Monday, October 24, 2011

City Council Districts: Race Matters and Community Building

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.


Bob G. said...

There is nothing wrong with calling out parts of the black community (or ANY other ethnic community, including whites) that seem to be either disconnected with their constituency, or have become apathetic with the way their OWN community is portrayed.

Much of their problems are SELF-inflicted...I see the same thing in Ft. Wayne.

If any community is THAT "concerned" than by God, EVERY time one their own is killed by another one of their own, there NEEDS to be an outcry...and it needs to be constant, and not for having more done FOR them, but for them to unify and and charge each other with making that community better for EVERYONE.

It's been proven (in MANY cities) that like ethnicities will REsegregate themselves, no matter HOW MUCH "integration" is placed before them...amd that includes whatever redistricting tricks are tried.

To often, we see a "sit back and wait" attitude...that doesn't help anyone to any degree.

Excellent post.

Stay safe out there.

Anonymous said...

Your problem, I do believe, is you take the ramblings of Tony Botello far too seriously. You shoudn't.

Most of his facts are made up and most of his reasoning is based on his falsehoods.

Do yourself a favor and think for yourself.

Also, comparing Fort Wayne Indiana to Kansas City is like comparing apples to cheese.

The Observer said...

You miss the point: it is precisely Tony's identity politics that create the atmosphere. I assure you, I am quite adept at thinking for myself.
Because this is how so many so-called leaders and left leaning pundits think about race matters and racism, that we have seen this continuing "victim mentality". The majority of thinking folks may not see things this way, but until people step up to challenge the status qui both in the meeting hall and the voting booth, we will continue to see the politics of indentity grow stronger and stronger, to the detriment of our city.
Thanks for coming by.
The Observer

The Observer said...

"...status quo...".

The Observer said...

Bob G:
Thanks for coming by and giving a bit of encoragement. It is a dense post with a lot in it and you can see that it presented some interpretational difficulties.

I wish that we didn't find ourselves having to speak of race at all but content of character.

Fort Wayne is smaller than KC and does not carry the historical burdern of the Civil War and slavery issues. Also KC is more economically diverse--you can correct me on this if I'm wrong.

We are all in this shit together.

The observer

chuck said...

Brilliant post.

Dead on the money.

The one aspect of race relations and pplitics not mentioned, is the ever present threat of violence.

It is my opinion, that spoken or un spoken, the threat of violence, the availability and knowledge of that availability, when any discussion is generated, that is the catalyst for actions, with regard to identity politics and the effection of any political issue that encompasses "race".

Bob G. said...

Yeas, Ft. Wayne IS smaller, asnd as such should not REALLY have the similar types of issues that LARGER cities "enjoy"...

But we DO, and having come from Philly (ten times the population of Ft. Wayne) we had such problems for decades ba there...same causes, and same "solutions" that go nowhere.

When you see it trickle down in like fashion to smaller cities and even towns, you just HAVE to wonder if there IS, in fact, some commonality at work here...and there usually is.
Just look at the symptons of the problems.

I hope F. Wayne is the "apples" and not the cheese

STay safe.