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Racist redlining language found in Roeland Park property documents

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Yellow and black sign with two stylized trees and the text: Roeland Park. The sign is surrounded by wildflowers and greenery
Shawnee Mission Post
In Roeland Park, Kansas, at least 13 property documents contain discriminatory redlining language.

Removing the language would be expensive for the city, but a proposed Kansas executive order would simplify the process.

When Curtis Herrera moved to Roeland Park, Kansas, five years ago, he was confident that this would be a good place to raise his kids.

But when a former resident of his house shared the original deed, Herrera, who identifies as "Latin and Native," was taken aback by the racist language in the document.

Herrera’s deed states, “Said land is sold upon the express condition that it shall not during the period of 25 years . . . be sold or conveyed to or occupied by a Negro . . . except outbuildings.”

"We are here in the United States,” Herrera says, “And those things are still coming up and they still need to be dealt with."

Surprised that Roeland Park had yet to address the redlining language, Herrera joined the Roeland Park Racial Equity Committee.

In Roeland Park, at least 13 documents in plats, deeds, and homeowner associations' papers contain discriminatory redlining language which is illegal to act on. This type of language is present in property documents throughout Kansas and the nation and Roeland Park has agreed to pay the legal fees of anyone going to court to fight discrimination based on these documents.

Despite no longer being legal, the language of these documents is still exclusionary to Roeland Park residents of color.

When he was chairman of the business advisory group for the Racial Equity Committee, Herrera was tasked with making the city more diverse. "How can I create and make Roeland Park more diverse if you're not going to deal with this issue first?" he asks.

The Roeland Park city council has looked into removing the language. City Attorney Steve Maurer estimates this would cost at least $240,000, which would include re-surveying the properties and getting signatures from all affected residents.

The Kansas chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) proposes this state-wide solution. There are two options for doing this, an executive order or passing a bill through the legislature.

Moussa Elbayoumy, board chair of CAIR - Kansas, is calling on Governor Laura Kelly to bypass complications in the legislature and issue an executive order.

In an interview on Up To Date, Governor Kelly said, “I can't do that. I don't have that kind of control.” Kelly favors a legislative approach, saying, “The fastest, easiest, most cost-effective way to deal with this would be to have the legislature just do something blanket that would help all of our local communities.”

While the restrictive covenant language is part of Roeland Park's history, Herrera and Elbayoumy agree that it does not belong in present-day Kansas. Elbayoumy says, "This is an ugly symbol from the past . . . and we're trying to leave part of our history behind."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Eleanor Nash is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date. You can reach her at enash@kcur.org
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