Why They Kneel: Denver’s Mile High Inequality Vs. Kansas City, the Chiefs of Injustice

Illustration for article titled Why They Kneel: Denver’s Mile High Inequality Vs. Kansas City, the Chiefs of Injustice

To examine the injustice and inequality that prompted some NFL players to protest during the national anthem, each week, for the remainder of the NFL season, The Root will explore the data behind racial disparities in the two cities represented in the National Football League’s premiere matchup—Monday Night Football.


Tonight, the Denver Broncos took on the Kansas City Chiefs.

If Las Vegas casinos allowed legal betting on racism in NFL cities, most people would wager their mortgages that Kansas City, Mo., was more bigoted than Denver. After all, the Kansas City Police Department is known for shooting and killing black people.

That’s not hyperbole. When the city Portland, Ore., studied police brutality in 15 major cities in 2012, they found that only cops in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee shot more of their citizens than Kansas City, Mo., police officers. When the Kansas City Star compared Kansas City to 11 similar cities, the KCPD earned the bronze medal for police brutality, because only St. Louis and Cleveland recorded more fatal officer-involved shootings per capita from 2005 through 2014.

Even though they didn’t win the gold, when The Root applied our complex formula to Kansas City’s police shootings, the city did earn a distinction in one area. Here’s how many cops were charged or indicted by a Kansas City prosecutor or grand jury for killing a citizen between 2005 and 2016:



According to Mapping Police Violence’s police accountability tool, 12 of the 19 people killed by the Kansas City Police Department between January 2013 and December 2017 were black. Denver cops, by comparison, also killed 19 people during the same time period, but only one of the victims was black.

After all, Denver is a progressive stronghold filled with Hillary supporters and liberals in a blue state, Colorado. So of course, it isn’t as racist as Missouri, a state Trump won by 18 points.


However, despite what most people believe, the NFL protests sparked by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick were not about police brutality alone. The demonstrations were about the persistent injustice and inequality that can be found everywhere in America. And when you compare the actual data from the two cities, the poncho-wearing Denverites are a lot closer to red-state Kansas City than you think.

Let’s see how they match up:


According to a study by USA Today, in 2012, the Denver Police Department arrested 90.5 black people for every 1,000 people in the city, while only arresting 24.4 whites per 1,000. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Police Department arrested 112.8 out of every 1,000 residents while 34 out of every 1000 whites were arrested.


It seems like Colorado wins hands down, right?

Wait a minute. To correctly measure the difference, we must remember that blacks only make up 4.1 percent of Colorado’s population while they are 11.6 percent of Missouri’s citizenry. Considering the fact that Colorado has such a small population of blacks compared to Missouri, the fact that the Centennial State even comes close to Missouri is a testament to Denver’s overachievement in racism. While Missouri has one of the highest rates of imprisonment (more than any other country on earth), Colorado still locks up its black residents at a much higher rate. The ACLU’s “50 States of Incarceration” report notes this about Colorado:

Incarceration in Colorado has a profoundly disparate impact on communities of color. In 2017, at 2,058 per 100,000 adult residents, the imprisonment rate for Black adults in Colorado was nearly seven (6.9) times that of white adults. In 2014, Colorado had the ninth highest Black imprisonment rate in the country. Although they made up just 4 percent of the 2017 adult state population, Black people made up 18 percent of the Colorado prison population in 2017. In the same year, approximately one in 28 adult Black men in Colorado was in prison.


Yet, few states put more of its citizens behind bars than Missouri. According to the Sentencing Project, Missouri incarcerates 4.1 black people for every white person it imprisons. But Colorado beats Missouri by a long shot, sentencing 7.3 black people to prison for every white convict. Black juveniles in Missouri are 4 times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts. Colorado places African American children in some form of confinement six-and-a-half times more than it does white children.

Injustice Category Winner: Colorado


Let’s look at the data to see how each state measures up:

  • Income: According to Statistical Atlas, the median annual household income for non-Hispanic whites in Denver is $76,300. Black families earn $34,400, about 56.9 percent of what white families bring home. White families in Kansas City make about $60,400 per year, while black families earn $31,200 or 52 percent of their white counterparts.
  • Unemployment: The black unemployment rate in Missouri was 8.76, more than double the 3.8 rates of whites. 7.88 percent of African Americans in Denver were out of work, compared to 3.78 percent of whites. So the unemployment rate for whites was about the same in both locations, but blacks fared slightly worse in Kansas City.
  • Education: In 2010, one of the most segregated school systems boundaries in America existed in Sheridan, Colo., a suburb of Denver, according to NPR. In May, Chalkbeat noted that the segregation in Denver Public schools was worsening because of the city’s rapid gentrification. According to Vox, both cities have drawn school districts in a way that decreases racial segregation, but disparities between Denver’s richest suburbs and its minority suburbs are much more stark.
  • Housing: The gap between black and white home ownership is about the same in each city, but Denver’s black and Hispanic population still live in the same redlined districts drawn in the 1930s and 1940s. While Kansas City’s black population lives on the East side of the city, the white population resides on the west side. According to Zillow, 12 percent of Denver’s black homebuyers were denied a conventional loan, while 15.6 percent are denied in Kansas City.

Inequality Winner: Tie


It’s hard to quantify racism, but the Southern Poverty’s Law Center’s hate map lists 13 hate groups in the Denver area, while Kansas City only has one. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s map, there have been 32 white supremacist acts in Denver since 2008, while Missouri has 12, none of which happened in the Kansas City area.


In a city where the black population is 30 percent, 60 percent of the people killed by Kansas City Police officers between 2008 and 2016 were black. But don’t let Denver’s white liberal facade fool you. Denver’s black population is only 10 percent, yet 30 percent of the people shot by Denver police officers were black. 

Kansas City has its own barbecue and a black quarterback while Denver only has a shitty omelet. Plus, I feel like Denver is the city where one is most likely to run into a woman named Kaitlyn who wants you to try some of her vegan, low-carb potato salad that replaces potatoes with a locally-sourced root vegetable grown by the ancient Mayan people.


Like John Elway, I’ll pass.

Intangibles Winner: Denver

So there you have it, Denver defeats Kansas City in the inequality matchup, but I wouldn’t want to get caught kneeling in either city.


See you next week.

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.



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