Gateway to where, exactly

I know this is a blog about writing and my books and stories, and if you’ve read anything at all about blogging you’ve certainly encountered the admonition to stay on message. But you know, at this point it seems kind of frivolous to be talking about fantasy stories about mythical gods and goddesses and Amazons and gay teens and that sort of thing.

Don’t worry, I’ll get back to those later.

As some of you might know, I currently stay in St. Louis. If this were social media and I had to explain my relationship status with this city, I’d have to choose “it’s complicated.” There are a lot of things I like about this city—abundant public green spaces, affordability, wealth of cheap eats and phenomenal microbreweries, good indie bookstores, the Blues—and there’s a lot about that, frankly, I hate: the weather in the summer, the allergies all the time, the small-town/small-mind mentality that persists, the fact that it’s surrounded on three sides by the state of Missouri (which was once known as the Puke state; did you know this? I can believe it).

And then there’s the racism.

The St. Louis region has problems that go back decades, if not longer. Part of it is something I encountered when I first arrived here and was a copy editor at the North County Journals, a group of community newspapers that covered the part of the county that includes Ferguson. I was forever trying to keep straight the list of names of communities in the area, which was tough because there are so damn many of them. Go three blocks down Woodson Road, where our office was located, and you’d leave Woodson Terrace and pass through another municipality. Go to Natural Bridge Road and turn left, and you’re in another town. Turn right instead, and you’re in still another town. North County is like the Balkans. Each of those communities has its own police department, mostly white by contrast with the population living there, and its own municipal court (surprise! White too), which gathers the fines that go a long way toward keeping the city government running. Nope, those cities don’t support themselves by property taxes or sales taxes, but penalties charged to the mostly poor people who live there, a state made abundantly plain in this Washington Post article from September.

That’s obviously not all of the problem, but it’s pretty huge. Who wouldn’t see a system that preys on them as the enemy?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and these days, I honestly wouldn’t blame you for choosing those digs), you know that the grand jury considering an indictment against Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown said “no.” The community response was, as you can imagine, explosive.

And understandable.

So, I started writing this blog post a couple days ago and was wondering if I’d even post it—have I mentioned before how slow of a writer I am? Part of the reason is because I obsess. (Okay, the main reason is because I procrastinate ever getting started, but that’s such another story.) Even the simplest e-mails I will read and reread and wonder if I’ve said things correctly. I’ve been doing that with this post—because really, what can the pasty white gay guy add to this conversation? Well, apart from raising the point that pasty white people and their fear and paranoia and systematic oppression of other groups of people for the past two-plus centuries are the real problem here, I can boost signal for the people who put things much more clearly and eloquently than I can.

And as timing would have it, my friend Pamela posted a link on Facebook to this St. Louis Argus column written by Tishaura Jones, my former state representative who’s now the treasurer for the city of St. Louis. She asks “what does justice look like?” and then she draws the picture for you. It involves the systematic dismantling of the tools of inequality that are in place now. Frankly, if none of that hard work gets done, then the region will not get peace, and maybe doesn’t deserve it.

There’s another thing I can do besides boost signal: I can point out that, even when the schools and public spaces have been closed during the protests, the Ferguson library has stayed open. Instead of spending money I don’t have in order to give people gifts they don’t need this holiday season, I’m going to make a donation to the library. Because


(Yes, I will use any excuse to post a picture of the 10th Doctor. Because David Tennant is a bit dreamy, isn’t he?)

There are other things you can do to help folks in Ferguson; check out the list here (courtesy of my colleague Rebekah).

Back to the Amazons and gods and goddesses later.