St. Louis Racial Controversy

A photograph of an interracial couple kissing that ran in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is causing some controversy.

gomagThe photo, which ran in an insert with an article “The 7 Best Places to Smooch,” apparently spurred some unfortunate commenting on the Post Dispatch’s Web site and the paper responded with a blog entry. A few commenters said they were offended by the pictures, in not-so-polite terms. One mentioned that race relations are tense in the city.

The couple photographed are a real couple who happen to be friends with someone at the paper.

Anyway, this obviously reflects poorly on the community, not to mention indicates some level of racial intolerance. Gawker.com called covered the story using the phrase “Missouri rednecks,” which I use hesitantly because redneck in itself can be considered an objectionable epithet.

It got me thinking about when I worked at the Youngstown newspaper, all the awful, racist comments we’d get. It’s shocking and sad that people still feel comfortable voicing these opinions in a public forum, or think them at all. I was hanging out with a young, progressive group and I was largely shielded from that perspective. But it was definitely there, below the surface and it would bubble up on our message boards.

I wonder is there something about former industrial cities, with older, blue-collar populations, often divided along ethnic lines, that is synonymous with racism. To me, these attitudes can be one of the more negative aspects of living in the Rust Belt. It’s this type of backwardness drives young people to Chicago and New York.

The people I know from St. Louis embody the exact opposite views as those displayed in the paper’s message board this week. I wonder, what can a younger person with a more modern set of ideals living in such a city do?

-AS

6 Comments

Filed under Race Relations

6 responses to “St. Louis Racial Controversy

  1. I think people read too deeply into this stuff. There are racists, homophobes and backwards thinkers in every city and state in this country, and public domain websites such as newspapers invite all kinds of comments. Gawker.com chose only to highlight the racist comments and ignore the positive, supportive commentary, which was much more plentiful on the blog.

    As for driving young people to New York and Chicago, anyone would be naive to think that those cities don’t have profound racial issues themselves. Chicago is easily one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation, with some of the most noticeable racial and socio-economic disparities out there.

  2. Special K

    I agree with Randy. Racism is everywhere, even in a big city like Chicago. Martin Luther King faced enormous challenges when he tried to work for integrated housing in that city. I think a lot of times the media plays up the “blue collar racism” angle – just look at all the primary election coverage that questioned if blue collar workers would vote for Obama.

  3. Megan

    I agree in the regard that yes, racism and prejudices will only disappear with not only time, but hopefully generations educating themselves and getting outside of their environments. You would be amazed of the various types of comments I hear on a daily basis from people I know, even if it’s little quips about driving or typical behavior. Throughout history, it seems there was always a competitive trend in the U.S. One that was sparked by “making the American dream.” This competitive edge that was formed to me, caused people to dislike their greatest competition- workers who would work for little to nothing (as they were mostly exploited) and were about to take away these men’s jobs. However, if you do see racism in it’s true perspective (as you do) one would realize it runs deeper than the history of the United States and has many different forms throughout the world. And let us not forget when Martin Luther King Jr. had a march through Chicago, it was one of the most violent backlashes he ever faced.

    Bottom line- it is up to each generation to dispel the myths and prejudices created by racism, to teach their children otherwise. I don’t believe calling St. Louis people rednecks is adequate in any regard, but I do believe the magazine had a good point and today, of all days, this is the time to address these issues.

  4. rustwire

    Maybe you’re right. I mean, we’re kind of excluding rural areas from the discussion all together. That’s probably not fair.

    I know what you mean about Chicago too. It’s like basically banish minorities to certain areas and poof! racial tensions are gone.

    I’m from Columbus, Ohio and it is kind of similar, largely because there just isn’t that big of a minority population to begin with, at least compared to most industrial cities. That doesn’t mean people aren’t racist.

    I don’t know much about St. Louis, but I know in Youngstown steel companies used to exploit tensions between races and ethnic groups to discourage worker organization. I’ve read that the legacy of that conflict remains. Youngstown actually is still one of the most racially segregated cities in the country.

    I just can’t imagine a photo of a black man kissing a white woman would cause this kind of an issue in Chicago or New York or Columbus, for that matter. But I guess I wouldn’t have imagined it happening in St. Louis either.

    There is something about message boards that brings out the lunatic fringe, however.

    -Angie

  5. The bigger issue here is how the national media jump on any negative associated with cities like the ones we represent. If you read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch blog about the article in question, you will see that there were FAR more positive responses to the interracial kiss than negative, yet Gawker.com only cares to bring up the few racist comments that ruined the discussion. This is the biggest obstacle facing our cities, in my opinion. Popular perception. And media outlets such as Gawker.com certainly don’t help. I guarantee there are all kinds of racist, offensive garbage posted on the NY Times and Washington Post blogs, but it’s not as easy to label them “rednecks” I guess. That’s the stuff we’re up against. Flyover Country Unite!

  6. Sean Posey

    Oddly enough, some of the most liberal areas in the country can be the most racist. For example, when I lived in San Francisco I was very exposed to the racial “pecking order”. Many Asians looked down on blacks; whites looked down on Muslims; blacks resented new Latino immigrants etc. The myth that the city was one big racial melting pot was just that, a myth. Rust Belt city’s have a more open segregation, but it’s one not far removed from other more “liberal” cities.

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