Everything with an arrow next to it is a St. Louis suburb I have lived in for more than a few months.
And, if you've seen the national news this week, you know that Ferguson, the suburb with the box around it, has gone from protesting to rioting to looting.
All this to say the rioting, tear gas, and news crews are hitting close to home. My dad graduated from Normandy, just like Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen shot by the white police officer. The Walmart that was looted is 3.2 miles from Mom's house, a house I still own. I went to school in the Ferguson-Florissant school district. I got my Brownie uniform and Gary got his letter sweater in Ferguson. (Yes, at Fisher's, thanks for asking, St. Louis people.) The curtains that are still in Mom's den were bought at Northland mall (yes, Penny's basement), where the police set up their command post the night they threw the tear gas.
So, so odd to hear the President, Wolf Blitzer, and Rachel Maddow even utter the word "Ferguson."
On the first day, CNN described Ferguson as "a quiet town outside of St. Louis." Pfft. Like saying "Queens is a town outside New York." There isn't an undeveloped spot between the river on the right and half a mile off the river on the left.
I tried to think of how I would describe Ferguson in relation to Florissant. I don't call it "the next town over." If someone says "I live in Ferguson," and I live in Florissant, I'd say, "Oh, that's right next door." (And then I would say, "Where did you go to high school," because that's what we do.)
And here's where I confess my ignorance. When I heard there was looting by the West Florissant exit on 270, the exit we take every time we visit the in-laws, I thought, "Not to worry, that's on the Ferguson side of the highway." As if looters bounce off some invisible boundary. But then, and my ignorance continues, I was even more relieved to hear speculation that the looters were actually "the usual suspects" from East St. Louis, where we keep our criminals. Not the nice people of Ferguson. Ferguson, which is predominantly African-American, but still has an almost solidly white police force.
That's why when the protestors are told by the police to go back home, they respond with "YOU go home." Because it's a safe bet those white officers don't live in Ferguson. It makes me smile.
I know St. Louis is criticized for these very strong ethnic boundaries. It's not just race, it's religion (Creve Couer, I'm talking to you, possibly in Yiddish), heritage (The Hill, capisce?). I think we have only one town, University City, where you'll find every race, ethnicity, and religion. University City: it's where we keep the tolerant people.
I have to say, even if the half-hinted-at police version of events are true (the young man reached for the officer's gun), I'm still on the side of the protestors. And even the rioters, as long as they have bad aim. Not the looters, of course.
And here's the oddest thing. It's summer. In St. Louis. In August. Usually that's perfect rioting weather. In the 100s, hot, sticky. Not this week. I think the gorgeous mid 70's - low 80s temps, along with the clear skies must be keeping things calmer than expected.