Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm Just Down the Road from Ferguson

In fact, here's the cake in Ferguson, Missouri that Karen and I photographed in June.  It's in the revived downtown, which is filled with local shops, black and white owners, a charming area.

The cake is to the right, above the bench.

The situation in Ferguson is complex, and I'll add what I can as a lifelong resident of the St. Louis area.

St. Louis has long been a very segregated town.  The city of St. Louis is an independent city, not in any county.  Though my father grew up in North St. Louis, for my whole life North St. Louis has been black and South St. Louis white.  Now, however, pretty much the whole city is black, with a few white enclaves here and there.  Rehabbers who come in and "gentrify" city neighborhoods are white and very liberal and childless.

St. Louis County surrounds the city of St. Louis on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River.  North St. Louis County is mostly black; South St. Louis County (where I live) is mostly white.  25 years ago Ferguson (which is in North County) was a white working lower-middle-class suburb, comprised of North St. Louis city residents who moved out of the city when what is called the "white flight" began.  The black presence in Ferguson is fairly recent, and is apparently comprised of the next generation of migrants from North St. Louis, who are now black.  This is why the Ferguson city counsel and the police force is still almost entirely white - the change in racial mixture in Ferguson is fairly recent.  And for whatever reason, the blacks have not yet caught up politically there.

On the Illinois side of the river, there are a number of communities which are either all black or all white, including all black East St. Louis, which is consistently listed as one of the most violent cities in America.  Belleville, Illinois is the exception, as Belleville is mixed, though the neighborhoods in Belleville are either all black or all white.

There seemed to be much more racial tension in St. Louis a generation ago, though if you look at Facebook groups dedicated to the situation in Ferguson or to comments at the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, you'll see there's still plenty of racism seething below the surface.

I was out of town all of last week when this situation first exploded, and from what I can see it's pretty complex.  There are a number of factors that play into it - racism, poverty, unemployment, outside agitation, a history of police brutality, the extreme militarization of the local police force - who are untrained and who are embarrassing my military friends, the lack of political leadership, the fact that most protesters are peaceful but the violent ones are causing a ton of trouble, the effect of the shocking images of a kind of civil war in the streets, and the shooting that started it all - which could be justified or could not be justified, as only an impartial examination of evidence will tell.

Meanwhile, here are a few other views of the Ferguson cake.  Here are all my posts on the Cakeway to the West project.  Quite honestly, we've put our picture taking on hold, as most of the remaining cakes are in neighborhoods that aren't too safe to begin with, much less at a time when this much rage is brewing.


The cake is near the lower left in this shot.  It appears storm clouds were gathering over Ferguson, even in June.





1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know I'm coming to this kind of late, but I just had to share this story in the Washington Post about the proliferation of municipal courts and governments in St. Louis County and how it contributed to the unrest in Ferguson:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/09/03/how-st-louis-county-missouri-profits-from-poverty

After reading the story (assuming everything in it is accurate) it seems to me that Chesterton would have had a field day with this situation -- not in a good way! Sounds like "small laws" on steroids! And if even half of the story is true, it's no wonder resentment of the cops ran so deep in Ferguson. (Not that it justifies rioting, of course.)

If you have any thoughts on the situation, since you are obviously much closer to it, I'd enjoy reading them sometime if you care to post them. Thanks!

Elaine