Reading an article by Atlantic's go-to black authority figure Ta-Nehisi Coates brought a smile to my face that will be hard to wipe away.
It's from this story. [The Racist Housing Policies That Built Ferguson: The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the race-based social engineering of the mid-20th century., 10-17-14]
|An image from Ta-Nehisi Coates article in Atlantic attacking the past housing ordinances in St. Louis as the reason for the situation in Ferguson (be quiet: you can't mention Section 8 Vouchers in polite company!)|
No, nothing he wrote is particularly interesting (or even remotely based on anything outside of your typical black grievances).
It's an image used to highlight the evils of white people - past, present, and future white people - strategically placed at the start of the story. The image shows gorgeous houses on 4300 West Belle Place and reads:
Look! Look at these homes now! An entire block ruined by negro invasion. Every house marked "X" now occupied by negroes. ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPH OF 4300 WEST BELLE PLACE. Save you home! Vote for segregation! -- A 1916 leaflet proposes to segregate St. Louis. The measure passed. (Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center)Isn't there just one question needing to be asked today?
|Thanks to Google Earth: 4300 West Belle Place 100 years later...|
Of course there is: what happened to 4300 West Belle Place in St. Louis?
Located in the Vandeventer neighborhood of St. Louis (a community that is 95.7 percent black and 1.2 percent white), 4300 West Belle Place is nestled in a community where the average list price for a home is $17,499 [source: Trulia.com]
Courtesy of the magic of Google Maps, you can virtually walk down West Belle Place in St. Louis and see the homes that were pictures in the 1916 leaflet proposing to segregate St. Louis.
It's a haunting trip, seeing for yourself the bulk of those houses in the 1916 leaflet - strategically used by Ta-Nehisi Coates to conjure antipathy by Atlantic readers against white people of the past, present and especially the future - are now gone, the entire area surrounding West Belle Place looking more like Dresden after the Allies bombed the city than before.
|An image of West Belle Place (looking the other way from the photo in the 1916 leaflet... abandoned homes where nature is now the only inhabitant...|
But there's an interesting post-script to the story, highlighting the type of individual who calls 4300 West Belle Place home nearly 100 years after the ad Ta-Nehisi Coates used in his story on Ferguson to connect present-day whites in St. Louis to their past racism (castigating all future white people in the process). [St. Louis police commander survives ambush while on special patrol, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6-12-13]:
Police Major Joseph Spiess was among department brass who hit the streets after a particularly violent night this week, to help look for trouble.
He found some, and it almost killed him.
Spiess was among about a dozen top commanders helping supplement patrols Tuesday night after 19 people were wounded in eight incidents the night before.
By the time the shift ended, there would be two close calls for officers and one embarrassing mistake.
Spiess, 52, was alone, in uniform, driving an unmarked Chevrolet Impala about 9:22 p.m. when he spotted a suspicious-looking black Pontiac Bonneville with temporary license tags on Evans Avenue, heading west near Vandeventer Avenue.
He said he made a U-turn to follow, and the Pontiac’s driver would not stop for his lights and siren. The circumstances did not qualify under rules limiting pursuits, so he gave up at Evans and Sarah Street.
As Spiess continued along Evans, a man jogged slowly toward him and stopped between parked cars about 12 feet away.
“He looks me dead in the eye, lifts his pistol and starts shooting at me,” Spiess said Wednesday. “The first round sounded like a shotgun went off in my car. Then I heard a high-pitched whine go through the (open) driver’s side window and out the passenger window.
“He looked at me square in the face, I’m in an Impala, wearing a police shirt, and he was looking me right in the eye. He knew who he was shooting at. He absolutely knew I was a policeman.”
Spiess said that as he sped off, he watched in the mirror as the gunman stepped to the middle of the street and continued firing.
About a block away, Spiess pulled over to check himself for wounds. “I remember thinking, ‘I have to be hit,’ ” he said. “I could not believe I wasn’t hit.”
Meanwhile, police arrested three people found hiding in a home near the ambush on Spiess, and seized handguns. They were believed to have been in the Pontiac, which was found abandoned in the area.
Two of them were later charged. Robert O. Simmons, 19, of the 4500 block of St. Ferdinand Avenue in St. Louis, was charged with first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action. Demetrius J. Vanarsdale, 24, of the 4300 block of West Belle Place in St. Louis, was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and resisting arrest.
Spiess said investigation showed that 16 shots had been fired at him from a 9-millimeter weapon with a 30-round extended magazine. He said he found two bullet holes in the driver’s side door of his car. The windows were down, so he’s not sure how many other rounds might have passed through.Did you catch it? Demetrius J. Vanarsdale represents why the 1916 leaflet was put out by white homeowners in St. Louis, worried about the long-term damage to the equity in their homes black people would bring...
We can't change the past, nor can we have much influence on the present... but events in both the past and present represent our only guide to crafting policies for a stable, prosperous future.