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St. Louis, MO: Ain’t She a Beauty!

Eric Ward • Jun 24, 2008

Can I ask you a question? Have you ever had one of those “just incredible weekends”? You know what I mean. The kind of weekend that makes you wish you had a three-day weekend. The type that makes you want to retire at forty, the sort of weekend you thank American organized labor for winning on our behalf.

I just had one of those weekends, and I’m still giddy about it so I feel the need to share. (Thanks in advance for being such a good listener, err I mean reader.)

I’m deeply in love and have been for nearly three years. Mia (that’s what I call her) likes to travel. And it works well for us because I have to travel extensively for my job.

Last weekend found us in St. Louis, also known as “The Gateway City.” St. Louis jazz is internationally famous and everyone knows if you haven’t had St. Louis Barbeque, you never had real BBQ. The world famous St. Louis Arch also stands aside the mighty Mississippi river, symbolizing the geographic gateway between the eastern and western halves of the United States.

As Mia and I strolled along the cobbled streets by the waterfront, it occurred to me that St. Louis represents one of the best definitions of American identity. I mean what better examples than the symbolism of jazz and Barbeque to prove the potential power of E Pluribus Unum? And what better icing on the cake of what our country will be than an interracial couple strutting their stuff along the avenue to seal the deal.

It’s times like these, when I’m feeling full of life that I like to remember the Americans who paved the way before me. There was such a couple who did that paving a little less than one hundred and fifty years earlier and I couldn’t help but notice that, just a few blocks away at the old courthouse, they made their presence known.

Dred and Harriet Scott were Americans who were considered slaves because their ancestors came from Africa. The people who treated them like property made the great mistake of moving Dred and Harriet Scott to Missouri, a state that outlawed slavery. Eventually, the Scotts sued for their freedom. At first they lost, then won, and then lost again.

The case finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. The Court ruled against the Scott’s and issued one of its most embarrassing rulings. The court argued, “that the black man has no rights that are bound to be respected by the white man.” Eventually, Dred and Harriet Scott found their freedom, and on this incredible weekend the Scott’s trial reminds me of how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

As me, a black man walking down the street deeply in love and hand in hand with my Lebanese and Jewish partner, I knew in my heart that St. Louis should be seen as more than just a geographic gateway. St. Louis should be celebrated as the city that represents the gateway between our American identity of yesterday and of today.

I think that would make Dred and Harriet Scott happy. And after 150 years, I’d like to think they’ve earned that right. In fact, I think that we all have.

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