Op-ed: Westport privatization is problematic

Nick Moreno

Last week, a Buzzard Beach bartender, who goes by Alobar Bandaloop on Facebook, posted a staunch message on the social media platform. The post detailed an encounter with an off-duty Westport security guard.

“Past being a completely trash person, this person works for Westport Security,” Bandaloop wrote in his Facebook post.

The post continues, recounting the security guard entered the establishment and ordered a “Trayvon Martini” from the bartender.

“One shot of vodka, watermelon juice, and it only takes one shot because it only takes one shot to put him down!” Bandaloop wrote the security guard said while making his order.

According to the post, the bartender reported the offense to his superiors. Nothing was done.

The Facebook post, however, gained steam. And according to a KCUR report, the individual was eventually laid off by Chelsey Brown International, the company that supplies security guards to Westport.

According to the same KCUR report, the alleged perpetrator has worked for the company for two years. He also received a mandated racial bias training. Now, we are left with questions and concerns.

Kansas City received national attention when the city council voted to privatize Westport sidewalks. The ordinance allows Westport businesses to own their sidewalks. The rule gives businesses freedom to set up metal detectors that are mandatory to enter the district.

Early this year, KCUR reported that the local NAACP is planning to fight the ordinance.

Last week’s events are the first major reported incident of bias from Westport security. After all, the city has employed “civil observers” and required “racial bias training” as part of the privatization.

But, what happens when observers are not present? How can security guards who order “Trayvon Martinis” work without implementing their own racial bias? And, how can a person, that is so reckless and colorful in his racism, go two years employed for a company that is in compliance with racial bias protocols? Possibly he served Westport with utmost honor and integrity, but we do not know.

Maybe, the protocols are not effective, or maybe there are easy loopholes.

The decision to privatize was made to make Westport a safer area. All the talk is about the violence. Westport businesses lobbied to get the ordinance approved. The district couldn’t thrive if people were scared to be in Westport.

Keeping Westport safe is a business decision, not a moral one. Safety is also a subjective term. Safety to Johnson County parents, who see their children going to Westport, is different than physical safety. The district wants to be attractive to those parents, and attractiveness may mean keeping a certain type of people away.

As a person of color, voluntarily subjecting myself to searches and increased authority is terrifying. Historically, people of color mistrust authority (and for good reason). The added encounter with law enforcement will drive away some people of color. Also, the encounters could lead to something far worse.

Either way, the district will ultimately get what they want: A whiter Westport.

Discrimination can easily happen when you are trying to change the aesthetics of an area. The move looks more and more like it is trying to keep certain people out of the district than keeping it safe.

nfmxdd@mail.umkc.edu

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