Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Pungent Question

Well, two days out from the Plaza incident (riot, wilding, melee, flash mob; pick your favorite) and a very difficult question popped into my head. Now, before we get into this, let me say that my basic "no tolerance" "apply heavy doses of law and order stat" stand has not changed. This is an incident that cannot be repeated again and again. Because that will cause the Plaza to shrivel up and die just like the Bannister Mall did. When I moved here in 1989, the Bannister Mall was a lively shopping show place. In 2007, the Mall was closed and now it is torn down. It was a victim of both real problems and rumors of real problems--the full story of Bannister Mall is itself worthy of telling at some point. Anyway, back to the question...

Does it make a difference that the kids were Black? If 1000 White kids showed up in a group, would everyone react the same?
First, let me tell you that I believe the majority of normal adults, out for dinner, shopping, a movie, etc. on the Plaza would be apprehensive if they saw a group of teens together no matter what the color. Especially male teens. Teens are unpredictable, risk taking and often quite mean to others. They are loud and often verbally intrusive and disrespectful. I don't know if it has always been this way. It may have been. It may be that this behavior is a product of the way kids are being raised these days. I don't know. As I mentioned in a previous post, the older generation always thinks the younger generation is going straight to Hell in a breadbasket.

I was thinking about the study done some years ago, about how even Black people found themselves feeling fear when around male young Blacks. Of course, Whites in the study expressed fear about being around male young Blacks. I have become conscious of this as I move around in the world, and have often had to talk myself out of being fearful around Blacks when I know that I would not fear a White person of the same demographic group.

My answer to the pungent question? Yes, it does make a difference that the kids were Black. First, I bet there was more anticipation of trouble--oh, oh, a bunch of Black kids. Second, when trouble did start, response may have swung one of two ways. Low, worrying about racial profiling and too much "force" against Blacks. High, really indeed, an over reaction to the situation, applying too many resources and "force" (the pepper spray got a few peoples' danders up). In fact, the somewhat uncoordinated appearance of the response may have been due to both these factors.

Let me quote, well, myself:
Kansas City was on the front line of the Civil War in many ways, and culturally, there are still some groups of Blacks and Whites who are still fighting both the Civil War, and the Civil Rights War of the 1950s and 1960s. Undercurrents of race run deep and strong in this town, often to our detriment...
We are segregated in almost all of our residential areas, and many of our recreational and entertainment venues. The big things like the Stadiums, Sprint Center and the casinos are probably the most integrated, and cause the least anxiety on the part of anyone going to them. But other areas make people anxious. I know I have met veterans who are nervous about the mostly Black and poor neighborhood around the KC VA Hospital. I have heard Blacks tell me they get nervous about going to Johnson County KS neighborhoods (the suburban enclave is mostly White). Blacks fear profiling and being bothered for "Doing Things While Black." Whites fear crime and attack. Because the groups mingle so little socially, fear and ignorance breed more fear and ignorance...and so on.

I don't have an answer. The problem is as old as humanity. We probably are not going to solve it right away here. Some are forecasting a "long hot summer" in Kansas City. They are not speaking meteorologically, either. I hope not, because it's just that kind of thing that will kill a city. No one with money, Black or White, will hang around so they can be in danger in their homes, workplaces and shopping areas. People will move to be safe.

The irony is that the whole concept of race is biologically unsupported. DNA differences are tiny. It's really about culture differences, fed by isolation from one another and ignorance about each other, which breeds fear.

I had a painful revelation today. It is easier to talk to my White neighbors then my Black neighbors. I am racially awake and aware of these things, and yet, here I am. Ouch.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
These things take constant refinement. At least I have found that's true for me. Every little gain is a large gain, though. I do believe it.

You're still fighting the good fight.

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T:
Such a work in progress. I am trying to wave to my Black neighbors on a regular basis and hopefully will start talking with them more and more. I get impatient with it, and myself.
Thanks for reading along!
The Observer