St Louis Is Everywhere – Megan Pillow Davis

So I go to this conference in St. Louis, and my hotel is full of black people
dressed nice. The lady at the front desk whispers “they’re going to a wedding”

as if it’s a secret, as if black people dressed nice at a hotel need some kind of
explanation. Every time I call for an Uber, my driver is a white guy. In between

the “what are you in town for?” and the “have a nice visit,” white guy pontificates
on the history of race in his city, as if I can’t see all of the limestone we’re passing,

as if I don’t notice that St. Louis has lightened its buildings the way bleaching creams lighten the skin, and I get the message: whiteness is, after all, not just about beauty,

but the delivery of pain. My white guy Uber drivers think it’s safe to mention Michael Brown’s name in passing. His body is their punctuation mark – an asterisk, maybe a

comma – that gets crowded out by gossip about the latest Cardinals valuation. They drop me off at the conference hotel where all the white people like me wear name badges that

flutter like cattle tags. They shuttle me to bars where, somehow, all the white people are still laughing and drinking their IPAs, where the men tug at the waists of their women,

pulling them like taffy to their tongues, where the women heft the globes of their breasts
under the silver gazes of bathroom mirrors. Somehow, all the white people are still

singing and dancing to Taylor Swift as if the world has not thrown from its orbit and gone careening out into the dark of the universe, sizzling with light, the last firework

at the end of every Independence Day night that wobbles its way to the top of the hazy sky and then dies dies dies. Somebody told me about a pizza place on Washington Ave,

and this time I walk. Every black man who passes me slides his eyes away and crosses the street when I get too close. I pass a Latina with her two young kids, a teenager in

hijab. The four of them drain away from the city sidewalks like blood from an opened vein, like blood from a black kid shot twelve times and dying in the street. At the pizza

place, I order an IPA. The white man next to me reads my face as if I’ve just made him
some kind of promise. He smiles. “Sometimes,” he says, “you gotta shake things up.

Sometimes you gotta create chaos.” Behind him, above the door, is the photo of the man throwing a tear gas canister back at the Ferguson police during the riots that feel like

yesterday, like today. The canister is all wobbling, sizzling light. Behind the man, two others blur against the hazy night sky. The canister hovers just above the palm

of his hand, waiting to be thrown from its orbit, to careen to its death. Each time the door opens, my eyes find him again, a dark planet in the disquieted universe of white. I know

that man is Edward Crawford. I know I cannot talk about the people on the street as if they are pieces of scenery. I would name them now, but they have, understandably,

kept their names a secret because I am not to be trusted. I know that the world did not all of a sudden break from its orbit because the orbit was broken long ago, because this

chaos is old. But I underestimated the scope of this disaster. I should have shouted long ago that Michael Brown was not the only one left in the street to die. I should have

shouted about each every black body and brown body that has been bleeding its color
into the ground for years. I should have noticed long ago that St. Louis is everywhere,

the bodies are everywhere, every city in this country is a body dying on the concrete,
bleeding out to white. The only question left is, where do we put our hands to staunch the

bleeding? The only task: How do we put the blood back in?


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Image: via Pixabay

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