When tragic events occur, the first question posed by those trying to make sense of the fallout is, “how could this happen?” The question typically holds a tone of disbelief. How could the shooting of an unarmed teenager by an officer occur, ignite a media firestorm, and set a region on fire? How did an American city come to look like a war zone?
Yet, the answer has been sitting right under our nose for years.
Occasionally, we do not notice out of a desire to shield ourselves from facts that do not align with our beliefs. Other times it is simply a lack of awareness.
“We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.” ~ Daniel Kaheneman in Thinking Fast and Slow
In St. Louis it is easy to insulate ourselves in our tiny municipalities. We come in less and less contact with others who hold different beliefs and backgrounds. Moreover, the lack of social mobility cements the walls of these echo chambers. Now, that a tragic event has captured our regional attention we must dig deeper to discover what we have been missing. While the work by groups like Better Together, are helping us make sense of our region—data exist, from Harvard studies to scholarly demographic mapping, which previously illustrates reasons for our decline.
It is time to reflect on how our collective action and inaction created the present state of St. Louis. By taking our time to examine our own conscience we will be become better prepared to address our weaknesses in order to build a stronger future.
Like it or not, we are now aware of the region's defects and that makes us complicit. Failure to act makes is an admission of culpability. It is every resident's responsibility to address the fragmentation which perpetuates social strife and beleaguers the economy. That is what it means to be a citizen in a republic. That is what it means to know 'whodunnit.'