by CJ Janovy
Recently, a controversy down in Springfield provoked some strong language.
As the mayor and city council struggled with cutting the city budget, one service they thought could be eliminated was city's Human Rights Commission, which investigates discrimination complaints. Earlier this month, the council cut the commission's funding from $68,000 to a measly $1,000. During that meeting, the Human Rights Commission's executive director, Kathy Clancy, begging the council to save her agency, said that "Springfield is seen as one of the most racist cities in Missouri."
Knowing nothing about Springfield, I can only imagine Clancy's reasons for giving her city that ignominious distinction (her official press release provides some insight).
But it made me wonder whether Springfield really was the state's most racist city. Because I've always thought Kansas City could be a contender for that designation.
There are big, obvious reasons why we qualify.
We endured a $2 billion, 26-year school desegregation case that ended when a judge declared the Kansas City schools were integrated, even though they're not.
We are a textbook case in white flight, made extra dramatic by the presence of a state line. Whites didn't just flee to the suburbs -- they fled to the suburbs in a whole other state.
We all know the name of the street that's considered the city's black-white dividing line.
Agonies over the black-male-targeting dress code at the city-funded Power & Light District are only the latest blow-up of tensions that fester just underneath our city's polite veneer. And that polite veneer is pretty thin -- as those of us who are familiar with disgusting comments left on blogs and Web sites know all too well.
We are quick to throw around allegations of racism, but apparently
incapable of having any sort of civil and productive, much less
healing, community-wide discussion about it.
I suppose that makes us typical of most American cities. But this is the city where I live. Not having lived anywhere else in the state, it feels to me like the most racist city in Missouri.