KC: More Blueblood Than Redneck
The Kansas City Star
When a real estate website Movoto issued a list of the Most Redneck Cities in America, Kansas Citians were shocked to find our town ranked number two in the nation. As the Star reported yesterday, Kansas City, Missouri, was named the second most redneck city in America, behind only Atlanta, Georgia, and ahead of places including Oklahoma City and Nashville.
The study, which feels more like provocation than scholarship, was flawed to say the least. Redneck rankings were based in part on criteria including gun stores per capita and percentage of citizens that don’t finish high school, apparently on the theory that only so-called “rednecks” drop out of school or use guns.
How would our ranking have changed if the study included other data as well, like a city’s dedication to the arts. KC could have gotten points for having a world-class museum in the Nelson-Atkins; currently preparing to open a dazzling exhibit of masterworks by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. We could have gotten points for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, not the sort of venue one usually finds in redneck towns.
Performing at Kauffman this weekend is the Kansas City Ballet, another art form not known for being beloved by rednecks. KCB, despite the occasional lapse into campiness, can be as good as any company in the country, as witnessed by this weekend’s season-concluding program, which includes a must-see, world premiere work by the iconic choreographer Karole Armitage.
The true irony is that Kansas City, if anything, is extraordinarily snooty for a medium-sized Midwestern city. It has been that way for decades, too, at least since Evan S. Connell wrote his “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” novels about the matrons of Mission Hills.
With our fountains and boulevards, our outsized passion for culture, and aspirations of being “the Paris of the Plains,” we have long been a city more interested in living like bluebloods than in acting like rednecks. KC may be down-home in some ways. (Our passion for sports and a certain favorite local cuisine comes to mind.) But we are just as pretentious as we can possibly be about the arts, and that’s a form of pretense that makes this purported redneck proud.