conduct and made us better by their example. For me, that man is my father, George Romney.

It wasn’t just that my Dad helped write the civil rights provision for the Michigan Constitution, though he did. It wasn’t just that he helped create Michigan’s first civil rights commission, or that as governor he marched for civil rights in Detroit – though he did those things, too.

More than these public acts, it was the kind of man he was, and the way he dealt with every person, black or white. He was a man of the fairest instincts, and a man of faith who knew that every person was a child of God.

I’m grateful to him for so many things, and above all for the knowledge of God, whose ways are not always our ways, but whose justice is certain and whose mercy endures forever.

I am sure the folks in the room would have been grateful if Romney had taken the occasion of mentioning his father’s civil rights work to assure black voters that he opposes Republican efforts to suppress their votes, as the party is doing all over the country. But, alas, he didn’t. And no one was surprised at that.

But as I said, I resist the temptation to question Romney’s motives in speaking to the NAACP. Did he deliberately go there to appear reasonable? Did he go there to stir up the crowd, hoping he would get some kind of outrageous response? (For the most part the crowd was quite respectful.) Beats me.

I am willing to leave it at this: After the speech, Romney said to Fox:

I am going to give the same message to the NAACP that I give across the country…

Maybe Mittens really does think his top-down, give-the-rich-more economic philosophy will eventually trickle into black homes and help black families, as well as all Americans. And it is that delusion that I find ultimately more dangerous for the country, including all the folks who gathered in Houston to hear Mr. Romney speak.

Why African-Americans Don’t Vote Republican

Ever wonder why African-Americans mostly vote for Democrats?

How about Newt Gingrich calling the first African-American president “the best food stamp president in American history“?

Or how about this from Gingrich:

I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.

Never mind that six in ten households on food stamps are Newt-white.

CBS News reported:

Oscar Eason, President of NAACP State Conference of Alaska, Oregon and Washington State, told CBS News Gingrich’s comment “goes right to the heart of real racism – that African Americans are lazy and don’t want to work and depend entirely on handouts.”

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum, Gingrich’s new “junior partner,”said in response to a question about “foreign influence in this country“:

They’re just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That’s the bottom line. I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.

To which Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, responded:

Santorum’s targeting of African-Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance. He conflates welfare recipients with African-Americans, though federal benefits are in fact determined by income level.

Later, Santorum told, or tried to tell, CNN—which wasn’t buying it—this:

“I’m pretty confident that I didn’t say ‘black.'” The GOP contender said he “was starting to say one word, and I sort of came up with another word and moved on and it sounded like black.”

No wonder the guy has a Google problem. He is full of something.

In any case, the GOP has a problem with African-Americans partly because of dumb stuff like the above freely flowing from the mouths of its prominent candidates, and partly because GOP economic policies are largely responsible for so many blacks—and whites—needing food stamps and public assisantance in the first place.

Rare Praise For The Tea Party

Since I have been more than a little critical of the Tea Party folks for tolerating and in some cases promoting racist elements associated with their rush to take us back to the 18th century, it’s only fair to praise them when they at least attempt to act like they live in the 21st.

Something called the National Tea Party Federation, which is trying to exert some leadership over the disparate groups of disgruntled people who have raised the temperature of our national politics, has kicked out one of the worst among them:  Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express.

Mr. Williams was the head of Tea Party Express, which as Politico pointed out, “has organized some of the movement’s biggest events, including rallies with former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin.” 

The Tea Party Express has also been closely tied to Sharron Angle’s campaign in Nevada, which, fortunately, has given Sen. Harry Reid new life out there.  In other words, the Tea Party Express is (was?) a big bleeping deal.

The NAACP had earlier urged Tea Party “leaders” to purge their ranks of those “who use racist language in their signs and speeches,” to which Williams replied with what he called a “satirical” letter that began:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

He continued with this:

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government ‘stop raising our taxes.’ That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide-screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society? Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Believe it or not, that is just a sampling of the worst of Mr. Williams’ performances.  Check here for a rundown of the dumb stuff he has said, including calling the President of the United States an, “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.”

But despite the fact that it is a little tardy, the booting of Mark Williams and Tea Party Express is welcome news.  Someday, it may be possible to focus only on the misguided political philosophy animating the movement and not on the white angst that fuels so much of the anger behind it.

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