Skip to main content

See also:

Racism and rebellion in my old home town-Ferguson

The first thing I noticed when I heard about the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, of Ferguson, MO, I thought of my first home where I lived in that very town.
I used to live on Coppinger Street, with my mother, father and two brothers. It was a small wooden, three bedroom house with a tiny kitchen. It was a wooden house, painted green. It was a mostly working class neighborhood. We moved to a more middle class neighborhood in St. Louis County in 1959. The whole time I lived in Ferguson I don’t ever remember seeing an Afro-American person. Today 67.4% of Ferguson is black, and mostly because of white flight.
I never saw black people until we drove around in downtown St. Louis. Once I started in grade school, in St. Louis County, I immediately realized that racism was alive and well. My parents discouraged all racism, especially my mother. But I could tell from other kids that they heard things not so pleasant about black people. Some used the “n” word. I remember the joke a kid told me: “If you want to take a dangerous ride, go through n@#$%-town on a slow moving mini bike.” Although our whole family moved to Wichita, KS in 1969 my brother Chris Otto has moved back and he has told me that there is a lot of bigotry by St. Louis’s whites today.
“In the south of St. Louis County, where I work, there are a lot of whites who believe that blacks are all on welfare or are criminals,” Otto said.
He added that suburban whites are scared to death.
Otto also said that Ferguson has become highly militarized, since the shooting with police using military style helmets and weapons.
“They even have a tank,” he said.
He said a lot of the press seems to report on all protests along with common crime as if it is all the same thing.
“Anytime someone protests they make it look like it’s violent,” he explained.
According to the L. A. Times, city officials have asked protesters to rally only during daylight hours to ensure community safety.
“During the protests they would not let people leave their houses,” Otto said. “Some people tried to return to their homes and found them blocked off by barricades.”
As with this shooting and its aftermath we see some of the raw racism that still lingers in this country. Not only do our police shoot black suspects for flimsy reasons, but white and black people are still—in reality and in general—deeply divided.