Allow me to answer my own question, when it comes to issues of race, the answer is almost always a resounding no. Take the large gatherings of African American tweens and teens on the Country Club Plaza.
Largely white male run media organizations like the Kansas City Star live in abject fear of being called out as racists. So they temper the news coverage to obfuscate situations involving black kids on the Plaza to avoid criticism from – let’s be frank here – older, establishment blacks.
So while the kids involved are merely referred to by the Star as “teenagers,” “children” and “youths,” photos like the one today accompanying its editorial reveal the kids to be 100 percent black – with 100 percent no mention of race.
Trust me, after covering the Star at the Pitch for several years and 16 years behind enemy lines (so to speak) at the newspaper, I can assure you this is the case. The Star lives in mortal fear of identifying all too obvious problems like the Plaza’s as racial.
Oh they know better, alright.
I was able to work around it at times with carefully worded and reported columns during my time at the Star – often, but not always.
In my early days at there in the ’90s there were severe racially charged problems going down in Westport at a club called the Harris House. Problems that I witnessed and confirmed with Kansas City Police via on-the-record quotes and accounts. Problems that cried out for attention and a search for solutions.
So what happened when I submitted my story for publication in FYI?
Fearful FYI editor Jeanne Meyer killed it.
Undaunted, I appealed Meyer’s decision to then editor Art Brisbane who recognized my story as reportable news and Meyer was overruled.
Even at that, the story was reduced to a secondary item in my column, to insure that it would not receive an attention getting headline.
That’s how subtly race games are played at 18th and Grand, ladies and gentlemen.
Each and every nuance – every word – is weighed and calculated so as not to offend anyone. But as you can see, to the point where if editors think they can get away without covering race related news, that’s exactly what they will do – not cover it.
A few highlights from that watered down, dumbed down and physically moved down column of 20 years back (that my editor came thisclose to killing):
“Police and others working this spring to try to ensure the peace in Westport have their hands full: Saturday nights are heating up, some Kansas City police say. Last weekend was ‘the third week in a row we’ve had big fights down there,’ says police Sgt. Richard Jones. ‘It’s all taking place, usually on Pennsylvania between Westport (Road) and 40th Street.’
“Jones oversees one of three tactical squads that police the city’s party zone on weekends. ‘By 2 to 2:30 a.m. (Saturday nights), it’s from curb to curb, wall-to-wall people,’ he says. As the bars were closing about 3 a.m. last Saturday, he says, somebody pulled a gun. ‘Of course, the crowd scattered and a big fight broke out and there were several people just going fist city.’ Five people were arrested, two for throwing bottles at officers, police say. No one was reported injured.”
“Many in the crowd that often gathers on weekends outside the Harris House nightclub are under 21, says co-owner Janet McNiel. The police, she says, “could be more productive in their actions…Actually, I don’t know what the solution would be. Everybody’s been talking about the situation for years and years, and I don’t know that anybody’s ever come up with one.’ Last year ‘they took care of it by blocking all the streets,’ says Frank Russell, assistant manager of Pyramid Pizza. ‘I just think they need to block the streets earlier to stop the craziness.’
“Somebody’s going to end up getting hurt seriously, and I just hope it’s not a police officer,” Jones says. “Of course, like so many things in this city, I think it’ll probably keep on going until that’s what happens, and then we’ll do something about it. ”
One of the means I used to convince Brisbane to run the above story was a quote that I had from Jones about how police couldn’t believe how the local news media wasn’t covering the story. Art knew it was the right thing to do.
That brings us to today’s topic, the so-called “Club KC” and the Kansas City Council‘s plan to keep teens off the Plaza year round.
I’ll get to that post haste in Part 2 of this missive to follow.