Using a PowerPoint voting system, more than half the people attending the Ferguson Commission’s seventh meeting on Monday night said that no, they don’t think racial tensions in the St. Louis area will ever be fully eliminated.
About two-thirds thought racial and ethnic relations were ‘somewhat likely’ to improve in the next three to five years.
The Rev. Starsky Wilson, commission co-chair, called for action and resilience as he presented a ‘100 Days of Learning’ report to a crowd of about 125 at the Missouri History Museum on Monday night. For the seventh meeting of the Commission, organizers selected racial and ethnic relations as its focus.
“There are 2.8 million people in our region, and this is all of our issue, all of our challenge, all of our problem,” Wilson said. “This is a regional challenge that we cannot hide from in our respective coves, ghettoes or neighborhoods.”
The report included grim statistics, both old and new:
— Though the St. Louis region makes up 22 percent of Missouri’s population, it represents 46 percent of the state’s revenue from municipal fines and fees. African Americans are disproportionately likely to be stopped while driving.
— St. Louis is the 5th most racially segregated of 50 large metro areas.
— Life expectancy is 18 years longer for residents of the 63105 area code (Clayton) than for neighboring 63106 (north St. Louis).
During the public comment period, public relations executive John Parker said systematic racial issues are all over St. Louis.
“They’re staring people in the face and they choose not to address them. Why does the MetroLink stop at (Interstate) 270? Why does it stop at the Galleria? Because people don’t want ‘an element’ in those other neighborhoods,” Parker said.
Attendees divided into three breakout sessions to discuss issues surrounding race in St. Louis and how they should be addressed. Recommendations from the sessions were taken down for the Commission’s newly created working group on Racial and Ethnic Relations.
Other working groups include Citizen Law Enforcement Relations, Economic Inequity and Child Well-Being.
The Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for March 23rd.