St. Louis, race and grief

From my latest for Al Jazeera English:

A shooting in St Louis is never surprising, but it will always be shocking: that the cruelty of the act is complimented by the callousness of the reaction; that when a community cries, someone always finds a way to give it more to grieve….

If you had asked whether the killing of Brown would become an international cause, or be swept silently aside, most would have bet on the latter. It is a testament to black St Louis activists, and their ceaseless documentation and calls to action, that it was not.

No one will forget the killing of Michael Brown. But that killing was preceded by decades of police brutality, of violence, of losses, of teddy bears tied to trees. During the 2013-2014 school year, 17 St Louis public school children died, a record number. The second largest number, in 2010, was eight.

“At some schools, kids don’t come back to school for several days when a young person has died in the kind of violent death that occurred last night because they think there may be repercussions,” a St Louis school superintendent told local media in March, after an eleven-year-old black boy was shot through the window of his home.

By spring, trauma counsellors were working overtime. Now, after the death of Brown and the tear gassing of the local population, including children, they work around the clock.

St Louis was grieving long before the tragedy of Ferguson – or, at least, parts of it were. Like everything else in St Louis, grief is unequally allocated. This is a city where people live their whole lives seeing certain neighbourhoods only on TV.

St Louis is a city where black communities are watched – by police, by spectators – more than they are seen, more than they are heard.

Read the full article — St. Louis’ sons, taken too soon — at Al Jazeera English

 

 

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