Kansas City is booming. Employers and investors have poured into the midwestern city since the recession. At least $1bn has gone into its sparkling new downtown, revitalized arts district and shiny new condos. So why is Sly James, its highly regarded outgoing mayor, so unhappy?
James, who steps down in July 2019, is leaving office with a sense of disappointment that despite Kansas City’s obvious accomplishments, the city’s recovery has left one large section of society behind: African Americans.
About 30% of Kansas City’s population is black. Every month, seemingly, Donald Trump uses Twitter to trumpet how well black people have done under his presidency. Nationwide African American unemployment is now 6.5%, down from a peak of 16.8% at the height of the recession.
But national numbers in a country as big as the US can be misleading. For many African Americans in the Kansas City area, the spoils of a roaring recovery have passed them by.
“The impact of all things racial has left neighborhoods divided and segregated and that leads to a perpetuation of things like poverty and lack of opportunity,” says James, adding he would “have to disagree [with anyone] who says that the real African American unemployment situation is 5.9%”.