Kansas City is a metropolis that straddles many divides, both geographic and social. In fact, Kansas City is split between Kansas and Missouri. There are parts of the city where a single step will land you in an entirely different jurisdiction.
In U.S. schools, students are taught that Kansas and Missouri are both Midwestern states, and yet the debate rages on: Is Kansas City a Southern metropolis? Or is it Midwestern? It seems the city is a bit Southern in terms of culture, but Kansas City may be mostly Midwestern.
The city’s relationship to sports is a sound starting point in the Southern vs. Midwestern debate. There are three professional teams that locals go crazy for: the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, the MLB’s Kansas City Royals and the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City. However, like any Southerner would understand, it’s the love of football that drives Kansas City sports.
Arrowhead Stadium can seat over 76,000 fans, but viewing alone isn’t enough for many. After the Kansas City Chiefs’ big win in Miami at the 54th Super Bowl, fans are ready to get closer to the betting action, and this cherished relationship to football is yet another nod to Kansas City’s Southern tendencies.
The New Orleans Saints are a prime example of the South’s love of football. The team’s mascot Gumbo as well as Sir Saint indicate both a staple of the South’s palate for seafood and penchant for manners. Take into account a few team nicknames, such as the Bless You Boys and the Who Dats, and there’s an even clearer line from the football field to pop culture. While it’s been just over a decade since the Saints took their first Super Bowl title in 2009, the city has shown no shortage of love toward their football team with the same fervor that Kansas Citians do.
Since its formation in 1850, Kansas City has been a hometown of duality. The state of Kansas was part of the Union, but Missouri was a Confederate state during the Civil War era—and if allegiance during the Civil War isn’t a clear marker of South vs. Midwest/North, then the margins for definition become even more muddled. Today, the city’s surrounding metropolitan area boasts a population of nearly 2.5 million, all with varying opinions and identities, which means this debate has only intensified over time.
However, one stark difference between the South and Kansas City is a formidable winter season. Snow, startling wind and the occasional spring-time tornado differentiate the city from Southern meccas like New Orleans, Miami or Charleston. And while the states of Kansas and Missouri are no stranger to farming, the crops grown are distinctly Midwestern, including corn and wheat, rather than Southern crops like tobacco and fruit.
A look at food also helps differentiate Kansas City from the South. Southern hubs tend to have plenty of access to seafood. Meanwhile, Kansas City, a major crossroads for continental transportation via railroad and semi-truck, has single-handedly perfected barbecue and is renowned as producing the best in the world. The South is no stranger to barbecue though, so this is just another area to muddy the waters.
A look at dialect also hints that Kansas City may not have strong ties to the South, as the city unanimously leans toward a Midwestern accent. There is no Cajun affect like there is in New Orleans, Spanish-influenced twist like in Miami or the classic Southern accent emulated in pop culture as can be found in Alabama.
And, yet again, in a confusing swing toward Southern tendencies, Kansas City is also a place where strangers speak to one another, whether waiting in line or sitting by one another at a sporting event. After all, Kansas City is settled in “the heart of the heartland.” If someone were to place a tack in the center of the continental United States, they’d wind up close to Kansas City. People are friendly, as is expected so near the country roads of Kansas and Missouri, and the lifestyle is equally easygoing. So, the simplest conclusion is to recommend a visit to Kansas City and decide for yourself.