I attended University City High School from 1980 through 1983. There is so much I can say about it, and I already have on a couple of posts about the value of public education and the importance of learning from adversity.
I cannot say it was a golden period of my life. In many ways, it challenged me and I could not wait to get away from the St. Louis area as soon as I could. However, the best part of that period of my life, through my graduation, was learning how to confront and respond to aspects of race relations that impact our country, but really most of the world. I do not claim I am a better person. I just think I have a more nuanced view and can appreciate different perspectives better because of this experience. And trust me, I have some perspectives that do not fit traditional narratives, but make sense for me. My later photo-documentary projects were very much inspired by going to a place like University City High School.
I have been thinking about University City lately in light of recent events. For the past two years, the country has been roiled with the latest chapters in our race-related debates over criminal justice, policing, immigration reform, and firerms-related violence.
The most prominent stories focussing on the black-and-white dimensions have come to a boil over the recent grand jury decision in St. Louis County not to indict Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer, for shooting an unarmed African American man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson this summer; the exonneration of Latino George Zimmerman (often mistakenly called white throughout the proceedings) for the 2012 shooting death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin in a Florida suburb over a “stand your ground” case; and this week the failure by a New York City grand jury to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo over the choke hold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner in July 2014.
Dr. Martin Luther King once reportedly said Sunday morning was the most segregated time in America. I personally think the more hours you spend with people who have a different set of experiences than you, the wiser and more thoughtful you will be. I have pretty much thought that since I left University City. My hope is that there can be individual efforts by ordinary people in their own way to get to know each other better, while working on bigger problems that continue to impact communities everywhere in this country.
(Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)