I live on the far east side of Kansas City in one of the few completely desegregated neighborhoods in the city - it's probably around 50% white, 40% black, 10% hispanic. Everyone gets along fine and in fact, our neighborhood has one of the lowest crime rates in the city.
And no one freaks out about black teenagers. Not so on the predominately white west side of town, where they're going through one of the most public bed-wettings I've ever witnessed.
Since the west side seems to view all black activity as criminal activity, here's how they see the current 'crisis' of black kids going to the movies.
The Crime Scene
Last week, anywhere from 100-150 black teenagers were at the movie theater at the Plaza. In this group, 4 - FOUR - were cited for either blocking traffic or fighting. This is probably the exact same percentage of troublemakers - perhaps even a bit less - that you'd find with any group of teenagers of any race. But apparently, for the west side it means CRISIS TIME.
I'll note that there isn't a single movie theater in the primarily black east side of town. The easiest theater to reach via the ATA (busline) from the east side is the theater on the Plaza. But, heaven help us, the Plaza is also the weekend hangout for suburbanites from Kansas and surrounding areas of the west side of KCMO. How can they be expected to mingle with black teenagers?
In the past, the solution to reducing the black teen population in our 'entertainment districts' has been to enforce a 9 pm curfew. Last year, 100% of the curfew violations were given out on the Plaza, the only convenient place for black kids to see a movie. 90% of those curfew violations were given to black kids. Only about a third of these cases resulted in fines; hardly the kind of activity you'd think the police would focus on when the murder rate in this city is one of the highest in the nation.
Last summer, police waded into a group of black youth with horses and 'large, fire-extinguisher like' containers of pepper spray to break up a fight - and a large number of kids were pepper sprayed who had no part in the fight. The fact that no arrests were made and no citations issued makes one question the massive police display of force used. Gee, the east side hardly ever sees this kind of police 'protection'.
So, what to do now? Well, for this coming weekend the KCPD has had a brainstorm - rustle up some ATA buses, take them down to the Plaza, and offer free transportation to black kids - most of whom want to go to a movie - and bus them to the Brush Creek Community Center on the east side, which happens to be in one of the most violent and crime-ridden parts of town. Transportation in the opposite direction - from the Community Center to the Plaza - won't be offered, natch.
Yes- they're going to try to bus kids from the (white) west side to the (black) east side so white people can feel comfortable shopping 'n dining.
So, if you're a good kid - and the low numbers of citations for fighting, etc show that the vast majority are - who wants to see a movie in a safe neighborhood, the KCPD wants to ship you out to literally one of the worst neighborhoods they could find (and where you can't see a movie). Of course they assume that every black teenager on the Plaza is from the inner city and not from the suburbs and not from the west side - simply not true. But nevertheless, they hope to bus you to Cleaver Ave and Cleveland, even if you have no way to get home on the bus from there.
The newspaper here, the Kansas City Star, has been whimpering for several years about the 'problem' on the Plaza and in the comments section you'll read people moaning about 'bad parenting' (did your parents accompany you to the movies when you were a teen? Mine didn't) or how the city shouldn't pay to entertain black kids at community centers, despite the fact that the kids at the Plaza theater pay for their tickets and really don't expect the city to do so.
No, this is about Plaza merchants not wanting black kids scaring away the white customers. And the business community here carries a lot of clout. Our black police chief has been fanning the flames of this hysteria, although he admits that most of the kids are law-abiding. Our black mayor, uncharacteristically, hasn't had much to say (which is disappointing, as I'm a big fan of his).
Busing black kids out of white neighborhoods - shameful. And sadly, the west side seems to support it.