In less than nine minutes, a Minneapolis police officer by the name of Derek Chauvin and the three stooges who accompanied him created arguably the nation’s biggest racial flashpoint since the 1991 Rodney King beating and riots that swept Los Angeles.
This time around, the racial blowback has fueled protests, riots, property damage and more killings nationally and even world wide. As if the most concerning and deadly pandemic in a century were not bad enough, every city of size in America is being affected by the actions of these four officers for the death of George Floyd.
When I saw the video the first time of this well-documented incident, I knew this would blow up instantly. Despite murders in every large city nearly daily, this one was different. The documentation was the differentiator and today every law enforcement agency in the nation and many victims of these protests are paying the price.
I contacted our colleague who publishes Twin Cities Business and warned her to brace for impact and to keep their Downtown office closed. I’m not surprised this incident would awaken a nation of protesters, but didn’t expect this matter to create as much panic.
Through a series of frustrating and well-documented vehicle thefts at Ingram’s in the Freighthouse District and the former Leeds GM plant where we have storage, we’ve gotten to know and have forged a relationship with KCPD Chief Rick Smith and several of his top officers. We’ve been communicating with KCPD over recent weeks.
Last week, as protests picked up intensity in Kansas City, came demands for Chief Smith to resign. Frankly, in my opinion this would be the worst thing that could possibly happen and I’ve encouraged him to remain strong through this clutter and keep his team strong, focused and sane. Despite what the protesters would have you believe, the KCPD team has done a good job during this unsettled time—much better than most other law enforcement agencies in large cities.
I read a lot of headlines in my line of work and know by most whether these are stories worth reading. The headlines coming out of Los Angeles to cut $150 million—yes, with an “m”—from the LAPD is ludicrous. Now I’m hearing the provocateurs in Minneapolis calling for the police department to be disbanded.
I grew up in a middle-income neighborhood near Tower Park in south KC and on our block was an equitable split of Catholic and Jewish families. How I can still remember our membership number (1714) to the Jewish Community Center, I have no clue. Many African American families lived in our neighborhood. Troost was then and remains today a dividing line. The largest black population on the Missouri side lives east of Troost from Midtown to 85th Street.
Stephan Hughes and I attended Rockhurst High School. His Mom, Mamie Hughes, gave me a ride home after football practice freshman year and I told her that Stephan and I were identical twins separated at birth and raised by different sets of parents. I didn’t realize then that Mamie was one of KC’s biggest civil-rights activists. We laugh about that comment still. The bottom line is that we are good friends living in similar communities and there was not an ounce of racial undercurrent.
Our next-door neighbors are Monica and Brent Stewart (Brent is the CEO of the United Way of Greater KC and the Stewarts are black). Last Saturday night we lit a fire on our beach across from the Longview Mansion and had a pretty enlightening conversation. Hearing Brent’s perspectives reiterates the need to align law enforcement, government and business leaders and really get to the root and address racial tensions and prejudices that run as deep today as at any time over the last few decades here.
One interesting thing we discussed is that there are not as many African American top business executives as there have been in recent years. Retired from active roles are strong leaders like Ralph Reed, Karen Daniels, Frank Ellis, John Bluford and others. There is a lot of weight on the shoulders of minority leaders.
It is time for leaders of business and government to align and focus on our future and to address and resolve issues concerning racial inequality once and for all.