Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Flames of Racial Division Threaten to Consume Area's Hopes for Progress

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Flames of Racial Division Threaten to Consume Area's Hopes for Progress

Article excerpt

A FIRE is smoldering in our community.

The smoke is visible for miles.

We try to ignore it, but its sickening smell forces us to gasp for air. We try to flee, but it's ever-present. The flames of racial polarization in this community are licking at our feet while too many of us are doing our best to ignore them. Don't see them? Maybe it's because so many of us have become so accustomed to them that they seem commonplace. What's abnormal is accepted as normal. The unusual has become what's expected. Newcomers to this area often recognize it right away. There's a palpable tension here between blacks and whites that doesn't exist everywhere. People of different races are looked upon with more suspicion and, in some cases, scorn. The segregation here is shocking to people who move here. The polarization here is deeply embedded in our society. Witness: St. Louis was ranked the 12th-most segregated of 219 metropolitan areas in a 1992 University of Chicago study. That study also showed the level of housing segregation in the St. Louis region is consistently above the national average for large, racially diverse metropolitan areas. Drive through almost any neighborhood or subdivision in the area and see for yourself. With the exception of the year that former Cardinal Ozzie Smith was selected, the Man of the Year award would perhaps be more appropriately called the White Man of the Year because apparently there are no black men here - other than an athlete - who are worthy of such an honor. (We won't even mention women.) Socializing among blacks and whites here is at a minimum. We make blanket assumptions that we have nothing in common with people of other races without taking the time to find out if we have something in common with an individual of another race. A fire is smoldering in our community. It's in our schools. This newspaper reported Monday the sharp differences between how black teachers and white teachers in the St. Louis Public Schools view teacher performance. Nearly 60 percent of the black teachers surveyed said the schools are doing an excellent or good job; six out of 10 white teachers believe that they're doing a poor job. …

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