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When We Talk About Troost, Are We Talking About Race?

Paul Sableman
Flickr -- CC

To conclude KCUR's extended investigation of Troost Avenue as a border that Kansas Citians perceive as a dividing line, Central Standard asked a question that often goes unspoken. That is, when we talk about Troost, as a city, are we really talking about race?

In response to the Pitch's weekly questionnaire, Tricia Bushnell said that "Kansas City got it wrong when it became acceptable to use 'East of Troost' as a euphemism for race."

A panel of guests who live and work on the street discussed whether the symbolic currency of Troost is useful, or if it deepens and reinforces historic divisions. The panelists agreed that a new kind of conversation, be it an increased focus on economics or a shift to action and participation, is in order.

Quotes from our panelists on Kansas City's approach to discussing Troost and race

Daniel Serda, Insite Planning:

"If you think about the idea of a 'meme,' the way we talk about these trends and buzzwords that populate the Internet and a lot of our popular discourse, what they are is a potent way of oversimplifying a complex reality. And that's what I think the phrase 'East of Troost' does."

Tricia Bushnell, The Midwest Innocence Project:

"When we think historically, yes, Troost has been a racial term, and that becomes part of our social language. And so when we say it, I think that a lot of folks aren't thinking about it. That doesn't mean it isn't [about race]."

Rodney Knott, Re-Engage:

"Is it fair to say that someone is a racist because they don't want to live in an area that has a large population of abandoned homes, that is in a school system that's not educating the children, that has very few services, economic opportunities... if a person chooses not to live there, is that person racist?"

Pete Hughes, Neighborhood Activist:

"I think there's no sense in ignoring the history of Troost Avenue. But I think that when you live there and you get down to the day-to-day process of living in the area and working in a neighborhood, my experience is that I tend to forget about the racial differences."


People don't make cameos in news stories; the human story is the story, with characters affected by news events, not defined by them. As a columnist and podcaster, I want to acknowledge what it feels like to live through this time in Kansas City, one vantage point at a time. Together, these weekly vignettes form a collage of daily life in Kansas City as it changes in some ways, and stubbornly resists change in others. You can follow me on Twitter @GinaKCUR or email me at gina@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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