Watching any city tear itself apart is heartbreaking, watching it in a town so full of memories is a whole different feeling entirely, each building burned leaves a laceration on a piece of your childhood. As we all watch an endless stream of media coverage on all the destruction (from both sides), it forces us to take a long, hard look at not only how the town I was raised in has changed from a quiet middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of St. Louis City, but the nature of how segregated things still are. My privileged naiveté of being raised by white bourgeois has been shattered, forced to face the hard truth; things aren't unbias. One would expect, and at the very least hope, to be able to claim how different things are, it's 2014, after all. Though we're no longer using different water fountains or entrances, are things really equal or simply less horrible than they once were?
The words "I'm not a racist, but" have passed too many lips recently, finding a comfortable position in no longer being offensive or shocking. Received with encouragement, people who I once respected for [what I believed to be] their open minds, are now governed by a sense of foreboding. Local police [outside of Ferguson] are met with support, propelled by hostile fear of the unknown. Standing guard over popular hunting/gun stores, parking lots of local establishments 30 miles outside of Ferguson now look like their own police stations. Streets of quieter neighborhoods are empty of municipal police, most of whom have been called to Ferguson, at the mercy of citizens ideas of self governing and peace. This perceived abandonment only fueling fire to irritation, misconception, and discrimination.
The riots happening are not solely about the murder of Michael Brown, rather his murder was the spark that ignited an already loaded issue. The absence of an integrated police force (which is not only a plague in Ferguson), a dwindling education system (many schools in predominantly African American areas of St. Louis are completely unaccredited), employment and healthcare vanishing, intensified by the anger felt at the lack of change many believed [and hoped] would be made by President Obama. Residents of Ferguson are forced with the reality that our seemingly small town is no different than Detroit, Los Angeles, or even Birmingham, for that matter. A lack of foresight and willingness of the governing forces of Ferguson to adapt to the changing class has delivered us here, their refusal to transition has ushered in chaos. Divided by peaceful protestors lobbying for impartial privileges, and looters with an obvious lack of perspective, my city is loosing traction in a much needed argument for change, lost among stories and photos that more resemble a war zone than where I used to sell Girl Scout cookies.
Justice for Michael Brown extends beyond the arrest of Officer Darren Wilson, it requires equity not only racially, but socioeconomically, it demands a sincere look at prejudice in the 21st century. Our incompetence to diligently address racism is doing nothing, but contributing to the risk of another town becoming Ferguson, of relentless discrimination by our refusal to confront the plights of provincial intolerance.