Thursday, October 11, 2007

Niecie's, KCUR, and Racism

One link, sent to me by my wife/muse, provokes 3 blog-worthy thoughts . . .

1. The Splendid Table, an American Public Radio program for foodies, recently visited Niecie's, a restaurant on the East Side. Jane and Michael Stern, pioneers of road food, do a nice segment on a classic soul-food restaurant right here in Kansas City. Go here to listen to it!

2. KCUR is a great public service provided by UMKC, and I appreciate it every time I listen to it, which is almost every day. But my love of the station does not blind me to its flaws. Walt Bodine must go. Also, the station is slow to adapt - we were among the last cities in the nation to get A Prairie Home Companion, and now we are behind the curve in picking up The Splendid Table, a wonderful show for the foodie in all of us. If Kansas Citians have to resort to podcasts to get the freshest and best shows on public radio, why bother with the broadcasts?

3. It's time to admit that I am a racist. I fear people who are different from myself, and I allow that fear to color my perception of the world, and my behavior in it.

Why haven't I been to Niecie's? I can come up with a dozen reasons centering on convenience or forgetfulness or whatever, but let's not fool ourselves. It's fear that's kept me away from Niecie's. It's racism that prevents me from going over to 5932 Prospect for lunch.

My racism may be slightly less obvious than that of the Johnson Countians I love to mock for being too afraid to come to Swope Park. And I'm too smart to be like Bill O'Reilly, who started the whole world laughing with his amazement that a restaurant in Harlem was just like a restaurant run by whites.

But let's not kid ourselves. The difference is one of degree, not one of nature. The same racist crap that colors O'Reilly's view of Sylvia's is coloring my view of Niecie's and dozens of other places. At least O'Reilly has been to Sylvia's . . .

The lamentable truth is that I, and others like me, have that scene from Animal House looping in our brains, where the gang of white kids walks into a bar to see Otis Day, and wind up having a large black man rip a table out of the way and asking "Do you mind if we dance wif yo dates?" in a scary baritone voice. A version of that scene flickers through our minds when the thought of going east of Troost comes up. And, so, we choose someplace more comfortable.

(Can you imagine if a black guy were as fearful as I am? Can you imagine a black guy sitting in the Grand Street Cafe or PF Chang's, nervously aware that he's the only black person in there? Ridiculous! He couldn't get anywhere in the business world if he were as racist as I am.)


I'll get myself over to Niecie's pretty soon. It'll be an adventure. I'll feel like a tourist, and a bit of an exhibitionist. "Look at me, black people, I'm boldly going where few white men go!" And I'll be full of insufferable superiority when I tell my less adventurous white friends about my expedition.

Maybe, just maybe, if I do it often enough, the sharpest and most prominent jagged edges of my racism will get knocked off or worn down. And I'll "pass" as a liberal non-racist. But don't let me fool you. It's been there all my life, and I'll carry it to the grave. Bury my heart in Johnson County.

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14 Comments:

Anonymous kccoug said...

Actually, the time I went to Niece's, the clientele was about 1/3 white. Disclaimer: I went with African-American co-workers who had suggested it. But I'd definitely go back. It was good, but, in my opinion, a better soul food place is Peachtree Buffet at 6800 Eastwood Trafficway (not the Peachtree at 18th and Vine).

10/11/2007 8:11 AM  
Blogger emawkc said...

I guess maybe there's a fine line between racism and prudence. I'm not saying that only black people shoot people. And I don't mean to characterize the 59th and Prospect area specifically as dangerous.

But given a choice between KCMO's east side in general and the rest of the metro (in general), I'd probably frequent the areas with the fewest rolling gun battles.

Just sayin'.

10/11/2007 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

Dan:

We disagree a lot, but I write today to commend you here for your basic honesty.

There's not a single human being on the planet who does not have the same basic issues. It doesn't make you a racist, certainly not as that term is understood in our culture.

It makes you human. And more important, you're aware of that humanity and can deal with it. The real issue isn't whether you have those perceptions, it is, indeed, how you deal with them. I have no doubt that you'll deal with them rightly. You'll do just fine.

10/11/2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Shicho said...

d00d -

i've stop by now and again: as i disagree with your politics, it's not often.

however i admire the painful honesty of this post.

Be heartened - "(Can you imagine if a black guy were as fearful as I am?..." .

yes, i can. i spent 6 years with uncle sam's big green machine and the entire time i was a minority: the ratio when i served was close to 75% black, 20% white, the rest other.

opens your eyes to a lot of things, number one being people everywhere are basicly all the same - some of us just get to live better from birth because of our pigmentation, or lack thereof...

be brave: making fun of yourself works, as you have discovered. and keep working at it: you DON'T want to die with the soul of a Johnson Countian - what if there IS a 'god'?

10/11/2007 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Eastsider said...

A good start, but don't pat yourself on the back too hard. Instead of crowing to your white friends, vow to do more by taking them to lunch with you. Visit other places on the eastside as well - you can visit viablethird.com for roadmap on where to go and what to expect. I love your honesty of admitting your racism (no matter how mild), but do something about it. And visiting Niece's is not enough, but all journeys start with a single step...

10/11/2007 11:41 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Question: Would you all think the same if you were a woman, alone?

10/11/2007 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eastsider - wow, you really come off as a self-satisfied, smug prick. I don't recall seeing Dan ask for your advice or approval.

I suppose you believe you don't have any racism in you, huh?

As for Viablethird, Dan introduced that site to me with his post a week and a half ago. He's pretty well-informed, for a honky.

10/11/2007 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mayor has had breakfast there on numerous occasions.....I believe I even saw him there with Senator Claire several months ago. I guess I don't quite see what the big deal is here. People have been going to Arthur Bryants, Peach Tree etc. for years. I didn't even know Nieces existed until 10-12 months ago, besides it's off the beaten path for most people who don't live in the area. I don't go over to the west for breakfast either, unless it is an appointed destination. I don't even know what is over there.

I really think that some people go out of their way to look for reasons to cry 'racism.'

Were any of you at the Mayor's town hall meeting last night? If you missed that "event," you can watch it on Channel 2. It was filmed and is worth watching.

10/11/2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/11/2007 10:51 PM  
Blogger Ambitious Fledgling said...

Once you live in Grandview for a year you overcome racism quickly. Howver, don't let racism stop you from visiting Niece's.. lol let the horrible service... it was absolutely HORRIBLE. I went to the one in Raytown... awful, awful, and awful. I would never go back. If you want to try real soul food.. try Papa Lew's Soul Delicious Food on 12th Street.

10/12/2007 9:54 AM  
Blogger Shicho said...

Curious: what happened to your policy of explaining while you delete comments?

10/12/2007 8:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I didn't delete it. "Deleted by the author" must mean deleted by the author of the comment.

I have only deleted one comment for content reasons (other than a few Levitra ads) in the entire life of this blog.

10/13/2007 8:13 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Travelingal -

You raise an entirely different issue, and I would not go anywhere by myself where I felt truly unsafe. Now, some people feel truly unsafe anywhere east of Metcalf, and that's sad. But there are real threats, and imaginary threats. Because you are a woman, I acknowledge that your real threats are severe than mine.

10/13/2007 8:18 AM  
Blogger Shicho said...

got you...

10/14/2007 6:51 PM  

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