"Here's the unmentionable secret: Racism isn't that big a deal any more. No sensible person supports it. Nobody of importance preaches it. It's rapidly becoming an ugly memory." -- Tony Snow, on an October 2003 edition of Fox News Sunday But if those in power do not see what I see, what we see, those peaceful protests are going to turn angry. Blogging about injustices helps to get the word out. But the only way to get to the powers that be,is to go to the protests, go to the streets, even if you're tired, even if you're too busy, even if you're too old or too crippled -- because the Man in power doesn't read your blog.
(A tree similar to the "Whites Only" tree at Jena High School, Jena, Lousiana -- the original tree has since been removed)
This week as thousands of protesters arrived in Jena, Louisiana to demonstrate against bigotry and support the "Jena Six", The major media was forced to re-consider, that yes, maybe racism is still a major problem in America, and people actually care about the subject. For those who are still unfamiliar with the story of the Jena Six, or would like more information, this is an excellent link: Jena 6 article at While Seated. Be sure to watch the video at the end of the article -- a very moving, and unfortunately, not unusual occurrence in the good ole US of A.
Last week was also when another tragic story came to light: That of a young woman of color held against her will, berated with racial slurs, beaten, tortured and raped by a group of six white people. The district attorney in the case declined to charge these citizens with a "hate crime" because the young woman had once had a personal "relationship" with one of her attackers. For more information, I give you the following article:
Article re Megan Williams at International Herald Tribune
These stories have affected me deeply, as they have many Americans; but I have been following them with a closer eye since just recently I read an article stating what I have long suspected: I live in one of the most racially segregated cities in America. In fact, the de facto "dividing line" can be clearly viewed from my front porch---Troost Avenue.
Map of African-American and White Populations in Kansas City, MO
This park is two blocks from my house. It is not an "official" city park, but an effort on the part of the community to provide a gathering place and a place a beauty, an effort to make Troost a place of unity, rather than a symbol of divisiveness. The mural above depicts the history of the area. Troost began as an Osage Indian trail in the early 1800's. Later in that century, it was an area of expensive homes. Into the twentieth century, as blacks moved from the countryside of the deep south to the cities in the north, the area east of Troost and north of 31st street became known as the "Negro Area". Later in the century, that area grew until it encompassed the entire eastern length of Troost Avenue.
I live in an integrated area, one block west of Troost. I live here because it is my own ghetto in a way; it once was called "Womon Town" and was a mecca for those of us of the lesbian persuasion. Later, as many of the "womons" moved out, gay males moved in, and it became a generic big city gay area. Still, it is one place that despite the crime, lack of police protection and crumbling infrastructure, that I feel I can relax and be myself.
Troost Avenue is trying to revitalize itself. This summer there have been many festivals and celebrations, drawing both black and white to the area.
You might be fooled into thinking it was any other Main Street.
It is the last place where TIF money will ever be used, when it should be the first. It is filled with vacant and decaying buildings, vagrants and drug addicts. Even though it is the quickest route home, I no longer use it at night; too many prostitutes blocking traffic, looking for "dates". And why? Because the people in power don't care.
But there ARE people here who care. People who gathered in two (yes two!) area parks, demonstrating for some young people in a little town hundreds of miles away. Many more got on church buses and traveled those many miles to the little town itself.
I went to one of those demonstrations at the J.C. Nichols fountain -- it's on the Plaza, a swank area of town in reality only a few blocks away from Troost, but socially more like a million miles away...
Most of the demonstrators were black, but a few were not, and most of those were young. So I have hope. I still had hope, even when a couple of white guys threw the remains of their lunch at us, and called us those lovely names. I have hope because most of the people that passed us honked their horns in support, smiled and waved.
Here are some more related articles:
Women in the Civil Rights Movement article by Gail Collins, NY Times
Jena, post by MissLaura at Daily Kos
Megan Williams statement to the police in post at Essential Presence blog
31st and Troost: From Dividing Line to Gathering Place (PDF article)
But if those in power do not see what I see, what we see, those peaceful protests are going to turn angry. Blogging about injustices helps to get the word out. But the only way to get to the powers that be,is to go to the protests, go to the streets, even if you're tired, even if you're too busy, even if you're too old or too crippled -- because the Man in power doesn't read your blog.