In this city of about 21,000, West Florissant is a major thoroughfare and is lined with nail and hair salons, a few restaurants and an array of retailers. It is common to see commercial jetliners fly overhead as they arrive or depart from the nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
But for more than a week, the road has been a battleground nearly every night.
On Sunday night, police officers in riot gear marched through smoke-filled streets. As midnight approached, the roadway was filled with debris: spent canisters of tear gas, wooden and rubber bullets, gray cinder blocks and shattered bottles.
But by the time the lunch hours arrived on Monday, the street was largely swept clean, sometimes by volunteers clutching black trash bags.
It was not so simple for Dellena Jones, who runs a hair salon where the door frame was free of glass on Monday. The night before, demonstrators had tossed concrete slabs into the business as Ms. Jones’s two children prepared for what had been scheduled as the first day of school.
As Ms. Jones waited for a wooden board to place over her door, she fretted about what might become of her business as customers have chosen to stay away.
“I had a full week that went down to really nothing,” she said. “They’re too scared to come.”
As she spoke, a man walked by and shouted, “You need a gun in there, lady!” If the unrest continues, Ms. Jones said she may have to meet customers elsewhere.
“I may have to go for a minute and work somewhere else,” she said. “But I’m paying rent here, so I will have to pay somewhere else to work, which is not fair.”"
You know what’s fascinating…today, a good chunk of St. Louis was in rebellion because yet another black, unarmed teenager was shot and killed for no good reason. Stories, reactions, opinion pieces…are nowhere to be found. It’s literally become such a common occurrence as to be mundane, which is why it’s scary. If we aren’t outraged anymore, well…we’re fucked.
A black guy who works for me told me today, sort of casually, that on his first day at one of our clinics, the nurses told the security guard that he was there to steal their cars. Despite the security guard telling them that he was in fact there to train, they persisted. Then on his first day at my clinic, the security guard (also a black man) hassled him about why he was there.
It’s called structural racism. It’s built into our minds, our infrastructure. And if we can’t even muster the energy to call it out, it will never go away.
But some are given more days than others, and I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.
And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes."