As Travel editor, I often suggest that readers check the State Department website before traveling to a foreign country, in case a warning or alert has been posted.
Earlier this month, the NAACP issued its own stark travel advisory, warning visitors to Missouri of “looming danger.” This is the first such advisory issued by the civil rights organization in its 108-year history.
The advisory calls for visitors and Missourians, especially those of color, to “travel with extreme caution. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri.”
The move came in response to Missouri legislation, signed into law in June and scheduled to take effect Aug. 28, that “would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination, harassment and retaliation in Missouri,” the advisory notes. The NAACP says the law harks back to the Jim Crow era.
Other factors also informed the decision. In May, a black man died while being held in a Missouri jail after his car ran out of gas; he had not been arrested. The NAACP also cited a 2016 report from the state attorney general’s office that found that black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely than whites to be stopped by traffic police, a disproportionate number given the state’s population makeup.
The unusual advisory began as a statewide measure in Missouri in June in response to the legislation. It was recently officially recognized at the organization’s national convention.
Though this is the first travel advisory forged by the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union in May issued an alert for Texas after a new immigration enforcement law was passed. It had also warned about travel in Arizona in 2010 after that state passed a similar law.
And while our own State Department turns its eye on foreign lands, warning U.S. citizens of political unrest or natural disasters overseas, other countries scrutinize the United States.
The Bahamas issued a travel advisory in July 2016, urging its citizens to use care when traveling in the U.S. due to “recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.” Most citizens of the Caribbean nation are black; the notice came soon after the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights.
Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.