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Kansas City Councilwoman Says Colleague's Apology And Mayor's Response Over Racist Incident Falls Short

Councilwoman Melissa Robinson makes a floor speech during a city council meeting August 6, 2020.
City of Kansas City, Missouri
Councilwoman Melissa Robinson makes a floor speech during a city council meeting August 6, 2020.

Melissa Robinson says Teresa Loar's public apology failed to acknowledge that her actions were racist.

Kansas City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson says councilwoman Teresa Loar's apology this week over racist remarks was insufficient and that Mayor Quinton Lucas' reprimand also fell short.

On Friday, a day after the apology, Robinson called on Lucas to remove Loar from a significant committee and said the implicit bias training the council recently mandated for all city employees is even more urgent now.

"Because if we believe in inclusivity, if we believe in diversity, if we believe in dismantling racism, if we believe in being anti-racist then that needs to be demonstrated,” Robinson said.

Loar, who represents the Second District in the Northland, issued a public apology Thursday — two weeks after she accused Robinson of not writing her own floor speech and physically mocking her.

“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," Loar said Thursday. "I hope you can forgive me and will support me in my efforts to do better and let the healing begin."

During a City Council meeting on July 23, Robinson made a speech opposing the privatization of Animal Control services. Following her speech, Loar implied that Robinson, who is Black, didn’t write it and that it was written by union forces.

“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 by putting her hands on her hips — a move considered by many to suggest the “angry Black woman” stereotype.

But Robinson told KCUR Friday that Loar’s apology missed the mark by not even mentioning racism.

“I’m not able to move past this until there’s a recognition of the racist behavior,” Robinson said. “We’re not able to grow if we’re not able to recognize what the challenge is.”

Robinson also said an apology from Lucas wasn’t strong enough.

Addressing the full council Thursday, Lucas said that the city council should be “a model for good decorum and respect” and that the interaction between Loar and Robinson fell short of that standard.

Robinson said there’s much more work to be done before the issue is resolved.

“This incident is not about only respect and decorum. This issue is about, how is it that when we as council members witness racist behaviors, how are we standing up to assure that we’re not tolerating those behaviors,” Robinson said.

Along with her public apology, Loar agreed to undergo implicit bias training. Robinson says she’s standing with a coalition of civil rights organizations calling for Loar’s removal as the chair of the city’s transportation committee.

“The mayor has to make this judgment about, is this the type of leadership that we need at city council?”

Robinson was behind legislation passed by the council two weeks ago that would require all city employees receive training on unconscious biases and racism.

Implicit biases are deeply ingrained stereotypes that affect people’s attitudes toward others based on several race, ethnicity or age that are often in direct contradiction to people’s espoused values.

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.
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