Why would St. Louis mayoral candidate and city treasurer Tishaura Jones, who is weeks away from the city’s March 7 primary election, decline an opportunity to discuss her platform with the city’s major newspaper? Because the editorial board and a host of reporters at the St. Louis-Post Dispatch have been inking the pages with “thinly veiled racism,” she alleges, and she’s fed up with it.
Jones, breathing fire, penned a professional but forceful letter to St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page director Tod Robberson (and his dog) that is very much worth a read for anyone working in the blindingly snow white landscape of American media. Her letter was partially a response to Robberson’s recent column about crime, in which he admitted, “I live in one of the city’s safer neighborhoods, and I don’t walk my dog at night without constantly looking over my shoulder,” and called on mayoral candidates to create “a viable plan of action to address blight and abate the graffiti that’s killing our city.” Notably, Robberson did not ask the future mayor to fix the issues that make St. Louis one of the most segregated cities in America.
The St. Louis American published the letter in full, in which Jones outlined her reasons for declining the interview and puts Robberson on notice. “You just moved here. It isn’t your city, yet. And graffiti is not what’s killing it,” she wrote. She continued:
What is killing our region is a systemic racism that pervades almost every public and private institution, including your newspaper, and makes it nearly impossible for either North St. Louis or the parts of South St. Louis where African Americans live to get better or safer or healthier or better-educated.
This is the part of Jones’s letter that, if delivered as a speech, would take her ten minutes to get through because everyone would be cheering so hard:
I think you were in Texas during Ferguson. If so, you may have missed what happened here: We woke up. Black people woke up. Allies stood up. Young people spoke up. Our best minds listened and produced a pair of remarkable documents, the Forward Through Ferguson report and the For the Sake of All report, that are blueprints for the next four years of a mayor.
“I will look at every issue through a racial equity lens,” she promised. “I will ask if every decision we make helps those who have been disenfranchised, red-lined and flat-out ignored for way too long.”
Before signing off, Jones had one final recommendation for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
But what the editorial board and certain other reporters have done is nothing short of thinly veiled racism and preference for the status quo past. Something this city has had enough of.
I think there might be enough city voters who are with me and are ready to vote for that change in March and April. After we do that, you and your dog will be safer. And maybe you will consider hiring an African-American editorial writer.
Read the rest of Jones’s letter here.