What St. Louis Teaches Me: A Young Woman’s Perspective
Post by Yulkendy Valdez
St. Louis became my new home at the age of ten. It also became my influence: a teacher of sorts. I passed neighborhoods where racial discord was apparent. I also passed neighborhoods where one could see a clear divide between white and black neighborhoods. This picture of St. Louis only becomes clearer as the days come by.
The segregation in our neighborhoods, schools, and towns has been a muzzled issue for so long; however, the situation in Ferguson, Missouri today (just 10 minutes from where I live) show that these perpetuated racial tensions cannot be silenced anymore.
In high school, my friends and I worked on a documentary to portray the housing segregation in St. Louis that is clearly marked by the Delmar Loop, a very popular hangout place for many residents, students, and visitors. While making this documentary, it became real to me that I was living in a state where there was still distrust and misunderstanding among its people. Documentary: Won’t you be my neighbor?
While I was reflecting over the demographics of the city, it took me to today and the events that have transpired after the death of Mike Brown. The death of Mike Brown and the violent reactions that have occurred can take us to two different states of mind: open or close-mindedness. It is easier to point fingers at Mike Brown and say that a “troubled past” (as presented by the police) was what led to his murder than rethink the laws and justice systems that make up our country. It is easier to blame the black community and other minorities for walking in the middle of the street, using drugs, and stealing and in term putting police officers in such positions. The route to closed-mindedness and ignorance is an easy one; in fact, all we have to do is close our eyes and only think of oneself. As we have seen in Ferguson throughout these days of upheaval, parking in Ignorance Street has not gotten us anywhere.
Many will use circumstances like these to narrow their world view, to justify the status-quo, and to advocate for conformity. Many will simply close their eyes from what is going on directly in front of them. Despite all I have seen in St. Louis, I have chosen to expand my mindset, to feel empathy, and open my horizons to a world of justice and equality. I came from a country where people are afraid of been labeled dark-skinned and black. This is not only a regional or national movement; this affects us globally. At the end of the day, this is about race and the color of our skins determining how we get treated. If this would have been a cop that shot a Caucasian male, the cop fortunately would have already been on his way to jail. If this would have been a black cop shooting a young black male, this just would have been cited as another “black on black” murder or whatever that means.
Something that I deeply care about is investing in our communities. Instead of bringing each other down and having to focus on the aftermath of events like these, why don’t we start investing in our young minds? When are public officials going to focus on the St. Louis public schools and the schools that have gotten shut down? When will programs be implemented to train police officers on how to develop empathy (something we should be taught as kids)? When will diversity training become a focused part of our education? When will we begin to uplift our communities living in lower income neighborhoods instead of disempowering them? When will we start thinking long-term?
I have more questions than answers. When I stand for the Don’t Shoot Movement, I stand for many things: #Don’t shoot my chance at an education, # Don’t shoot at my family, #Don’t shoot at my vision for the world. My condolence goes to the Mike Brown family, and I only hope that this teaches people compassion and love, not hate.