Reckoning with racism in Johnson County: A history of exclusion

The diversity task force was created after a summer of marches and protests in Prairie Village, such as the State Line Road march pictured above. Although the task force is looking into all types of diversity such as racial, religious and sexual orientation, a main focus is attracting and retaining racially diverse residents. Fie photo.

Editor’s note

This is Part 1 of a three-part series examining Johnson County’s history of racist housing policies and the impact those policies still have on our community today. Look for Parts 2 and 3 on Wednesday and Thursday.

Widespread protests following the killing of George Floyd have sparked a wave of reckoning with structural racism in the United States this summer. And some local leaders believe the nationwide movement provides an opportunity for Johnson County to better come to terms with its own racist past.

“As much as we’d like to, we can’t deny that Johnson County has benefited from historic racial injustice and continues to do so,” County Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick said at a meeting in June. “People need to recognize our county is in many ways built on racism…Every day black people in Johnson County have to live with the assumption they don’t belong here.”