More to the point, the young black kids and teens who – like their mostly white counterparts – find the upscale shopping and dining Mecca to their liking as a safe, fun place to hang.
The main difference being, because they generally come from less affluent families, the kids don’t have much if any money to spend. Or other halfway appealing parts of town they can easily get to. And of course, because of their number and the color of their skin, they make affluent whites and others uncomfortable – very uncomfortable. And that scares the bejeezus out of the owners of the Plaza and the retailers nd restaurateurs that operate there.
Which makes for a lose-lose deal.
Because at best, even if nothing really awful happens, the paid Plaza rent-a-cops will continue to harass the kids and keep them moving, making them feel like the second class citizens they are.
That surprise you?
And if they happen to be black…let’s not kid ourselves.
Yet while the Plaza may pass as the Evil Empire today when it comes to running off black kids, it’s hardly alone. It’s a game, anybody and everybody in the area can – and at times – has played.
Years ago I wrote about KC police rounding up black kids after the movies at Crown Center on Saturday nights, herding them into city busses and dumping them off in the bad parts of town they presumably came from. It wasn’t pretty and all Pitch editor C.J. Janovy could do was to take delight in recounting my being pelted with stuff by the kids while I was covering the story they missed.
Cinemark in Merriam had its moments and Rainy Day Books honchos Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren found out the hard way what can happen a handful of years back when somebody blasted out the back window while they were watching a movie. Things got so bad that for a while Cinemark locked down the theater lobby and posted strict rules for loitering teens.
Anybody who has attended movies at AMC’s Ward Parkway Theater over the years knows that it’s been an on-again, off-again hotbed of black kiddie and teen gatherings with occasional incidents. To this day the mall has rules posted that make it clear the demographic they’re trying to discourage.
And don’t even get me started on Westport’s “black problems” over the years.
So when the headline in today’s Star screams, “Plaza chaos ‘no longer tolerated,’ chief says,” it’s just another in a long line of attempts by society to put the kibosh on black kids.
But face it, there really is no real cure for any of this.
As Kansas City grows more urban, more and more it’s going to have to deal with the type of urban issues larger cities have dealt with for decades. It’s part of growing up as a city.
Not neighborhood dances, not midnight hoops games, not city busses, not platoons of off duty cops, not kid curfews, not flood lights aimed downward at the sidewalks, not PA systems blaring country music, not dollar cover charges, not closing down video arcades, not restricting the movies being shown to family classics and boring art films…
Nope, there are just too many poor kids who want a place that’s safe and fun to hang – just like the rich folks – and as long as the Country Club Plaza fits that description, count on seeing them there.
And count on the powers-that-be to be politicking and jaw boning about how they’re not going to continue to be “tolerated.”
Just try not to act surprised.