I would very much like to leave St. Louis and I’ve made no secret of that fact. But I would like to clarify, once and for all, why that is. It’s not so much that I want to get away from St. Louis–I want to move to be near my family.

But many people (racist people, by the way, whether they admit it or not) assume that I want to leave St. Louis because of “all the crime.” Nope. Bullshit. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, in the seven-plus years (off and on) I’ve lived in St. Louis City, I’ve never been the victim of so much as a dirty look, much less a crime. The last time I went grocery shopping in the “bad” (read: African-American working-class) neighborhood to the north of my own, a stranger lent me a quarter to use the shopping cart at Aldi without even a second look. Yep–in the Black neighborhood, a Black stranger gave ME some of HER money unprompted. Black people, just giving middle-aged white ladies money willy-nilly. What a “bad” neighborhood indeed.

Also, here’s fun fact: By far the most crime-prone people I know are my parents, who live in Eugene, OR, where I would like to move, and in the last year alone have had two bikes and a flat-screen jacked (not to mention, a few years ago, a priceless and irreplaceable antique watch their dumb asses should have kept in a safe-deposit box). Guess who is always doing the jacking? White people, almost certainly victims of our spiffy local meth epidemic. WHEN WILL THE WHITE COMMUNITY IN OREGON TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL THIS UNCONSCIONABLE DRUG-DRIVEN WHITE-ON-WHITE CRIME, I SAY? Anyway.

Anyway. One of my favorite things about St. Louis is that it is diverse. I like living in a city that–much unlike the one I grew up in, the one where my parents are always getting their stuff jacked–has a sizable Black population and a rich and important Black history (one that is and remains ringed on all sides with bigotry). Is your city the birthplace of Chuck Berry? I didn’t think so.

The things I dislike about St. Louis are either not St. Louis’s fault (the weather, the lack of my family) or the fault of it being in America (car-dependency). But you know the #1 reason I want to punch Missouri in the face and never come back? Effing bigots like the Ferguson police, and like this guy, Peter Kinder, the current Lt. Governor, WHO IS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL, who has called for the rule of, his dumb-ass words, “Anglo-American justice” (DAFUQ?), i.e. the reinstatement of the police curfew. When I say I don’t like a lot of the people in my area, I am referring to people like this fucking goon. 

Mike Brown was murdered by police in broad daylight, and I want justice (notice I didn’t say “Anglo-American justice” since I don’t know dafuq that means) for him and for his family, and I want the straight-up terrorization of the people of Ferguson (which, by the way, is a very nice town) to stop being referred to as “racial tensions,” because that implies two equal or semi-equal forces pulling in opposite directions, and what is really happening is one disproportionately militarized force oppressing and crushing a much smaller and almost fully peaceful “force” after executing a member of that community.

I don’t pretend to be saying anything important about this situation, and the last thing I want to do is look like I’m showing off how awesomely not part of the Klan I am–I am, I think, the minimum acceptable level of not-racist white person there should be. I don’t want a goddamned cookie. I don’t know what to say or do. All I can say is that I want give a big-ass middle finger right in Peter Kinder’s shitty Anglo-American face–let’s call it a dispensation of Jewish Justice.

Black lives matter.

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12 thoughts on “A Very Brief Post By an Unqualified Idiot About the Police State That Is My Home

  1. I lived in St. Louis for four years, and it’s probably my favorite city. I love it for many of the reasons you give, and I dislike it for similar reasons (tho I am perhaps personally less bothered about not being close to family). It’s a great city that deserves better than the bigotry that surrounds it, and I would move back in a heartbeat.

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  2. Good to hear from someone there. It’s still the same-old, same-old lack of knowledge and/or empathy between the black and white communities. Will we EVER get beyond that into real integration….

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    1. I’m sorry Joanne, but your comment seems to be missing what I take to be the most important points from Rebecca’s post. Before I address why, a one paragraph detour.

      First, Rebecca, I love this post for two reasons, reasons that show to me as a Black person how much you ‘get’ it: (1) making clear you don’t expect cookies for being a decent human being and actually believing that people like me are just as human as you and deserve the same rights and treatment (no excuses), and (2) saying “Black Lives Matter”. In fact, ending with this point, as a take-away for people for readers, ideally, to ruminate upon. The sad reality for too many people in this country, White people certainly–but not only White people–is that Black loves really don’t matter. And that is why we are as racist a country as we are, such that Black people are routinely abused, because of racism, in a myriad ways which never make the news and are seen as normal and ‘just the way things are’, as if they couldn’t and shouldn’t be different. I know from experience that my Black life doesn’t matter to most people, and even if I am educated beyond a college degree I am still seen as a violent animal. Truth. In fact, one of the ways in which the events in Ferguson demonstrate how bad the anti-Black racism in this country is, and how normalized it is to see Black lives as not mattering, is the discourse around how a Black person shouldn’t have to be ‘college-bound’ to matter–as if being college bound or educated to the highest levels protects a Black person from police brutality and wrongful criminalization, or gets White and other non-Black people, in general, to stop seeing that Black person as fundamentally inclined towards violence and criminality or to care about their lives as much as they care about and would stand up for and value a White person. Sorry, but this is not the America we live in. Because the realities of residential segregation and ‘everyday practices of White supremacy’ don’t allow Black lives to be uniformly seen as equal, valuable, and mattering.

      This brings me to my problems with Joanne’s comment, my problem with talking about ‘both the White community and Black community lacking understanding and empathy’ for each other. This is a false equivalence–and a racist one. The issue is certainly not two equally situated communities lacking empathy and understanding for reach other. There is a huge, racist power differential between these groups, and the fact that they are even separate communities in the first place is a result of *White* racism. Moreover, the White ‘lack of empathy and understanding’ is qualitatively and functionally and effectively (as well as affectively) different than the Black lack of empathy and understanding. The White lack of understanding is based on seeing Black people as violent, stupid, hypersexual subhuman animals, while denying that racism exists. This is a very different kind of lack of empathy and understanding than Black people’s lack of empathy for being on the receiving end of racist abuse and discrimination. And yes, because of residential segregation both ‘communities’ may not understand the daily intimate realities of the other, but I think ‘the Black community’ (in St. Louis and elsewhere) has a much better understand of how White people experience the world than they have of how we experience the world. When you don’t even properly understand how to define racism, as most White people don’t, much less what it is like to being on the receiving end of racism from birth to death, your chances for understanding, much less empathizing with, Black people’s realities is slim to none. Black people live in a White society (i.e. White-supremacist country) where we are constantly exposed to White people’s experience of the world–and to the racial privilege they have (which we know we don’t)–if not in schools and workplaces we attend with them, then via the media representations which proliferate and routinely display all different form of Whiteness, while vaporizing and prioritizing Whiteness. The same does not happen in reverse. If you live in a White community you don’t have to know anything about a Black community, other than ‘stay away from it’. You can’t live in a Black community and not know about the larger White world. So, what was that about both communities not understanding or empathizing which each other?

      I am Black, but I have never lived in a Black community in the US. I have always lived among White people. When we talk about ‘White communities’ and ‘Black communities’–or my personal couldn’t-be-less-critically-thinking favorite, ‘the Black community’–we should stop and ask what racist assumptions and practices we are actually normalizing and masking. My presence as an academically high-achieving Black person has never done anything to diminish the anti-Black racism of any White community I’ve ever been in, residential or academic. It has never done anything to get the majority of people in these communities, despite knowing me, to not be deeply anti-racist or to think that Black lives matter just as much as White ones. We have segregated communities because Black lives are not seen as mattering, because Black people are seen as fundamentally less-than-human. And until White people are willing to be totally honest that this is why White communities in this country even exist in the first place, at all, Black lives will continue not to matter. White people need to start by understanding their own communities, and why they are White in the first place, and why when they see Black people like me they assume that we are not from communities like the ones they grew up in, or were educated in; they need to be honest with themselves about how and why they don’t value Black lives as much as their own, on a daily basis,,in a range of ways, big and small; they need to be honest of the fear of Black people they have, and how easily they will believe we are violent, see us as such; they need to be honest about how they only feel ‘comfortable’ with us, comfortable with us living in ‘their’ communities if there aren’t ‘too many of us’ (i.e. actually, very few), and if we are statistical exceptions and anomalies–both a small percentage of the overall population, and are see as not being like ‘those other Black people’ who are violent, and irrationally angry, and educated, and see racism everywhere.

      The problem is not lack of empathy and understanding between the Black and White community, of St. Louis or any other part of this country. The problem of racism–a problem also of lack of understanding and empathy–is the problem of White communities (i.e. the racial segregation that has made so many communities White in the first place). So please, White people, understand your own communities first and why they are so White. Understand why you don’t think Black lives matter, because that’s where the long hard road to empathy and understanding begins.

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      1. Lest my dissent read as overly strident, a similar perspective from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

        “Once [gay] people began to say who they were, you found that it was your next-door neighbor or it could be your child, and we found people we admired,” she said. “That understanding still doesn’t exist with race; you still have separation of neighborhoods, where the races are not mixed. It’s the familiarity with people who are gay that still doesn’t exist for race and will remain that way for a long time as long as where we live remains divided.”

        http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/08/justice_ruth_bader_ginsburg_ferguson_highlights_real_racial_problem_in_us.html

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      2. Thanks for the kind words, Rebecca. Sorry for the long post, but it hit close to home. Just sent you an email with extra info, showing how this issue isn’t separate from the crappy treatment going on in the academy, including ‘fit’ in hiring.

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  3. I remember I went for a job at Washington U a few years ago and had the usual meeting with some senior dean-type bottle-washer. We had a pleasant discussion but at some point he was talking about classical music (availability of) in St Louis, and I looked a bit blank. He noticed this and (thinking, I guess, that he needed to ramp up the cultural value meter) went on to describe even more austere options, such as chamber music. Finally, I said that I was much more intrigued by the fact the Chuck Berry occasionally showed up downtown to play. Then it was his turn to look blank. Anyway, I didn’t get the job but I’ve always remembered the conversation.

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  4. I feel pretty helpless about it all. I am absolutely not anti-police in general. I am anti-abuse-of-power and anti-use-of-unnecessary/excessive-force and I am anti-systemic/institutionalized-racism. I point out systemic inequalities. I point out the long and painful history of racism in the US. I point out that critique of the system is not indictment of the individual. Nor does calling out the vile behavior of a few mean I condemn the whole. Asking people to question their assumptions about white protests vs. protests by people of color is apparently A Bad Thing. Somehow, to my friends (white) who are married to cops (white), that translates to “Lonely ABD HATES ALL POLICE AND WANTS THEM TO DIE ZOMG HOW COULD YOU WANT MY HUSBAND DEAD?!!” and I’m like O_o wut

    Anyway, I don’t know what all I can do either, other than to donate what I can to the orgs (like STL food shelf) that are asking for donations and also by not allowing myself to forget what is happening. And now they are “testing” those black hawk chopper thingies in my city at night.

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  5. I, too, have spent much of the past several weeks explaining to non-St. Louisians that yes, Ferguson is part of St. Louis, and no, what’s happening in Ferguson does not meant I’m not on my way back here to start the new school year (while I knew you lived in St Louis, Rebecca, from reading this blog for the past couple of months, your comment about that Aldi’s has made me realize that I know which neighborhood you probably live in–which sounds creepy, but I’m in the same general quadrant of the city).

    I don’t have much to add, except to offer up an anecdote in response to martin’s: a prospective senior hire at one of the major St Louis universities talked himself out of a job a few years ago partially because he made several remarks to the grad students about how he didn’t like “urban life” and “city” living…yeah, no, that’s not going to get you a job in St. Louis, Mr. Professor.

    And Chuck Berry plays once a month two blocks from the Washington University main campus!

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