On Saturday, Kansas City Mayor Sly James made a fiery speech allegedly about gun violence but mostly about getting young people to vote to put Missouri back into Democratic hands. “Keep up the fight. Keep it up long enough enough to make the change,” said James. “We own this state. It is ours. We have got to do the things necessary to protect your lives and everyone else. It’s us.”
On Sunday, James’s city recorded its 28th homicide, putting it on a pace ahead of last year’s near record 150 murders. This juxtaposition is no longer ironic. It is just business as usual.
What was surprising about James’s speech at Kansas City’s Theis Park was how nakedly political it was. “Everybody here over the age of 18, if you really want to make the changes you are here fighting and walking and talking about, you must absolutely vote,” shouted Sly.
James continued, “You must vote for people who have the guts to say, ‘I will do what is right not what is political.’ You must vote for people who understand that we can do better with controlling guns and keeping them out of the hands of the people who should’t have them without eliminating the second amendment.”
There was something sadly disingenuous about the whole speech. During James’s tenure, the murder rate in Kansas City has reached levels not seen since the crack epidemic struck the city some 25 years ago. This past year, the city’s homicide rate was 33 times higher than neighboring Johnson County’s despite the relative ease of obtaining a weapon in Kansas and the high level of gun ownership in Johnson County.
A politician who is willing to “do what is right not what is political” would have addressed this disparity. James was in an excellent position to do so. As an African American, he could have spoken about the primary cause of the disparity, not just in homicides but in any number of other negative variables, namely the collapse of the black family in the inner city.
James chose not to. As was evident on Saturday, he is more comfortable with Democratic talking points, including the comfortless bromide about the Second Amendment.
“You should vote for people who you meet and you talk to and they answer the question, ‘Are you going to support our kids and end this violence?’ If they say ‘yes’ and tell you how, vote for them. If they equivocate or say ‘no,’ get them out of there.”
James has had seven years to support the kids and end the violence. He has obviously not succeeded. The question is, did he ever really try?