Racism in Kansas City is a deep-rooted problem created by developers and the city council, and the divide is also extremely complex because there is no true origin for it. A prime example of this racism is the manner in which Kansas City effectively blocked, and continues to block, people of color from moving their homes west of Troost Ave.
In the 1930s, black families moved from the West Bottoms industrial area to Quality Hill, around 24th and Paseo. As they settled in to these areas, white flight ensued. Prominent business people and doctors fled to J.C. Nichols’ dreamlands of Prairie Village and Mission Hills. The government started to shade these areas red because they were “risky” investments. Wherever the whites went, there ended up being more opportunity and jobs to follow in hand.
J.C. Nichols, an influential Kansas City retail developer, started his plan for the city by building the Country Club Plaza. He then built houses, and another shopping center, Brookside, was formed. This continued with Waldo shopping area and the Ward Parkway mall. All had houses and parks in between. This created a sanctuary of privilege in the heart of the city, but to blame Nichols alone would be foolish. Kansas City’s race divide goes deeper.
Today the inequality of Kansas City can literally be drawn on a map. This race map of Kansas City shows that the rebirth of segregation persisted even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To many Kansas Citians on the east side of Troost, it has held back a whole race of people.
The problem cannot only be limited to Kansas City, Missouri. It is a metro-wide problem that needs to be fixed on both sides of the state line. Johnson County dominates in terms of economic success whereas in Wyandotte County, large populations of Hispanics, and whites, struggle to make ends meet.
Housing maps from the 1930s haunt the boomtown approach Kansas City has labeled itself. A 2016 settlement from First Federal Bank is proof that banks still look at and reference the old maps.
Additionally, the area east of Troost is one of the worst murder rates in the country. The well-being of Kansas City requires more equal and daring retail, along with better and more fair housing developments. It will take the collective of the entire city to fix what systemic racism has persisted. An obligation to service is what made Kansas City a post-market-crash boomtown. Now, the city needs to pick up the East side and bring its fellow Kansas Citians back to prosperity.
Joseph Shondell is a sophomore from Roeland Park studying journalism and environmental studies.