|COP SHOUTS "WHOSE STREETS, COPS STREETS"|
- a description of last night's PlazaWatch
- a recording of some young African American women talking about their perception of what is going on (it's great)
- my article from 2011 giving some historical context and background on what has been going down and my own thoughts on it (it makes reference also to an article I put with it on some similar stuff in Philadelphia (I won't reprint that article here).
Friday, August 19, 2011
CURFEWS, LIES, RACISM AND AMERICA'S WAR ON BLACK KIDS
The article you will find posted below pertains largely to Philadelphia, but what I am writing about pertains largely to Kansas City, Missouri, which is where I live.
Just yesterday the city, my city, adopted a 9PM curfew on youth similar to the one in Philadelphia. The curfew came in response to "large crowds of (black) youth and acts of violence" on the Country Club Plaza. The Country Club Plaza is the city's premier outdoor shopping and entertainment district. It was designed and built long ago and resembles a Spanish town. It is also a prime tourist destination (for the few tourists who come to our city). It is privately owned and features numerous upscale stores, restaurants, bars and is surrounded by hotels and high-rise condos. A waterway runs along one side.
(Disclosure: In 1970, when I had only just passed youthdom, and looked like the radical "hippie type" that I was, I was arrested on the Plaza for "interferring with a police officer making an arrest" of a friend who was selling the underground newspaper Vortex).
Last Saturday night the mayor, an African American man, took a walk on the Plaza to see for himself what the hubbub about gangs of youth swarming the place was all about and to, in fact, talk to the kids. Not a terrible idea. Unfortunately, while there, a few shots were fired about a block away from where he stood and he was knocked to the ground by his bodyguards. Three kids were slightly wounded in the incident. Voila: Curfew Time.
The facts are that although black kids had been gathering in large numbers on weekend nights on the Plaza for several summers now, this is only the second time any shots were fired. The first time, in truth, actually was a block off the Plaza in a nearby park.
Now, these "large numbers" of black youth have been hanging out on the Plaza for the same reasons you and I used to hang out somewhere when we were kids AND because for most of these kids hanging out on their block is dangerous. It also leaves them open to gang activity. So yeah, their parents figure they are better off on the Plaza. They are right.
The media and talk shows here have been all atwitter about the "mobs" of African American young people on the Plaza ever since the "phenomena" began a few summers back.
Interestingly enough, I live about a mile from the Plaza and virtually every weekend night (and many other nights as well) I take myself and my greyhound, Whitney, out for a late night stroll down to the place. We wander about the Plaza amidst the "mobs" and you know what? I have never been shot. I have never been hassled. I have never felt in any danger from those "large numbers of kids." Yes, there are a whole lot of black kids there - as well as a whole lot of white people enjoying themselves. So what? Personally I find it refreshing to see these kids enjoying themselves, acting like kids...generally bothering no one. Again, I am white. Lots of these kids ask me about my dog and we talk. It's cool. It's almost like being IN A CITY.
No one has much cared when these same kids have been shot every night, as long as it has been "East of Troost Avenue," which in KC's quite segregated community, means the black neighborhoods.
Black kids in what has been sort of considered a playground for white folks and middle and upper class "others," now there is the rub, you see. Can't have that.
I ask where in the hell are these kids supposed to hang and be kids and be somewhat safe. There are no places like the Plaza, or even close, to hang out east of Troost. Not every kid (in fact, damned few) are interested in "midnight basketball," gatherings at a local community center with adult supervision, church, after school activities and the like, which is what old fogies always seem to come up with as an alternative to the dangers of the streets.
I need to add here that these same black kids used to hang out in Westport, which is a smaller entertainment district, famous for drunken white twenty something males. Westport didn't like the black kids being there and before you know they had been shooed away. Some African American kids with cars tried cruising in Swope Park and the city thought that was no good and they were shooed away.
So a 9PM curfew is starting tonight on the Plaza and several other "entertainment" districts in town. It begins slightly later in the neighborhoods. The mayor says he wants to protect the kids. Actually, because of who he is and where he comes from, I tend to believe him. As a matter of fact, until his encounter last weekend, he has opposed such a curfew. Still, the mayor is my age and his youth has passed him by. Apparently, unlike me, his memory of that youth has passed on as well.
Placing a curfew on an entire community of young people is in reality a military action, nothing less. It is a vast overreaction to an unreality of media making and white fear...and wealthy businessmen.
Until this city, Philadelphia, and this whole nation wake up to the endemic and unrelenting racism which is our history and which has left black youth living in poverty, living in danger, growing accustomed the sounds of gunfire, attending lousy schools, harassed constantly by police, with no job prospects, and incarcerated in huge numbers, all the curfews, all the talk, all the late night hoops programs, mean absolutely nothing.
Philadelphia and other cities are experiencing the results of the same system of Capital, of white supremacy, and racism that led to the recent rebellions in England - and will eventually lead to the same large scale uprisings in this country.
Meanwhile, Whitney and I will head on down to the Plaza tonight and tomorrow night and check out the scene. I fear that what we will find is that the white people will still be there, some older and middle class African Americans will still be there, the mobs of police that occupy the place every weekend will still be there - but the black kids will have been driven away and out of sight again.
America, love it or leave it.