Sunday, January 02, 2005

White girls and the right color

Simple sights remind me of the city we live in. Of where we are as a society. I wish such a site was remarkably unforgettable. And in a way it was of no consequence, but it was. I was headed by auto northbound driving next to the Clinton Peabody low rise housing projects over off of 15th and Chouteau.

At the light I noticed something that is very normal and nearly didn't think of the significance. There was a young woman jogging. A young white woman, clean cut, blonde, mid 20s, with fancy coordinated jogging gear. I didn't really think about it, but this has not been considered normal until recently. A white woman woman jogging. This was the neighborhood of the projects, and before that it was a rougher neighborhood that was part of the southern side of the Mill Creek Valley. This had long been a ghetto and for most younger people's memories it had been a dense black ghetto.

The old Darste Webbe had been torn down, but there are still significant low rise old gov projects over by Saint Raymond's and Clinton Peabody. Proper white girls just don't jog through the roughest areas of town anytime of the day. Especially in the black ghetto by the projects. That is what the common belief in our society tells us. I wonder how much our society has changed, and how much the neighborhood has changed. I think the neighborhood has changed quite a bit, with the new mixed income low rise units along Tucker and the City Hospital rehab. Lafayette Square and Soulard have gotten super fancy. This is a good thing. There has not been a total teardown of the area. There are still many people from many different backgrounds who live in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is generally stable and very much growing.

The other irony is that the Clinton Peabody used to be the "white" projects before deseg, back in the 50s. Obviously a few things changed in our city since then. The whole thing seems surreal, but the facts of our past are very much real.

So later the same evening I stopped over at Star Liquors to grab a bottle of booze for a good friend who was having a party that night. Star is located on Big Bend near the movie theater on Clayton and Hi-Fi Fo Fum. I had never been to Star, even with my penchant for booze, so I was pretty excited to get a chance to peruse the stocked shelves of this super liquor store. I was driving with my father and it was pretty late and I wasn't sure if the place was open when we pulled up to the parking lot. I told my father to wait in the car and I would check the door. I went up to the door and it was open, but there were no customers. I sauntered over to the brown liquors and scanned the selection of whiskeys for the party. I heard some rustling behind a partition for the office, and out came what appeared to be the manager, ready to check on his sole customer. I asked him a few questions on the different whiskeys and came to a selection.

At this point we made our way up to the check out counter. My father came in to the store and waved over for it was hard to see him. He hollered out to the guy, "Hey, I am just going to run into the bathroom! I just wanted to let you know I am okay." My father was saying this for it was clear that the store was relatively empty and he was making a bee line for the back of the store and he didn't want to alarm the employee. I told the clerk not to worry for the man was my father and he had been waiting in the car. The clerk gave him a wave and said to me "He is the right color."

At the very first wince I was confused for I thought he may have said something else so I had a look on my face like I didn't understand. He repeated himself. "He is the right color. There is no trouble."

I didn't respond to his comment. He then told me he was well protected. I decided to test this claim in a lighthearted fashion by telling him "so I guess you would make a lunge toward those knives if you have trouble?" as I gestured towards a display of knives by the counter. I followed the question with another more innocent and sincere question "Are those Henckels?"

He bagged up my booze and responed "I am protected with a 45."

I didn't respond.

"We had some problems with a couple of black guys a few years back that had shoplifted. We haven't had any problems in years. I figure that all happens up at the Schnucks. They lock up all their liquor in a case."

I nodded, kept a pleasant look on my face, took my change and walked out like everything was normal.

These are the kind of things that white guys tell other white guys in social confidence. I don't like these conversations, but I would prefer to hear it so I know than the person who would hide it. It is better to know about the way one feels than not know. I would really really prefer for people to think a bit more about it all, but that is asking too much in many cases. I have been subjected to far too many of these conversations, but I am not going to write all of these stories of awkward situations. Make a note, smile, and life moves on and remember that you don't have to live in that world. We make much of the world around us in way we choose to live our lives.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm...packs a .45 huh? I know that guy. He said some wierd crap to me too. When it was time to sign my reciept, he snatched it from me and said: "You don't need to sign, you have the right last name (Bollinger)."

It was wierd cause the way he said it had those same racial overtones. Like a guy like me wouldnt do some credit card fraud. (Bollinger is also the name of a fancy French champagne though) Mandy was beside me and noted how wierd it was.

Anyway, that place is so close to the RHPD, you'd think there wouldnt be any trouble. Heck, I'd still pack that piece though. These grocers are super-paranoid (Remember that massacre at National?)

BTW, if you wanna see real wierd covert racism, go to a Concealed Carry Class.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoa...i'll remember never to shop there.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I am dismayed by the events that took place at Starrs, (and will remember not to shop there anymore) I am even more dismayed that you didn't crusie by 1248 Moorlands Drive.....hmmmph!
Happy new Year to ya and nice new pics on ye' ol friendster site. Super Neato.
Ms. JS

1:01 PM  

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