A Tale of Two Cities: The Situation in Ferguson
News of the Michael Brown execution by Ferguson police has the nation in an uproar; the world in a heightened sense of involvement for the global movement against injustice, particularly where officials in authority are concerned. Cat Power and Sky Ferreira frequently post radical images on social networks, encouraging and supporting the need for their fans to wake up and participate in the fight against global and national terrorism. As someone who works in the music industry, it pleases me to see musicians fighting to take public and social action against current societal issues. However, while a resident of New York City, I still consider St. Louis, Missouri my home; and this out-of-body experience, a tale of two cities of sorts has converged over the most disgusting and displeasing of reasons. The source of my distress is two-fold- the current political and social climate that allows for crimes against harmless children (see: Trayvon Martin), and the taxonomy around this current crime against humanity. Every news outlet, every social media post from Twitter to Instagram, and even the President’s address, references the current Missourian uproar in a global way: Ferguson. And, I have a real problem with that.
I spent the majority of my life in St. Louis. I attended high school in the neighboring district where Michael Brown most recently finished school; my family house is about a 5 minute drive from Michael’s high school. And, the area in which the civilian execution took place is not in fact a few hours from St. Louis County, it’s not a gas-tank-worth-of-gas drive to Ferguson, it’s where my mother got her undergraduate education as a non-traditional student, it’s a stone’s throw from the St. Louis NPR member station I interned at (although many St. Louisans will argue that the area in which the station is, is in fact Ferguson as well). Ferguson, Missouri, or “Ferguson” as we so intimately call it, is in St. Louis, Missouri. Therefore, when referencing the trouble in Ferguson on a global-scale, what we need to be referencing is yet another disturbing crime in St. Louis, Missouri.
For years, St. Louis has made the “most dangerous city” list enough times that residents of the city are both disgusted and yet, obscurely proud in their ability to overcome daily injustices and crimes that occur in every part of city. This resilience is a large part in what makes St. Louis’ residents who they are: through art, music, fashion, science, education and non-profit initiatives, St. Louis residents are able to take the segregation they’ve seen in their middle and high schools, the daily vicious crime stories plastered on the news, the tasteless and senseless acts of immoral behaviour, and transform themselves into valuable citizens- in St. Louis or in other cities- cognizant of the power of illbehaviour and desiring to be a different version of that in which they have seen and/or experienced through growing up. Michael Brown was on that path. He was headed to Vatterott college on Monday- the same day my kid brother starts college.
Despite whether the recently uncovered surveillance tape suggests riff raff of any sort, the officer that took Michael Brown’s life was in absolutely no way protecting himself from this young and weaponless man. A few social media and news reports later, and the situation in Ferguson became a national act of citizen terrorism. Similar situations in St. Louis occur daily, perhaps even as I write this. Black on Black crime; White on Black crime. Every day these occurrences lead to the increase in crime statistics in St. Louis, Missouri, whether across the river in East St. Louis, in St. Louis city, or in St. Louis County- where Ferguson is. The territorial separation of St. Louis crime, by nomenclature, still, at least in my mind, contributes to overall crime in St. Louis, Missouri.
I sat at the doctor’s office earlier this week in New York City, watching the President discuss the U.S. presence in Iraq and the “situation in Ferguson.” While I appreciate the sincere and vast form of support in protesting the political and social state of America’s cities, I would appreciate it more if the rest of the world was given proper context surrounding these crimes. It’s not a “situation in Ferguson,” it’s the continuation of a worsening situation in St. Louis, hyper-focused on the recent events in Ferguson.
None of these crime stories are fleeting, and each should be analyzed based on the situation’s facts and hopefully, in some way or another, find resolution. But, it is of utmost importance that we recognize that the Black vs. White, Officer vs. Civilian crime that existed in Ferguson, Missouri is not in a small town in the middle of the state (as if that makes racism and injustice permissible!). The fact is, racism and crimes against humanity exist up and down the state of Missouri, and the situation in Ferguson is another one of those examples. Yet, by isolating the situation and utilizing strategic nomenclature to do so, we are doing nothing more than contributing to the notion that crime in Ferguson may or may not be more heightened, or important to call out, than crime in St. Louis.
The problem here is that the entire world turns its eyes to Michael Brown and Ferguson, oftentimes blithely unaware of the fact that Michael Brown is yet another victim of St. Louis crime. When are we going to address this situation in a less fragmented manner?