November 18, 2002
“Savage Inequalities”; An Assessment
For years I did not know anything about the city of East St. Louis. All I knew was the occasional glimpse that I caught as I passed it many times on my way out of town: it was all rows upon rows of dilapidated houses, charred from the outdated coal-factories nearby. Boarded windows and broken glass are the only highlights of a city that is so run down. It believed it to be a G-d-forsaken place where only hoodlums, prostitutes and drug dealers could make a living. In our county, nobody talked of East St. Louis. Maybe once or twice, my parents would mention that if I somehow stumbled into East St. Louis on accident (cause obviously, no one wants to be there of their own free will), then I should roll up my window, get my head down and “never let them know you’re white!” Only after I had read excerpts from Savage Inequalities did I realized the true situation in which East St. Louis lay. The house costs are low, property taxes are on the brink of being virtual worthlessness and schools very much resemble the conditions of factories at the turn of the 20th century. And although Savage Inequalities was written over 10 years ago, the scenario still greatly resembles that of today. And with what, I think, are these people, these ruined citizens, and their children, able to better this situation? How are people without income, running water and debts, able to concentrate their attention to raising the essential finances needed to support this city? This is why the local and state governments must intervene – working together to acquire Federal funding needed to initiate revitalization for East St. Louis and other areas similar in ruin.
It is true that in the past ten years, there have been many philanthropists and volunteers who have already begun major refinements to the city of St. Louis. In the past couple of years, East St. Louis has forgotten what it means to have help from the state; and so they have looked to other better persons for hope. People like Kaven Swan and Michael Kennedy, who took up a project for the Bank of America to provide funding for the building of a library. “This library is an important addition to East St. Louis that will benefit generations to come” (Jesse White, “East St. Louis Library Built Brick by Brick”). The library “…houses a comprehensive collection of African-American culture and history and an extensive reference department” (Bob Moore, SWI-News.com). This library will, no doubt, affect many young lives in the years to follow. Also, a national audience of bankers, investors and community members have volunteered their efforts and time in order to develop a special conference, called “Rays of Hope.” This seminar focuses on “…comprehensive housing and job strategies, attracting businesses to the inner city, redeveloping “brownfields” and building individual wealth” (“Rays of Hope Community Development Conference”). Such a seminar will certainly be beneficial to citizens of East St. Louis who wish to get their lives back on a correct path – it is for those who wish to free themselves of the horrifying conditions that the city has to offer.
However, without the initial monetary push from the local and state governments, East St. Louis can never truly recover from its current crisis. Despite such philanthropic programs, the area is still in financial ruin. They are still looking for what they believe will be the “catalyst to spur economic development on the riverfront” (Moore, Bob). Yet they simply cannot get it. The county and the state have separated itself from areas such as East St. Louis; we view the city as a cramp that brings the statistics down for us. And so we simply choose not to associate ourselves with the city. Yet this must not be, for as a city, as a state, we must all