Is Cape Racially Divided?

Editorial written by Christopher Morrill on Saturday, July 8, 2000

from the national-magazine-reporters-not-welcome-here dept.

Is Cape racially divided? Well, duh. Of course it is.

However, that's not anything unusual at all. Racial divides are the norm, not the exception.

The editorial in the July 7th edition of the Southeast Missourian focuses on the fact that Time Magazine only gave Cape Girardeau a passing mention in it's "Life on the Mississippi" edition. That passing mention wasn't satisfactory to the Missourian; they are miffed that Time describes Cape as "racially divided".

I'm not really sure what the Missourian expected; free Chamber of Commerce-type publicity? A full page, butt-kissing ad for Cape tourism splashed across America?

Getting only one scant sentence in Time's edition was lucky. New Madrid was also visited by Time's floating journalistic circus and didn't even get a mention. On the other hand, Cairo was visited and got ridiculed in grand style.

I'd like to think that Cape getting only one sentence is better than what could have happened.

Was Time looking for trouble in their visits to these river towns? You bet. Trouble makes good journalism. No one buys Time to read about happy, fluffy, sunshiny, uncontroversial, community-oriented sugar-coated goodwill. Why would we? We have the Missourian for that.

Truth: the racial divide in Cape really does exist. No one in Cape would know what a "melee" even was, if not for Good Hope Street. Any area of town that has residents believing it's just hunky-dory to throw bricks and bottles at police officers is bound to be entertaining. For the Missourian to be miffed that Time pointed this out is kind of baffling.

But, consider this: for Time to point out that Cape is racially divided is also kind of silly and redundant. Why?

Every city is racially divided. This is a fact of life. Desegregation in the 1950's and 1960's was in name only; people have found ways to voluntarily segregate themselves ever since.

After forty-plus years of government social engineering... here it is, the year 2000. You can go into any town with mixed races and find they're not mixed at all. There's still a white side of town and a black side of town. And the old stereotype about the railroad tracks being the dividing line is often still true.

If a neighborhood has a mix of white and black people in it, all that means is that the white folks haven't moved out yet. They will.

Human beings are clannish, xenophobic pack animals. We don't usually congregate with people not like ourselves. If it's not race, it's language. If it's not language, it's religion. If it's not religion, it's politics. We find reasons to dislike one another, even when no real substantial reasons exist. That's just the way it is, all over the world. No one can do anything about it.

That includes Time by pointing it out, and the Missourian for not liking the truth.