St. Louis and Stereotypes

A note to my readers: this blog is a departure from my usual focus on music and music technology. I hope you’ll forgive my enthusiasm for this topic, but I felt compelled to write this after months of hearing negative comments about my hometown, St. Louis that I simply couldn’t let go unanswered. Thanks for indulging me.


With all the negative news coverage because of the ongoing turmoil in Ferguson, St. Louis has been a hot topic among the people I meet in Nashville. When people find out I grew up there, it’s assumed that I’m glad that I moved before “everything fell apart”. Thank goodness I moved from that war zone before all the madness happened last summer. 


Yes. St. Louis has problems. It’s one of the oldest cities in the midwest, and with the history comes prejudice as well as a rich cultural heritage. I couldn’t help running into both growing up. When I was 18, I tried to grab a burrito at a Taco Bell in a rough part of town, and when the cashier shorted me 10 bucks and I asked for it back, I was told “go eat your f-ing burrito, whitey”. 


It goes both ways- I’ve had friends be shocked to learn that black people live outside of ghettos, and make passive-aggressively negative comments like “you know how those people are” about blacks and other minorities. My best friend’s father was falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit in a wealthy part of town, simply because he was black (he was later acquitted by a judge that threw out the case because of the obvious injustices and inconsistencies.) 


The lie that I’ve heard from the media is that bigotry is rule and not the exception in St. Louis. This makes me angry. Very, very angry. 


In their biased coverage of Ferguson, the media is committing the worst kind of bigotry possible: stereotyping people based on the color of their skin, political leanings, and area where they live. Whether intentional or not, they’re promoting a false picture of what St. Louis is about, while profiteering in the name of so-called investigative journalism. This turns my stomach. I believe in good journalism as a positive tool for change and understanding, and to see it used to destroy a community disgusts me. 


Obvious stereotyping of St. Louisians is a slap in the face to all the people that have dedicated their lives to bringing about racial harmony in this city. My family’s friend that spent his entire life working in the rough parts of St. Louis, and was so universally respected by all, he narrowly escaped being gang executed because even the gang’s boss recognized how much he contributed to the community. Our other friend who’s father was lynched by a white mob in the 1940’s, but has refused to be bitter, and has made a point to reach out to whites for reconciliation. These are the people that the media tramples in their lust for viewership. 


And that’s why I make a call to all those that read this blog: stop believing the lies that the news media are deliberately spreading about St. Louis. Turn off the TV, don’t click the biased links to articles on Facebook, and seek out reliable sources of news that aren’t going to turn to race-baiting (I recommend St. Louis Public Radio- in my opinion, they’ve done an excellent job of covering the events with as little bias is as possible for a publicly-funded news organization). 


Most of all, we all need to stop making the same mistake that we judge so harshly in others. We need to stop stereotyping, and realize that the truth is much more subtle than we’ve been led to believe.