Lewis Diuguid

Racial, ethnic inequities in Kansas City region threaten its future

The Kansas City area’s history of racial segregation and discrimination are catching up to it, jeopardizing its future.

A new report, “An Equity Profile of the Kansas City Region,” explains that racial inequities combined with an increasing minority population in the nine-county area place this community economic future at risk. The study explains what people have known for years.

It’s unsustainable to have wealthy, white areas segregated from minorities, living in Third World conditions. Yet, that has described the Kansas City area for decades.

The Mid-America Regional Council commissioned the report with local partners, including Communities Creating Opportunity, the Green Impact Zone, the Latino Civic Engagement Collaborative, the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equality and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. The increasing minority population makes correcting the inequities in income, health and opportunities an urgent concern.

Already, Wyandotte County is a majority-minority community. The report says that Jackson County will become a majority-minority area in 2040, and Johnson County will be more than 40 percent people of color.

But Kansas City already ranks 104th among the largest 150 regions in the nation in income inequality. Also, one of every four African Americans and Latinos live below the poverty level here compared with one in 14 whites. Whites also have the lowest poverty rate among working poor.

Poverty already is moving to the suburbs. The share of the poor living in the suburbs increased from 41 percent to 53 percent between 2000 and 2011.

Improving education for everyone is part of the answer. But this community also must lose its racial and ethnic prejudices, bring down the walls that separate people and create more health care, safety, job, training and housing opportunities for everyone.

Unless we do, the future looks bleak.