Do you enjoy the podcast “Serial” or the Netflix show “Making a Murderer”? The Other Side of the River is a true crime book about the murder of a teenager from Benton Harbor, MI in the early 90’s. This book dealt with racism and issues that are in the news today despite this story taking place in 1991 and being published in 1998. Clearly, we have a problem here people!
For those non-Michiganders out there, Benton Harbor and St. Joe are neighboring towns on the shore of Lake Michigan. St. Joe is white, Benton Harbor is black. St. Joe is rich, Benton Harbor is poor. Get the picture? Eric Meginnis was a black teenager murdered in St. Joe and the book discusses the investigation.
The Other Side of the River would really do well as a one book, one community type of book because 1) there is too much going on just to write about on this little blog and 2) people need to talk. For real. Without fear. Easier said than done, I know.
The main thought that struck me throughout this book was how segregated we still are. In this book people are segregated by city. Where I live now is also segregated in this way. In the past, I’ve lived places segregated by neighborhood but the fact remains that even if the city itself is diverse, it seems people still live near those like themselves. I don’t like this, yet here I sit typing in a town in which I’m not sure I have ever noticed a person of color. In fact my moving truck drivers, who were black, got pulled over as soon as they pulled into town!
I have moved ten different times in the almost 12 years since I graduated high school. Each time I move one of the top priorities is to be somewhere safe- which by coincidence ends up being in primarily “white” areas. I have that privilege, however tight my budget, to be able to choose a place that is safe by looking at crime maps and choosing apartments in safe parts of town. Not everyone has that option to live in a safe place that also welcomes them and because many African American are economically disadvantaged, they are often forced to live in areas that are unsafe with lower quality schools (Extremely high quality teachers- some of the best, but lower quality for other reasons that could be a blog post by itself) which perpetuates this cycle. Some white people, like myself, would love to make a change and move into a community with more diversity however high crime and poor schools for current or future children keeps us away. Higher rent and racism likely keep blacks from moving to predominately white areas. If we continue to live apart, how can we ever fix this racism thing? This issue is something that bothered me throughout the entire book and I am well aware it is only one tiny, microscopic piece of this hot mess we have created in our country. I’m not sure what part I can play in fixing things, but I’m willing to listen and learn. A wise friend (name drop- Colleen Deal) recently said,
Can’t we all just admit that maybe we don’t know what it feels like to be someone else and that it’s possible someone else’s feelings are justified, whether we agree with them or not?
Something to think about… and if you need one more visual, watch this video of the Red Line in Chicago running from Skokie to the south side. For reference, I used to live near the Sheridan station.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/44945735″>Time-Lapse of the CTA Red Line: a 2-hour trip in 1 minute</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/wbez”>WBEZ</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
This fulfills the “Book set in your home state” category of the 2016 Reading Challenge!