All parents attempt to choose what is best for their children. Each parent’s checklist typically includes: strong schools, safe neighborhoods, and comfortable housing. My grandparents on my dad’s side moved to the Parkway School District to raise their six children. My mom’s parents lived in North. She and my aunt attended Normandy, which even then was in decline. Both sets of grandparents made the decision they thought best for their family based on what they could afford.
Little did my family know that they were part of a trend that would later devastate the City and County. Regional politics de jure (according to law) and de facto (in fact) effectively segregated Black and White citizens of the region--first by block, then by neighborhood, then by city.
With the 1876 Great Divorce preventing the City from growing beyond 61 square miles, municipalities racing to the bottom to compete for residents, and Urban Renewal projects that red-lined and discriminated against Black citizens, the region's above fragmentation is the end result.
The commercial and residential development markets, distorted by the City and Municipalities, gave the majority a choice and the minority no choice—which perpetuated virtuous and vicious cycles of prosperity and poverty. Yet, this sprawl cannot continue forever and our fragmentation must no longer continue. Each is unsustainable. Let us accept and swallow the bitter facts whole. They will not kill us. They will make us stronger.
At St. Louis Strong, our goal is to bring the people of the Greater St. Louis region back together. We know who we can blame and we now know why our region suffers economic and social woes. Besides raising factual awareness, playing the blame game does not fix the problem.
Whether intentional and unintentional these are the facts of our history. It is our responsibility to address them or we ourselves become culpable. By reunifying our region physically we will also reunify in the same spirit—and that may just make the label ‘Greater St. Louis’ not just a geographic title—but a fact.
In sum, St. Louis is faced with only one choice: Join or Die.