My Thoughts on Ferguson

My Thoughts on #Ferguson: I lived in Saint Louis for four beautiful years. My existence was peppered by an MSW degree at Wash U specializing in social justice and mental health and enough barroom, restaurant experiences to consider a third concentration in music thanks to Leslie Sanazaro. Ferguson is wedged between the City of Saint Louis (which is a actually quite a small location) and what is the Saint Louis “County” a much more affluent and well to do area that is amorphous blob of suburbia and does not feed into the tax base of the impoverished city. Saint Louis is considered the northern most southern city. It’s also considered the eastern most western city. I’ve seen many people refer to this as a “southern” problem. I find this comical. This is a heavily segregated part of the world but the most heavily segregated part of the country is actually Chicago, Saint Louis is up there. North Saint Louis is predominantly black and South Saint Louis predominantly white. When I worked on a project assessing access to financial institutions we took the simplest route, we counted. We found there were 39 banks in the southern part of the city and 14 in the northern part, despite the fact that the population size equal. Want to figure out what’s wrong, step outside. Count. Many institutions in Saint Louis I found, catered to not only to those of a race but to a particular class, be they banks, businesses or greater institutions. It remains a land of contradictions and the area is a combination of all things and represents (to me) the great crossroads of our country, its hopes and its dreams. It is a city where the subway only runs east and west taking people from the crime riddled neighborhood of East Saint Louis (oft confused as not actually be in Missouri) and it goes way on out to the great suburbia also known as the county of Saint Louis. You can’t go north and south on this subway though. We studied social justice issues in an area where social inequity was all around us. In pictures I know no other photographer that captured more of this city than my dear friend Bob Reuter whose passing last year still haunts me. He called Saint Louis, “The red brick garden of eden and he just hoped the world would stay the fuck away from it.” Knowing Bob he’d probably be on the front lines of Ferguson or heckling everyone, God knows he’d be shooting pictures though. I loved my time there and it was home and at the same time I was a complete and total outsider that had no idea what Saint Louis was all about, I am still processing what it means to have walked the land 12 miles away from Ferguson on a daily basis. I’ve never met kinder and a more open people than I did in Saint Louis. At the same time I never saw more social inequity by just stepping out my door and driving five miles in one direction or another. What is happening in Ferguson represents the very middle of America. The core, the guts, the pain, the inequality of our country it is all wrapped up in Saint Louis. I urge all of my friends to read about Ferguson this small enclave outside of Saint Louis City, immerse yourself in the dirty parts of this story. Question your bias, your identity, your privilege and then read some more.