St. Louis, I love you.
Where the parking spots are big enough you can fit the car diagonally and never ever worry about getting hit accidentally by another vehicle.
Where you can find a Scottish pub serving haggis, Scotch eggs and Scottish gin!
Where there are literally as many churches as there are Starbucks in Seattle.
Where the car commercials are predominantly Mopar and tractors.
Where huge swaths of neighborhoods are crumbling, literally. The roads are roughly and haphazardly patched – or not; neglected. The sadness of deteriorating brick of once beautiful Queen Anne style homes, crumbling from neglect, and perhaps poorly constructed from the beginning.
I was talking to my brother about St. Louis, telling him how much I loved being in the city. Granted, it was only a visit, and a short one at that. He told me that it was the only city that really made him nervous when he visited. He told me how locals advised him where and when to go, with specific guidance about where and when NOT to go.
Admittedly, there were neighborhoods I drove into that made me a little nervous. And all the prejudice and racism that lives deep in my psyche was brought up. I’m ashamed to admit how I thought twice about where to park my car, or whether or not I should carry my purse. I know better, and still…..I tried really hard to see people. Sadly, I am clear about the fact that I still have work to do.
I wonder how much damage to the community is perpetuated by that ideology, “don’t go there at that time”. Is it really that dangerous? Or might it be because white privilege can’t bear to face the consequences of years of oppression perpetuated upon people of color? Is it easier to just skirt by those communities, believing that you wouldn’t be welcomed, rather than to try to build bridges? By the way, I think St. Louis rivals Portland OR for number of bridges in a city which strikes me ironic. It is also ironic that there seems to be a fluidity in the way that impoverished and wealthier neighborhoods are interspersed with each other. For several blocks, mansions and then all of a sudden, you notice there aren’t anymore mansions.
I guess my point is that none of us are going to get any better at this humanity thing if we don’t learn to see what we don’t want to see. Whether it’s the crumbling infrastructure and proximity of vulnerable communities to toxic industries, or the disproportionate numbers of people of color who end up in the judicial system, or dead.
If we don’t want to see our own capacity for prejudice and beliefs of supremacy, we aren’t going to get better. And more people will die.
God bless this city. As many churches as there are here, one might be tempted to think that the overwhelming presence of religion would help with these really wicked problems facing the greater community. I am in no position to judge, but it does strike my curiosity. Why is there not more widespread peace and communion?
This is a city that ignores, for all intents and purposes, the Indigenous histories that inform the lives of modern Indigneous people living in the lands and with the waters and bones and blood of their ancestors. This is the city that Dred Scott sued for his right to be free from slavery.
It is a college town and a town with a vibrant arts scene. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the presence of so many museums.
It is a town where the saints are all from the patriarchy. Maybe they could use some Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene energy.
It is a town roiled with prejudice and trying to find peace. Even if it means some windows have to be broken. Better broken windows than lost lives.
St. Louis, I hope to visit you again, and I hope that I left enough peace and love for a while. I will pray for you, and encourage my friends and family to pray as well.