How the Kansas City Riots of 1968 Affected Race Relations
This paper examines the impact of the Kansas City Riots on race relations in the city in the late 1960s and in the present. The Kansas City riot of 1968 was motivated by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jnr and other events occurring in the city during the time. The strained relationship between the authorities and the locals was the major contributory the April 1968 riots, and it led to further deterioration of race relations. The students were agitated by the government's failure to close schools on the day of Martin Luther King's burial terming it as a lack of respect for the King. The students engaged in a peaceful demonstration but the police use of teargas on the protesters sparked the riot. The 1968 riot in Kansas City worsened race relations in the city as it awakened many emotions that started a war between the blacks and the whites on many aspects of life including education, justice, politics and the social aspects of life.
The interview of the three riot participants gives a picture of what transpired during the period after the King's death. As told by the interviewees, the students in Kansa boycotted school and were to match to the board of education offices to air their grievances on their failure to close school to honor the departed king. What was meant to be a peaceful matching turned out to be something else as the protestors broke down windows at the school and ransacked the cafeteria(Bechtel). This as explained in the interview was because some of the store owners treated them as criminals whenever they visited the shops to an extent of searching them before leaving the store. Being treated with suspicion in their home town made them bitter and therefore, by breaking into these stores was a way for them to get justice for the ill treatment, and discrimination.According to Harry Ross, even after the police threw tear gas, the students were determined to match downtown and present their grievances to the town Mayor. From the interview, the students felt that the police were enjoying gassing them even though they were just walking down town(Horn). It felt like they police viewed them as lesser beings with no right to protest. The black Negros as they were called were treated as criminals even when they were law abiding citizens of the United States of America. The police used excessive force in managing the situation and they seemed to enjoy it. These acts further deteriorated the already strained relationship between the police and the Black-Americans. People that are supposed to protect the people were now against them. As proved in these interviews, the Kansa City riots made a very huge negative impact in the racial relationships.
The Kansas City riots also worsened race relations between the students and city residents with the police. In an interview by Kenneth King on Keith Hinch, a student participant in the riots, the interviewee explains that seeing so many police officers deployed with tear gas masking whilst they were only listening to the Mayor drove the students crazy(Hinch). They were already dealing with the loss of their King and seeing so much police they felt like they were being overpowered which didn't sit well with them. Their feeling towards the police and the other race was that of hate and disgust as portrayed by the three interviewees, where one admitted that if he had a pistol and shoot to kill the officers without caring whether he died or not(Bechtel). The police gassing the kids prompted them to throw brocks and break glasses as this made them really mad. As Harry Rose puts it, they felt that the white man was really messing up with them and therefore, they felt that they should respond harshly. The Negros felt that they were being treated as such because the authorities thought since Missouri used to be a slave state, they didn't have rights and hence they wanted to prove them wrong.As Harry Ross said, some of the police were just throwing tear gas and laughing it out in broad daylight(Ross). This act of mockery agitated the people of Kansas who were already hurting. Interview respondent Keith Hinch reveals that students were skeptical about joining the United States army because he did not see what the government was doing for him, and his fellow Blacks(Hinch). He was convinced after the riot that the Black needed to fight for their rights and oppression in order to raise their social status now that Martin Luther King Jnr had been killed. According to the testimony from Sergeant Wilson, the police only threw the teargas after a bottle was thrown at them to disperse the crowd. However, as told by the interviewed protestors, the number of police with teargas masks deployed downtown was overwhelming despite the fact they only listening to the Mayor's speech (Wilson). The 1968 Kansas City riots made a difference in race relations as they created an atmosphere of hate and resistance.
In my opinion, the 1968 riot in Kansa City did worsen race relations in the city in the late 1960s, but it secured respect and peace between races, which prevails in 2016. The riots stirred some emotions within the Black people in that they wanted change. The fight fordeliverance from oppression, discrimination and fighting for their rights since they were no longer slaves but part of the United States citizens. The riots acted as a wakeup call to the black community to rise up and fight for their rights. This fight has bore fruits as part of the black emancipation that has placed blacks in great positions across the nation, including the first Black President in the United States of America.In Kansas City, we have black judges, lawyers, engineers, the best doctors, policemen and scholars. The relationship between the whites and the blacks has greatly improved in the city, and this can be attributed to the 1968 riot that was aimed to end oppression.
The Kansas City riots created a determination by the Blacks to fight for their place in the society, to be heard and treated as equal being with rights. In those days the Black people were regarded as lesser beings that did not deserve equal treatment as the white race. The war for equality and equity which has been fought for decades has been won. Though the 1968 riot in Kansas City deteriorated race relations that were already poor, it was an important element in the emancipation of the black people, and it has produced the intended effect because there has been a tremendous improvement in race relations in the city, where everyone is now regarded as an equal being in the eyes of the law, and oppression and discrimination is miniscule if at all existent.