Kansas City, MO is talking about Race - and bringing Data to the Conversation

Here at mySidewalk, we are proud to call the city of Kansas City, MO home. However, we recognize our community has long struggled with the effects of racial segregation and how to bridge gaps in opportunity for people of color.

This history is why we applaud Mayor Sly James for opening a community conversation about race relations in the city, to work together to address where public and institutional policies are deepening economic and social divides. A community forum held recently was the first in a series of public conversations about race, with the goal of moving away from fear and blame and towards addressing embedded systems that perpetuate inequality.

Pictured: Dia Wall, Pakou Her, Dr. Sarah Martin, Mayor Sly James

Pictured: Dia Wall, Pakou Her, Dr. Sarah Martin, Mayor Sly James

Kansas City Race and Equity Initiative: A Community Commitment to Racial Equity

The conversation, hosted by Mayor Sly James, Kansas City Health Department's Deputy Director Dr. Sarah Martin, and racial equity coach PaKou Her, made clear distinctions between interpersonal racism and institutional racism, which refers to how historical developments and current policies place people of color at a disadvantage - independently of the actions of any single person, but which can be dismantled and changed by the community and strong leadership.

The organizers demonstrated how deeply these issues are affecting our community. They used one of mySidewalk’s interactive reports to present data on how historical policies and decades of inaction create inequities and how these inequities get under the skin. The value of bringing data to these difficult, and emotional, conversations was how clearly the data validates and communicates the painful reality people of color face. Data helped give a voice to those who need it most and provided a platform for changing the narrative.

View the dashboard: https://reports.mysidewalk.com/d0f367ce40

Dr. Martin emphasized how the stress of poverty and racial prejudice shortens the lives of our neighbors of color. In just a seven minute drive on 63rd Street, from the white, affluent neighborhoods in the west, to the majority black communities to the east, life expectancy declines by over ten years.  

For the audience, maternal mortality became a rallying point: black women in Missouri face well over double the mortality rate of white women, at a rate of 65 deaths compared to 28 per 100,000 live births. When asked how women of color should protect themselves during pregnancy, Martin flipped the question: “What do healthcare providers do to better serve women of color? What are medical schools doing to teach culturally competent medical care?”  The response highlighted the spirit of the conversation: to re-examine how the world around black residents constrains their outcomes - and how we as a community can remove the barriers.

For people of color, it is literally a matter of life and death.

Mayor James urged that we all can create change in our community, with a call to action that anyone can answer: “Get out of your comfort zone...see something you haven’t seen, do something you haven’t done with people you don’t normally do it with.”

Residents and community members are also invited to be a growing part of the Race and Equity Initiative:

We at mySidewalk believe in the power of data to empower community transformation, and are deeply grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Kansas City Health Department to bring together the the tools and visualizations presented by the Race and Equity Initiative. Great communities are a group effort, and we hope to continue to do our part here at home. To learn how your community can harness data to track and improve equity, reach out on the mySidewalk website.