ST. LOUIS – State Rep. Steven Roberts has joined with his colleagues in the Legislative Black Caucus and community faith leaders to strongly oppose a new law signed by the governor that makes discrimination in the workplace much harder to prove.
A recent travel ban issued by the NAACP brought national attention to the issue and warned travelers that they could be subject to “discrimination and harassment” in Missouri. Roberts and his colleagues said the “Jim Crow” bill sets Missouri back and breaks the promise made by the governor to address issues important to the black community.
“Right after the governor won his election he met with the Black Caucus and invited us to a welcoming reception. I was optimistic about developing a relationship with the governor,” said State Rep. Alan Green, D-Florissant, who chairs the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus. “Subsequently, on several occasions, I attempted to meet with the governor and was ignored. In fact, since the reception photo, he has yet to meet with me or the Black Caucus. I can’t say I was surprised that he decided to sign this Jim Crow bill, but I was certainly disappointed.”
The legislation signed by the governor, SB 43, would force victims of alleged discrimination to prove that race or religion or gender was the motivating factor to the discrimination, which Roberts and his colleagues say is extremely hard to do. Missouri’s current standard only requires proof that race, religion, and gender are a contributing factor.
Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Senior Pastor, Quinn Chapel AME Church, Jefferson City and serves as the Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, a federation of PICO National Network, said, “The Governor signing what amounts to a Jim Crow Bill into law is an effort to make the barriers to achieving justice so high as to legalize discrimination in the State of Missouri. When Governor Greitens was campaigning for Governor, he met with faith leaders and promised to address issues facing the black community. After his victory, we were abandoned in favor of his deep pockets donors.”
She added, “On his first day in office, I prayed with him and his staff and asked him not to use words from the sacred text if he didn’t mean them. We prayed over him when he came in and we will pray and vote him out.”
Roberts said that while the governor has an impressive resume, it’s now obvious he is more concerned with his own image rather than helping Missourians in need. He said the governor has failed to protect the interests of those who are the targets of discrimination and made an inadequate effort to address the growing crime problems in St. Louis.
“I have a great deal of respect for our governor’s service to our nation as a veteran; however, it is readily apparent that he is more interested in photo opportunities for his social media profiles than developing a relationship with the elected officials living in what he calls the ‘most dangerous [city] in the United States.’,” said Roberts, D-St. Louis, who serves as ranking minority party member of workforce development and treasurer of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.
He added, “If the governor really wanted to help, he would ask the chief prosecutor of the city, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, what tools she needs to succeed and provide them. The signing of this Jim Crow bill will become part of his legacy.”
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, previously stated that, By signing Senate Bill 43 into law, Gov. Eric Greitens has reversed decades of civil right progress in Missouri and relegated minorities to the status of second-class citizens. With the Missouri Human Rights Act gutted, employers who want to engage in illegal workplace discrimination will have no fear of being held accountable. While SB 43 might not quite return us to the days when businesses were free to hang “minorities need not apply” signs in the window, it certainly reinforces the sentiment.”