Perhaps aiming to show instead of tell, a Missouri House Republican leader literally silenced the president of the Missouri NAACP — as he attempted to testify against a bill that would gut protections against workplace discrimination at a public hearing on Monday night.
Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel was speaking against a set of bills that he described as “an expansion of discrimination.” Chapel wasn’t hyperbolizing. Currently, under the Missouri Human Rights Act, a plaintiff must prove that their race, religion, sex, or age was a “contributing factor” to their termination.
Under Springfield Republican Rep. Kevin Austin’s bill, the burden of proof would be raised so that the plaintiff’s race, religion, sex, or age is a “motivating factor.” In other words, if you’re fired just because you’re Black that’s good old fashioned discrimination. If you’re fired because you’re Black and get to work late, while your white co-worker isn’t fired for arriving late, that’s not discriminatory wrongful termination. The bill also caps the amount of money people could receive if they were able to prove they had been discriminated against. So, it’s pretty fair to call it an expansion of discrimination.
In a video of the exchange, which you can find below, Chapel testified that he was “dismayed” that universities, schools, and businesses had testified on behalf of the bill and were therefore “all united in favor of expanding discrimination.”
Committee chair Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, saw all of this discrimination talk as irrelevant to bills pertaining to discrimination. So, he instructed Chapel to “contain [his] speech to speaking on the bill.” Chapel responded, “Oh, but I am, because this is nothing but Jim Crow. Because this is nothing but Jim Crow. You cannot legalize discrimination on an individual basis and call it anything else.” So, Lant did what any white lawmaker would do when an African American leader of the nation’s largest civil rights organization indicts racism: by cutting off his mic.
Lant “allowed” Chapel to speak for a few more seconds before he interrupted Chapel, and said, “thank you for your testimony, sir.” Chapel replied, “I’m not done,” and Assistant House Minority Leader Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis Democrat, pointed out that witnesses had five minutes to speak, which Chapel hadn’t been given. Lant once again said Chapel wasn’t “speaking on the subject.” Chapel said, “I am speaking on the subject.” Mitten tried once again to step in for democracy, imploring “I would ask you to please allow,” Chapel to finish speaking. ” Lant replied by saying if there was “no other witness that would like to speak I will cancel this hearing.” A silenced Chapel got out of his seat. Mitten then asked if she could ask Chapel questions. Not surprisingly, Lant said, “no ma’am, you may not.”
In a statement released after the hearing, Mitten wrote, “Jim Crow is alive and well in Missouri and Rep. Lant just proved it.”
Chapel also released a statement that, “the Chair’s refusal to let me speak ensured that not only my voice, but all voices of those protected by anti-discrimination laws in the state were silenced.” Continue reading “Missouri Republican cuts mic as NAACP leader explains how new bill guts workplace protections”