For the Common Reader, I wrote a long piece on the legacy of Ferguson and how the St. Louis region and its people were left behind as the town became the symbol of a national movement. Though “Ferguson in Focus” was published last week, I wrote it in the spring, when the wounds were still fresh. I am depressed by how well it holds up now:
Ferguson has become a buzzword, a brand name, but on the streets of St. Louis the same desperate pleas continue: when are things going to get better? When are things really going to change? Who cares what happens to the people who live here, who experience the region’s tension and tragedy every day? Who seeks to serve instead of using the region as a stepping stone?
Drive through the St. Louis metro area, through the scarred suburbs and blighted city and you will find a legacy of abandonment: buildings without bricks because people stole them and sold them for money for food, hallowed out factories of a long dead economy, houses left behind by waves of white flight. This is Ferguson’s inheritance, St. Louis’s inheritance.
What will be the region’s future is hard to say. One cannot invest in a flashpoint. It glimmers, it burns, sometimes so brightly it eclipses the pain of day-to-day living. A vigil became a protest became a movement. But the lingua franca of Ferguson was always grief.