Combating division in St. Louis

Combating division in St. Louis

Despite great movements such as the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1900s and the Civil Rights Acts in the 1960s, segregation still exists, especially within St. Louis. Although the citizens of St. Louis may not see race as an issue in the community, the events of Ferguson and the ensuing protests suggest that institutionalized racism and segregation have never left. The city has a history with these two issues, and it is necessary for people to understand that segregation and discrimination have never left this country, and that appropriate measures must be taken to eradicate them. Segregation is an issue not only in St. Louis, but also in other cities across the nation.

Problems of race can even be seen at Saint Louis University. For example, SLU students commonly refer to the Shell gas station on Grand Blvd. as “Shady Shell.” The gas station is welllit and is relatively nice, so what makes it shady? Does the presence of poverty and minorities qualify the gas station as “shady?” Some students’ perceptions of black people in St. Louis are the homeless people on campus asking students for money.

Redline real estate was widespread in St. Louis. Redline real estate, or redlining, is when realtors would only show houses in certain neighborhoods in order to keep blacks in specific areas.

Urban communities were destroyed for urban renewal—projects such as highway construction. The construction of I-55 destroyed the neighborhood of Pleasant View along with the construction of other interstates which left thousands of African Americans without homes. The construction of St. Louis’ own airport led to the destruction of homes in North St. Louis County. In the wake of this construction, the racial composition of Ferguson and other cities in North County split.

A possible way to combat this segregation could be a North-South Metrolink line, and to extend Metrolink into Chesterfield. This will allow those who can only afford public transportation more opportunities outside of St. Louis City.

BBC made a four-minute documentary on the particular street that is the quintessential example of St. Louis segregation, the “Delmar Divide,” titled “Crossing a St. Louis street that divides communities.” On one side you see great houses and gated communities and on the other there are vacant buildings and people striving for a living. The polarization is best seen on Delmar Blvd. near the Central West End. According to BBC, the median home value is $335,000 on the southern side and $73,000 on the northern side.

It is time to stop avoiding the issue and address St. Louis’ history of segregation so that change may come. The notion of a divide in this city must be eliminated, and I believe that exposure is one way to facilitate it. One may choose to simply absorb the diversity that this city has to offer, or one might join movements such as Black Lives Matter. Both big and small steps are steps nonetheless. Tese small actions may inspire others to take part in the effort to end segregation in St. Louis. Lastly, on a more personal level, explore St. Louis. Leave campus. Expose yourself to the diversity this city has to offer. Don’t be afraid of a city that you live in, but be aware. Be proud of this city.