Ten Disturbingly Racist Things About St. Louis
7. Chop Suey, a.k.a. "Chinamen"
I remember being a child and hearing one of the kids at my elementary school refer to the neighborhood chop-suey spot as the "Chinamen." This sounded insanely ignorant to me, even as a child. Chop-suey spots are on nearly every corner in St. Louis. They're cheap and filling. It's part of our culture on some level, because nowhere else in this country can you purchase a St. Paul Sandwich. And our version of crab Rangoon is so delicious that when I moved out of town for nearly four years, I went to the first chop-suey joint I saw when I returned.
But the fact that black people refer to these establishments with such a racist name is not excusable. I've done it before myself, and honestly, I still do it even though I know it's not right. People on the east side tend to refer to these places as the "rice house." This is a trillion times better than the aforementioned name. Unfortunately, this has basically become a generational slang term that will likely live forever in many city neighborhoods, specifically north-side ones. It's not right to refer to Asian people as "Chinamen." This is racist. I'm sorry, but it is, and many of us will read this and continue to do it. What if Sweetie Pie's was referred to as "Blackman's"? Makes zero sense, I know. That's what I'm trying to tell you.
6. The Delmar Divide
This very subject has made national news. I find it bizarre. In fact, so many people find it bizarre that it is has been documented in several books and films. St. Louis has a way of being very passive aggressive with the art of racial and socioeconomic segregation. If you're driving along Delmar Boulevard, you encounter some of the most expensive homes in our town. In the same breath, you'll also encounter some of most impoverished living conditions in our city. Basically, the second you cross Skinker you're about to witness one of the weirdest dynamics to exist in any major American metropolis. Rich people, middle-income, lower-income and dirt-poor people living blocks apart from each other in what is basically the same neighborhood.
There is a noticeable difference in the living conditions and the crime rates. There are gated communities separating the rich people from the poor people. To anyone who's not from St. Louis, the sight is freakishly weird. One minute you're in a perfectly divine suburban neighborhood; walk one block up and you're in a war zone. Basically, there's a black side of Delmar and a well-to-do side, which is essentially the white side. Certain people from the black side rob and kill each other, but they wouldn't dare walk one block over to the white side and commit the same crimes. On Union Boulevard there are gated communities with police protection at the gates both day and night. Yet right down the street you can get shot in the face, call the cops and it'll take 45 minutes for them to arrive. The scene is actually quite frightening to out-of-towners who encounter the Delmar Divide for the very first time.
5. Washington University in the Loop
Every summer I see the U. City police increase in their numbers when they patrol the Loop. There's a curfew set for kids under the age of eighteen because of the back-and-forth struggles between them and the police. These kids are more or less chased down and run out of the Loop at any opportunity. And from my observation, most of them appear to be black. I'm not saying they're angels, but all of them aren't thugs either.
Regardless, they are treated the same. On the flip side of the coin, Washington University students (most of whom appear to be white) are welcomed back every year. There are banners hanging from the trees and street lights celebrating their return. Most of them probably have no idea that in the summertime the Loop turns into a scene from a Freedom Riders documentary. I'm not even in high school, nor do I look like a high schooler, yet I've even been assaulted and stopped by a group of U. City police officers. I started hanging out in the Central West End because I'm an adult, and I don't have time to be stopped and questioned for absolutely nothing by a group of men with loaded pistols and bulletproof vests. That is a fight I can't win. I said hi to a friend of mine in the Cicero's parking lot once, and in the blink of an eye we were surrounded by police officers with guns drawn and aimed at us. Obviously, I hate the U. City Loop now.
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