With the decision Thursday (pending the rubber stamp from the city council) to draw the new city council district lines as portrayed in the approved Map 1-R following the Voter's Rights Act of 1965 as it is interpreted (requiring 60% of a district to be a minority group) has assured us of a Balkanized city politic and the propagation of the politics of race. Now the temptation of leaders will be to enrich their race first-- including their own selves--and not put the city of Kansas City first.
A cornerstone of the civil rights movement, the voters rights act did good things. It struck down such discriminatory acts as poll taxes, literacy tests and voter intimidation. Somewhere, however, an idea was picked up that it was only possible that a minority voter could only be represented by someone who looked like that minority voter. Also, somehow, it came to be accepted that candidates of color could only win in districts engineered to have a supra-majority of voters of color.
To me this is a victim mentality that needs to be rejected--Blacks are not good enough to run for elected office without the head start of engineered and gerrymandered voting districts? If I were a person of color seeking elected office, I would take that as an insult and a challenge at this point in time. While prejudice and narrow thinking is certainly still present in the majority group, outright discrimination is becoming rarer and rarer. If anything is keeping the Black community down, it is failure to concentrate on the content of character over the color of skin.
Are Black people happy with the quality of their leadership? Are they satisfied with the old guard that sees the Black community as deficient, victimized and needing more, more, more--not to mention the power and financial benefits that these "leaders" accumulate for themselves--rather than seeing the Black community as strong, self sufficient and competent? What has that victim mentality meant for the moral fabric of the Black community?
Before the removal of that slice of the 6th district, the ethnic balance of the entire district was close to 50/50. All is not cookies and milk--the groups are not completely evenly distributed as the district reflects the same east-west divide as is present further north--but the communities were tied together enough to be able to work together. Hickman Mills schools are a good example: the merger of the high schools has been completed without complication and the school district will hit 13 of 14 requirements for full accreditation. This has been done with a lot of work by people of all backgrounds and races. Coalitions have been built from east to west and vice versa with regard to citizens associations for development and assistance. The identity of community was more important than the identity of race for the most part.
It will become more and difficult to govern this city--and this nation--if the politics of racial and ethnic identity become more and more prominent and dominate the exchange of ideas. How many Kansas Citys are there? Two? Three? The answer to that question should be that there is only one (1) Kansas City.
Blogger's note: I've been sitting with this post since Saturday considering whether or not to publish it. I asked questions: Was it naive to think that Blacks had a level playing field? Was it unfair to call out parts of the Black community for playing the victim so they could get goodies and power? Was it wrong to question the quality of leadership in the Black community? Were I to post this as a melanin deficient White person would I just earn scorn and the label of racist (which is the farthest from the truth)?
Well, Louie Diuguid's op-Ed on "The Help" that ended with a whiny group of paragraphs of how Blacks are victims coupled with TKC's post poopooing the neighborhood citizen concerns about redistricting and now I am ready to post this. Until we stop splitting ourselves up to a bunch of identity groups and start thinking more on the order of putting our various talents together for the greater good, we will struggle to solve the many problems that face us. We as humans will always be more comfortable with people like ourselves. If we are smart we realize however that we are not "better" or "worse" than any other group, just different, and that the best way to work together is to not major on differences but on human commonality. As we do this, we get to know one another, removing stereotypes and boogymen along the way. To me, the way it appears that this redistricting will be done is a step in the wrong direction; a step that will serve to further isolate Blacks, Whites and others from each other, generating fear and resentment and making it harder to solve problems and govern this city.