© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kansas City Mayor Orders Implicit Bias Training For Councilwoman After She Mocks A Black Colleague

Kansas City councilwoman Teresa Loar made a public apology to Councilwoman Melissa Robinson Thursday, two weeks after she made comments many considered racist.
The move follows an incident last month, in which Loar implied Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, who is Black, didn’t write her own speech.

The move follows an incident last month in which Loar implied a Black colleague didn't write her own speech.

The Kansas City Council offered a lesson in racial sensitivity Thursday which resulted in Mayor Quinton Lucas ordering Councilwoman Teresa Loar to undergo implicit bias training in the next seven days for mocking a Black colleague during a public meeting.

“I do hope that even though the world is tense ... that we will treat each other with respect and understand when we fall short, that it’s necessary and essential that we do better and that we try to make it right, however we can,” Lucas said.

During a City Council meeting Thursday, July 23, Councilwoman Melissa Robinson made a floor speech opposing the privatization of Animal Control services. Following her speech, Loar implied that Robinson, who is Black, didn’t write her speech.

“That was a very nice speech someone wrote you, Miss Robinson,” Loar said. “My guess it’s Labor somewhere.”

It was followed by a gesture in which Loar appeared to mock Robinson physically, by putting her hands on her hips — a move considered by many to suggest the “angry Black woman” stereotype.

Robinson told KCUR that the exchange was hurtful and insulting.

“Her remarks I believe, from a personal perspective, had a racial undertone, but her gesturing was certainly racist,” Robinson said.

A group of civil rights organizations and Black church leaders earlier Thursday demanded Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas remove Loar as chair of the city’s transportation committee over the comments.

In a virtual press conference Thursday afternoon, Rev. Dr. Vernon Howard, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City said that Loar’s inability to understand her comments were injurious is evidence of racism.

“If one does not understand that questioning the intelligence and making judgments upon the emotional state or stature of an African American person or woman in 2020 in America, if you do not understand that that is part of the racist pathology that exists, the social sin of racism that exists in this country, which is not a fad, but which is a 400-year fight that our people are still fighting right now? We will not be silent,” Howard said.

Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City, detailed a list of offenses by Loar, including another occasion in June during which Loar argued on the council floor that she was not racist by reading a list of prominent Black people she calls friends.

“When you have to read a list of Black people you know to prove you are not a racist, in effect, you're verifying your racism,” Grant said.

But she added that while Loar’s comments two weeks ago were appalling, so too were the reactions from her peers on the council.

“Equally appalling is the loud silence of Mayor Lucas and members of the council who witnessed Loar's explicitly racist behavior and did nothing to hold her accountable,” Grant said.

Grant said the coalition would not accept any action from the Mayor short of removing Loar from her leadership positions.

“Censuring Loar will be yet another slap in the face of Councilwoman Robinson and the African American community,” Grant said.

The Mayor’s office told KCUR that Grant is scheduled to meet with Lucas Friday morning.

Late Thursday afternoon, Loar issued a public apology to Robinson and the remainder of her City Council colleagues.

“I've always thought as a rule to treat others as I wanted to be treated in this case, I fell far short of that principle. I hope you can forgive me and will support me in my efforts to do better and let the healing begin,” Loar said.

Lucas said Loar agreed to undergo the unconscious bias training. Implicit biases are deeply ingrained stereotypes that affect people’s attitudes toward others based on several race, ethnicity or age.

Ironically, Loar made the offensive comments at a meeting during which the Council voted to require that all city employees receive training on unconscious biases and racism. The resolution was introduced by Robinson.

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.