Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Photograph - Race Politics Art

Last week in The Star our new mayor challenged Kansas Citians to compare two intersections of our city: 27th & Prospect and 63rd & Brookside. I could picture 63rd & Brookside but to be honest 27th & Prospect was not a place I could see in my mind. So even thought it’s off the path I thought the mayor had a good idea. Here are pictures of those two intersections (click on the picture to see it larger).

27th & Prospect

63rd & Brookside

As Mayor Funkhouser said-
“I don’t know a lot about race relations, but I do know it ought to be better. I know racism is a huge problem. What I do know about is how to run a city. It ought to be as attractive, as safe and as nice at 27th and Prospect as anywhere else in the city. And the majority community as well as the minority community will move better when that’s fixed.”

I have to give credit to the artist, Matt Wycoff, former Kansas Citian now living in Brooklyn, for helping to keep the question of race and our city so present in my mind. His bold project of training as a white male for a marathon in some of our poorest neighborhoods tells much about race relations in our city. Starting in the spring of 2002 Matt began his training-

“I executed this action over a period of four months from the beginning of May to the end of August 2002. As is to be expected with almost anything of this nature reactions varied from disturbing and obvious to reassuring and depressing. In the beginnings verbal and physical abuse was prevalent and it was apparent that aspects of these communities harbored obvious frustration towards whites. During the course of these four months I was the object of close to two hundred verbal attacks and three physical attacks. I was jeered at, laughed at, spit on, kicked, chased, pushed, swerved at by cars and told to; “Get the ---- out of my neighborhood”. I was the target of thrown bottles and rocks, and I was warned several times about being seriously hurt or killed if I continued this action. I met several children that asked for my assistance in various things from pulling a bike from a ditch to coming up with rap lyrics. I was accused of being a narcotics officer. I received over thirty smiles from strangers. I was intimidated into smoking a cigarette on a street corner and chased by a group of young men waiting for the bus. I was a participant in nearly twenty five friendly waves and was the recipient of a hand shake from a skeptical, but good natured, man at a garage... My integration into these areas was minimal but sustained. I came to be familiar with several people and groups as I passed almost every day through their neighborhoods. The verbal and physical attacks directed towards me went down substantially and the amount of friendly gestures went up as the project continued....”

My suggestion for the mayor would be to try and talk Matt into being his driver for a while, whatever car Funk chooses to drive.

Check out Matt’s web site for the complete story.

1 comment:

Post_Fidelitas said...

Wow, I am amazed to read about Matt's experience of marathon training and KC racial divisions. I do long distance running around my neighborhood (28th+Prospect) and I find Matt's observations to be amusing but sadly a little too true to my own experience as a white runner on KC's east side. I often have old people ask if I'm being chased, while young people try all kinds of bluffs to cause intimidation.
Anyhow, I am glad that Mayor Funkhouser is talking about the east side of KC and seems to understand that Prospect and its sparse economic activity must be addressed.