My Thoughts on Ferguson

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As you may have noticed, it’s been pretty quiet here on the blog. Looking back, my most recent blog post was almost a month ago. August 8th, to be exact.

I didn’t plan for this long absence from my blog. I really enjoy blogging, and I like sticking to my schedule of posting a new review every Friday.

But as you know, on August 9th, just a day after I posted my last review, something big happened.

The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson happened.

I’m going to be completely honest here – I wasn’t sure if I was going to post anything about the events that took place in Ferguson. It’s a matter near and dear to my heart, but I felt that as a food blogger, I needed to stay in my lane, so to speak. I felt like discussing this situation was out of the scope of what my blog is all about.

However, if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I haven’t been silent about what happened in Ferguson. In fact, I haven’t been able to keep my mouth shut about it. For the past month, it’s all I’ve been talking about on social media. It’s all I’ve been thinking about.

And as a person whose blog revolves around food (and not politics/current events), that left me feeling very conflicted.

However, I knew I wanted to address the situation somehow. It would have felt very trite – almost disrespectful – for me to continue to post restaurant reviews, when not even 15 miles from me, there was a horrible injustice that had taken place.

Aside from the horrific fact that an unarmed teenager was murdered in cold blood, one of the things that disturbed me the most about what happened in Ferguson is how the media portrayed the area. Ferguson was portrayed by the media as a poor, chaotic, run-down town filled with angry, violent people.

And you know what? That is just not true. I say that as a proud St. Louis resident. I say that as someone who grew up really close to Ferguson. I say that as someone who has been to Ferguson dozens of times without incident. And I say that as someone who went to Ferguson during some of the protests. I was there. I saw the situation with my own eyes. Were people upset about what had taken place? Yes, and rightfully so. But I witnessed no violence. Absolutely none.

Remember that review I wrote of Free Range Cookies just a few years ago? That is Ferguson. Back in 2011 when I wrote my review of Free Range Cookies, I described Ferguson as being “walkable, with tons of neat little shops all around.” It is! I wrote that I “love the neighborhood of Ferguson.” I did! And I still do.

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So when I hear people say that they’re going to avoid Ferguson from now on because they “might get mugged or shot,” (yes, someone actually said that to me!) that breaks my heart. And it angers me.

It angers me because perception is everything. When the media portrays Ferguson (and most of North County, really) as a dangerous and undesirable area, I feel like it changes peoples’ perception of that area and the activities that occur inside that area.  Do people associate mostly black neighborhoods with dangerous neighborhoods? Given St. Louis’ history of racism and (still present) segregation of neighborhoods, I would say the answer to that question for many residents in this city is a resounding yes. As a black woman, that makes me so incredibly sad. And it brings up so many questions.

Does hearing that Mike Brown was killed in a ‘bad’ neighborhood somehow make sense to people? Can people more readily accept that fact? Maybe it’s a lot easier than realizing that the area that Mike Brown was killed in was not a bad area. Ferguson is not a bad area, and that made the fact that there were police donned in riot gear driving in armored tanks throwing tear gas in the streets even scarier.

Yes. This happened.

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Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

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Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

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Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

Yes. This. Happened.

Because of peaceful protests, where hundreds (and at times, thousands) of people gathered in the streets to express their disapproval of the situation and their desire for justice for Mike Brown, the neighborhood quickly went from looking like this:

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Credit: AP Photo/Robert Cohen

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To looking like this:

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Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

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Credit: Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Credit: CNN

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Since when do peaceful protests call for armored tanks? Since when do peaceful protests call for the National Guard? Was it really necessary to turn Ferguson into a war zone? This is the St. Louis County police department in action. They waged an all-out war toward the community they were hired to protect and serve.  It’s infuriating, and if this doesn’t upset you, then you aren’t paying attention.

Are there demographic differences between Ferguson and Chesterfield or Ladue? Yes.  In 2012, Ferguson was 65% Black and about 30% white. But demographics aside, Ferguson is really no different from Maplewood. Or Shrewsbury. Or even St. Charles.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing I can do to bring Mike Brown back. There’s very little I can do to completely eradicate racism and police brutality. But I can attempt to shine a positive light on a situation; I can attempt to tell the real story of this neighborhood.

With that said, starting next week, I plan on blogging about restaurants in Ferguson. Trust me, there are a lot of really neat places to blog about. I’m doing this because I feel like I need to do something. I can’t ignore this. I can’t blog about pizza and burgers and bacon and pretend that everything is fine. I know it’s not much, but blogging about restaurants in this amazing suburb – this suburb of the incredible city of St. Louis – it’s the least I can do.  And if I change even one person’s mind about Ferguson, then that’s a start. Every little bit counts.

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See you next week.

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  • grumpasaurus

    “North County Gets No Love” 🙁

  • ame

    *applause*

    I read your blog and follow you on Twitter. I too have been a little more outspoken about this on there, than I ever would be on my blog. I made A comment in one post on my own blog, and I didn’t allow comments because I knew it would bring out the assholes.

    I live on a map, about opposite in the county from Ferguson and you hit the nail on the head. I, however, am white, and have benefited from what I’d call “white privilege” for my entire life. That does not change the fact that this city, this state, this region, is appallingly racist and it disgusts me. It makes me ashamed to live here. This incident only made that shame greater.

    I don’t get it. I don’t understand why in my lifetime up to now, nothing has improved, nothing has changed. I don’t understand why people behave how they do, and why when I go to certain suburbs with black friends, really friends of any other race that isn’t my own, people just assume that my friends are going to rob them or attack them, and that I would somehow be an accomplice to that attack. So, you seriously can’t fathom that someone black might be educated and employed and might want to actually shop or eat in any other community besides where “they belong”? Instead you the shopkeeper or resident call the police “on instinct” because “they” came near your area and we get harassed by the municipality police about what we’re doing there? We came to spend our money in your store and generate some revenue for you, which I’ve done many times, and surely they’ve attempted to do as well. But I sure as hell won’t make that mistake again.

    I hate that when I read this article on the WashPo site, I know it’s totally accurate, hell, understated, and could still go deeper into the problem. I know all about the “driving while black” issues in this area, and really everywhere. Because that expands well beyond Missouri. I’ve admittedly driven like a maniac down 70 many times to and from UMSL, and never been pulled over while being beyond deserving of a speeding ticket, while watching a black couple, driving the speed limit, get pulled over beside me for seemingly nothing. That is some serious BS.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/09/03/how-st-louis-county-missouri-profits-from-poverty/

    To be fair, I don’t often go to North County. Not because I find it unsafe, not in the least, but because it’s a bit of a haul! I only usually go up there when I go to Fast Eddies. 😉

  • Well said cousin..well said.

  • #slowclap

    This post is great, and so, so true. Your question, “Do people associatemostly black neighborhoods with dangerous neighborhoods?” As a lifelong St. Louis resident I answer with a resounding YES. I’m not sure how we change that perception – I think it’s with what you are trying to do, change one mind, one at a time.

    “Does hearing that Mike Brown was killed in a ‘bad’ neighborhood somehow make sense to people? Can people more readily accept that fact?”

    Currently reading ‘The Lost Continent” by Bill Bryson about his roadtrip across an America. It was published in 1989 but included a brief commentary on violence in America that I think hit the nail on the head. He was musing on violence in American cities, citing that, at the time, if you were a black male in an urban area you had a 1-in-18 (or 19?) chance of being murdered. During WW2, your chance of dying in war was 1-in-50. That blew.my.mind.

    And in fact, he even referenced St. Louis. He has a friend from St. Louis who remarked that he was having to work late hours because his boss was driving home late, carjacked and shot. What surprised Bryson was that his friend was telling this story not because of how insane/unfortunate it was, but merely to just explain why he was working so much. As if if you happen to be driving in St. Louis late at night in the “wrong” neighborhood, it can be expected that you’d take a bullet. Like… no big deal?

    Bryson says, and I agree, the we’re so numb to the violence in American cities. To your point about how this “makes sense” to people… it’s like we EXPECT it. It’s like we’re okay with it. Had Brown been shot in Chesterfield, people would have gone NUTS. But, oh, it happened up north? Like that excuses it. You know what, I’d even argue that race wouldn’t have made a difference in that arguement. Black kid shot north of downtown = he must have been a “thug” causing trouble. If a black kid was shot in Chesterfield/Ladue/[any upper middle class, mostly white neighborhood], I expect less people would have jumped to that conclusion.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Well written post. I look forward to your Ferguson reviews and to visiting more of the places! I’ve only been to the brewery 🙁

  • kathy

    I am a white Ferguson resident who takes the kids and the dog for a daily walks and to the local park. I do not feel unsafe in any way. My street looks like a street you would find in Webster. We feel optimistic that Ferguson can come out of this in a positive way., I see a lot of very positive things going on here. Many of us are working to support each other and reach out to our neighbors. We are all trying to buy locally to support our business owners. Thank you for helping to distroy the myths the media has created about Ferguson

  • Ramona Coleman

    Thank you, so much for using your platform to share an honest depiction of Ferguson and our city.