Let me just get it out in
White Kansas Citians ignore the citys racial divide. Their churches,
social institutions, clubs and businesses arent making the necessary
steps to temper the minds of their members that people, not color,
are who count.
The citys African Americans, for the most part, havent
Let me tell you how I know.
Im a white guy who lives in an African American neighborhood.
Its a good place, friendly. I love it here.
Now, just across Troost is Brookside, which used to be white as snow
until Price Chopper moved in at Brookside and Meyer.
Finally, there was a grocery alternative to the price/quality rape
going on at the stores on the Eastsideand regular, working people
could afford to shop in Brookside, which had traditionally been pricey.
When I go to this grocery store with my T-shirt that reads, Ill
vote for Bush when they pry my cold, dead fingers from my dick,
a white woman and her daughter chase me across the store to read the
shirt in full, shake my hand, ask where they could get one, and tell
me how brave I was.
Then, the white guy with bad color at the register yells across the
store, Yeah, hell lose again. Hes some kind
of manager and treats black customers like children. He has a moustache
and reminds me of the guys my dad used to drink whisky and kill deer
with, the kind of men I know whose lives revolve around those hateful
little circles of anti-logic consisting of Bill
OReilly, Rush Limbaugh
and Paul Harvey. Everyone
besides us is either crazy, an asshole, or just plain
While Im standing in line, a couple of sandaled young anarchists
just adore my shirt. These people are cool, kinda. But
I feel I have to remind them to start conversations with dirty, unwashed
masses, people they dont know, and all the Republicans they
The kids bagging groceries for the black men and women are those employees
the white store managers wont let handle money. They are high
school age or older, computer savvy and very tuned into the popular
culture, and across the racial spectrum.
Im paying White Man With Moustache, and the grocery clerks gathered
around, whispering about the T-shirt. It was cool, they said. Where
could they get one, they ask. We began a good chatter, which Whitey
shut down pretty soon with, Its time to work, not talk.
We all looked around. There was no one in line.
All I could think was that Al
Sharpton was absolutely right. The major parties are missing great
opportunities here. These kids are smart, stoked and checked in. But
because most are black, from the city and working poor, Whiteys
not giving them the time of day.
And, heres the kicker. Theyre not taking it either. Their
older brothers and sisters, moms and dads were checked in, but after
some difficulties, began to feel that their votes held no sway, that
their own leaders swaged more off the process than they delivered.
In short, black leaders and voters settled for less. Just like white
Later that day, I brought up race to Jamie
Metzl, Democratic candidate for 5th Congressional district in
Missouri, a seat Karen McCarthy now holds. We were waiting for John
Kerry to show up at an airplane hangar at the Charles B. Wheeler
Downtown Airport in Kansas City.
Metzls been all over Brookside campaigning, and for good reason.
Politically, Brooksides much more important than the Eastside.
Both areas are solid Democratic strongholds, but Eastside voter turnout
is generally dismalso few bother to work to get out the vote.
Metzl says hes campaigned some on the Eastside.
But he knows, like everyone around him, Democratic primary opponent
Emanuel Cleaver will
carry the Eastside. Metzl has to take Brookside if hes to get
a majority of the Jackson County Democratic vote, and he has to crack
Cleavers former hold on the area.
So, Metzls hustling the crowd at the Kerry rally, shaking hands,
smiling. Cleaver is on the other side of the cattle fence with a phalanx
of what looks to be bodyguards and media types with microphones.
Cleavers clearly the insider looking to further his career.
Metzls hungry for a job.
I ask Metzl: Will he be willing to use the clout of the office to
go to high schools, gather the kids in assembly and ask the tough
questions of race, such as: Why do you feel the way you do about the
white kids? The black kids? Native, Asian, and Hispanic kids? Where
did you learn those things? How do you feel about the kids of your
own race? Why do you feel that way? What kind of world do you really
want to live in?
Just questions. Nothing liberal or conservative. Nothing economic
or about cops. Just an honest assessment. Black schools and white.
Hispanic kids and native. Asian.
Metzl said he would think about it. Race, I believe, is the
issue of our generation, he said.
Bad answer to a political columnist because it sounds like Metzl is
going to settle for less. Just like Cleaver and all black leaders
this city has seen...like Freedom Inc. and every other black political
organization, and the Jackson Country Democrats, the unions and all
majority white political organizations, along with the towns
Republicans and conservatives.
Sounds like Im blaming everyone. But Im not.
All I really want is to walk into the Price Chopper and feel the absence
of the tensions of race. I want to walk in my neighborhood and not
be told to go back where I came fromthough I am standing on
the ground from which I was formed. I want my kid to know those checked-in
kids at the grocery store because they are savvy, smart youngsters.
Thats what I want. And its going to take disappointment
after disappointment, and never, ever being happy with anything less
than the ideal.
Patrick Dobson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.