publisher's note
October 26, 2007


 

 

White guys defending white guys
by Bruce Rodgers

Steve Kraske, the Kansas City Star reporter and columnist with the Up to Date program on public radio station KCUR, asked KCMO Mayor Mark Funkhouser on Monday (Oct. 22) if he had read Mike Hendricks’ (also a Kansas City Star columnist) column in the newspaper that day.

For his part, Hendricks had departed from his usual style of fanciful, slightly humorous, insightful though at times chimeric writing. Neither was Hendricks just commenting on Funkhouser’s position in refusing to oust Francis Semler from the Park Board because of her membership in the Minutemen.

No. Hendricks was defending a comrade, a guy he likes, a guy he can identify with because…he’s a journalist and people pick on him, too, write him nasty emails and accuse him of being a LIBERAL. Hendricks could relate, he understood the punishment Funkhouser was going through, the misunderstanding, the cheap shots, the empty-headed attacks.

“I feel your pain, bro,” the column screamed between the lines.

And so Hendricks was in full offensive mode. Funkhouser, he wrote, “Stands his ground on what he sees as important principles. And in doing so, Funkhouser did more to help Kansas City’s reputation than hurt it…”

So when Kraske asked for Funkhouser’s reaction to Hendricks’ column, it was no surprise the mayor said, “I was gratified by Hendricks’ column.”

With that, I had to wonder if the two of them were going to meet later that evening. You know, get in the hot tub on the back deck — either at Hendricks’ Johnson County digs or Funkhouser’s abode in gentrified Brookside — suck down Coronas while telling each other repeatedly,

“You the man!”

“No, you the man!”

What’s most galling though isn’t so much that these two guys think “principle” won out despite missing the point, one beyond the city losing millions of dollars with the loss of the La Raza convention. It’s that they really think they know Kansas City and that they really understand the issues of poverty, undocumented workers, illegal immigration and the reasons why organizations like La Raza, NAACP and other civil rights groups exist and take the positions they do.

“Kansas City has made great strides in the area of civil rights over the past several decades,” Hendricks crowed.

And throughout his column he described anyone to doesn’t agree as “race-baiters and other crazies” … “content to accept whatever line of garbage comes along that fits their world view — or furthers their own narrow agenda.”

Later in the column, Hendricks parrots the Minutemen view about “illegal immigration” driving down wages and an “unregulated” border being a threat to national security.

Funkhouser, when talking with Kraske on the radio show, complained that “the issue was defined for me…that a few folks on the Westside made it an issue…(it was) the dictates of a few people.”

What issue is that, Mr. Mayor? Could it be racism? Discrimination? Isn’t there a principle somewhere in opposing those things?

Maybe you or your bud Mike can’t feel the racism, being white, educated, well paid and all. Not surprising. You guys have never been really poor, never really struggled to find a job, have had for most of your adult life health insurance, money in the bank, the option to live pretty much where you wanted, to send your kids to schools you approved of. You guys never really felt hunger or lived in fear because of the color of your skin or economic status, or heard the taunts about your race unless, maybe, you traveled to certain parts of town, which, of course, you don’t.

I bet you guys didn’t know that between 2000 and 2005, Mexico lost 900,000 rural jobs and 700,000 industrial jobs; that the National Campesino Front estimates that two million farmers have been displaced because of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The demand for undocumented labor in the US economy is structural. The corporate leaders that are embraced by Kansas City know this — that in order for America to compete on global markets, cheap labor must be had.

We should be thankful they come here to work. Immigrants, legal or illegal, have always renewed America. Most still believe America is the land of opportunity, that there is freedom here, that there is fairness. And the ones that come are overwhelmingly good people. If they weren’t, the inconvenience of traffic jams would have been replaced by the fear of roadside bombs.

Funkhouser and Hendricks can spout all they want about standing on principle. But it was La Raza that really stood on principle. And unfortunately a lot of white people are too scared and, in many cases, too ignorant to see it.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.


              
              
                 

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