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How Discriminatory Real Estate Practices Led To A Divided KC

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Author Tanner Colby wondered why almost none of his friends were black.

His curiosity led him to explore racial integration in America, and his search led him right to Kansas City where J.C. Nichols once enjoyed the dubious distinction of being a national leader in developing and maintaining all-white communities. 

In Colby's book, “Some of My Best Friends Are Black,” he examines the discriminatory real estate practices that led to a racial divide in Kansas City and all around the country.

Tanner Colby will be speaking with local writer Whitney Terrell at The Kansas City Public Library Wednesday, October 10th at 6:30.

KCUR's Susan Wilson sat down with Colby to talk about how neighborhoods impacts relationships, opportunity and the community.  You can hear the full interview above.

Interview Highlights

“I went back to look at all the various places in my life, the school that I went to, the neighborhoods I lived in, the places I had worked, and not only were they all lily white, they were all pretty textbook examples of the failures of integration.”

“Once white people internalized the idea that black neighborhoods would cost you money, not just social status, well then that wall was even higher and more impossible to tear down.”

“There was basically a J.C. Nichols in every major city. And they were all friends. And they were all involved in creating the National Association of Real Estate Boards and creating real estate board policy. And they were the ones who basically made it part of a realtor’s code of ethics nationwide that introducing an unfamiliar ethnic group to an all-white neighborhood was destabilizing.”

“A blockbuster would go in and buy a house themselves and then rent it to a black family. But they wouldn’t rent it to a middle class or working class black family that would be the typical type of family to live on that block. They would go and find recent released prison inmates—black people who fit the worst stereotypes that white people had. And then they would start calling all the white neighbors in the neighborhood and saying, ‘See, this is the element that is moving in to the neighborhood. Don’t you think you should get out?’ And it was all a scam.” 

 This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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