Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quincy and Martin Luther King

My native city has made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a controversy over whether to rename a street after Martin Luther King. What the article doesn't quite pick up on is the sort of neighborhoods the street selected goes through. North 8th Street runs through the heart of Quincy's majority-African-American neighborhood. The middle section around Broadway is right downtown, where there are mostly businesses and apartments with a very mixed population. South 8th, on the other hand, runs right through what I guess you might call the area of town least likely to welcome a street by that name.

I think having a street named after Martin Luther King is probably a good idea, though for some reason choosing 8th bugs me just because it disrupts the numbering system. What they could do instead is rename one of the presently named streets, such as Oak or Locust, that also cuts through the traditionally African-American district. Or, if that still wouldn't work, just pick one of the streets on the north side that's only now starting to see development. I've lost track of the city's development plans, but they were always talking about new strip malls and stuff off to the north. This might seem out of the way now, but given a couple of decades it will be decidedly within the city.

One last point that struck me is an apparent contradiction between two common beliefs among White Quincyans, though not stated openly in the article. One is the belief that having a street perceived as African-American causes a drop in property values; the other is that the problem of racism in society has been pretty much solved. Can anyone reconcile these two beliefs?


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