The Film Maker, the Murdered Boy, and a Socratic Dialogue
(Katherine Moore)

“I think it's baby steps to creating a new way to think about race and
economy in St. Louis (as you've pointed out), and it's very important
to show how the local and federal government play into this vicious
cycle of 'flight and blight' and see how we've been encouraged to
stimulate the economy through racist belief systems.”—Morton
wrote in an email to me
I really wanted to research all the dynamics that went into the
phenomenon of white flight in Spanish Lake,
 Morton said in a recent
telephone interview from Los Angeles. 
I came away convinced that this
is not an issue of race but of class and opportunities.
quoted on
“A lot of it is class. A lot of it is politics. Race is one dynamic,
but the appearance of the transition does seem cultural. It does seem
like it is a racial thing.”
Morton on KTVI
“I told you not to trust the guy.”
“You did.”
“He just says whatever he thinks people want to hear.”
“We don’t know that.”
“He tells you that our economy is built on a racist system and he
tells The Post that this ain’t a race thing?”
“He didn’t exactly say the economy was built on a racist system. I
think it was me who said that.”
“That’s why he’s saying something similar to you now. Not because he
believes it, but because he knows that’s what you believe.”
“I don’t think I ever actually said that to him though.”
“Oh for the love of God! Your Facebook is not private!”
“That’s true.”
“He’s a jerk.”
“We don’t know that.”
“We do. People who talk out both sides of their mouths are jerks.”
“All human beings are inconsistent. And besides, we don’t understand
the nature of the inconsistency.”
“Give me one reason why one would say radically different things like
“Maybe he is being misquoted by The Post.”
“You’re more comfortable calling The Post guy a liar than calling
Morton two-faced?”
“Six of this. Half a dozen the other. I’m just recognizing
“Fine. What about when he was talking to Randi Naughton?”
“He said race was one dynamic. I agree with that.”
“No. He said it SEEMED like a racial thing.”
“It doesn’t seem like a racial thing to you?”
“He means that it SEEMS like a racial thing, but.”
“But it’s a class and politics thing?”
“If The Post writer isn’t a lair, yeah.”
“Ugh. It’s not like I can do anything about it really. I’m actually
more pissed off at this Rob Levy guy anyway.”
“The writer from The Beacon. You see what he wrote about our home?
Apocalyptic ghost town. American dream to American scream. Gag me with
flamboyant language ... Look how good my writing is. I use 10 letter
words and make clever rhymes. My overly-dramatic language doesn’t
negatively affect an entire community at all.”
“There’s 11 letters in Apocalyptic.”
“Did you ever ask Morton about the inconsistency?”
“Sort of.”
“What do you mean?”
“I asked him what consequences might arise or not arise by framing the
issue away from racism. If one focus on class and/or lack of
opportunity as ‘the problem’, how might the outcome differ from one in
which racism is the focus of ‘the problem?’”
“What’d he say?”
“He never responded.”
“Of course he didn’t.”
“I can’t fault him. I haven’t answered all my emails yet either... I
have been asking other people the same question though.”
“Erica Huggins.”
“She told me that I should ask the question of the film maker and take
things from there.”
“That’s obvious. Why’d you ask her? Seems random.”
“Perspective. See how someone outside of myself would answer the
question. See if maybe I was missing something important.”
“And Erica Huggins knows about Spanish Lake because?”
“I thought she might know something about how racism gets talked about
that maybe I wasn’t considering. Plus she just seems like a kind
“Who else did you ask?”
“Some ladies on the panel after the Pruitt-Igoe Myth movie.”
“What they say?”
“The first woman to respond was like, ‘It’s a race thing! You saw the
people in the film!’ There was old footage of white people saying
things like, ‘I moved here because it was a white neighborhood. I
don’t want to live here if it gets black quite frankly.’ An older
woman on the panel began to disagree. This upset the first lady who
said something to the effect of, ‘No! We hide behind politics! We hide
behind ideas of economy!’ The older woman spoke up and said that this
did nothing to address the structural issues of the Pruitt-Igoe
buildings ... which is probably true ... Then the politician lady
talked about how lots of people made their careers off Pruitt-Igoe.
She mentioned some PhD’s famed study as an example. All the panelists
scoffed at the mention of his name. She said that by-and-large the
people who profited off Pruitt-Igoe were not African-American people.
She also said that the people of Pruitt-Igoe raised funds to do their
own study or to make their own documentary or something like that.”
“You going to make your own documentary?”
“Buy me a camera. We’ll find out.”
“You ever answer your question for yourself?”
“Yes and no. I’m still processing. I think about the question a lot.
Especially lately with Trayvon’s smiling face staring at me every time
I open my laptop. I think he is an example of the consequence of down-
playing how racism affects the make-up of communities. People are
afraid of Spanish Lake. It’s so dangerous. All these gangsters and
thugs walking around in groups. All these dark-skinned people living
together in a concentrated area. We live in an urban ghetto according
to some and they are scared to come here. And yet this boy walks
through a really nice gated community and gets kill. So what are you
talking about? It makes me angry that white people don’t address the
racism issue more openly. That’s why I’m watching Morton’s words so
closely. I don’t want him to down-play the racism. I don’t want it to
be about just class and lack of opportunity because that’s leaving out
a huge part of things.”
“What about Zimmerman. You think they will arrest him?”
“Yeah. I don’t think he will be found guilty of anything. I remember
Laurence Powell. Somehow this guy seems less scary than Powell.”
“Seems less or SEEMS less, but...”
“Beat a man repeatedly with a stick. Shoot an unarmed boy. Six of
this. Half a dozen of the other. But somehow with Zimmerman, I
empathize with him more. He was paranoid. He had fear. He was scared
of a hooded dark-skinned teenager he didn’t recognize. He trailed the
kid even after 911 told him to stop. That was wrong... But
somehow ... That he had this irrational fear ... it’s the same
fear in many people around us. Zimmerman could have been any one of a
number of people we know. Any one of those people would have been just
doing their best to protect us. Irrationally protecting us.”
“I figured you’d be the first to blast Zimmerman.”
“I too am inconsistent. Today I feel more melancholy than angry. On an
angry day, I probably would bash Zimmerman.”
“What does it all matter anyway? Nothing’s going to change.”
“You don’t believe in the Promised Land?”
“No. I’m not MLK and you’re not MLK. Neither one of us are ever going
to change anything. So why bother?”
“I can’t believe like you. I have to believe differently just to get
out of bed in the morning. I believe we can cross that stream.”
“Yes ... I quote, ‘There’s a stream to cross and a raft to get us
there. We look to the other side with longing as we stand in an arid
land. We step on the raft, become stream-enterers, pole with
diligence. A day may come when the green of that far land rises up on
every side.’”
“What’s that from?”
“I have no idea. Sounds Buddhist though doesn’t it.”
“Interesting... You’re going to have to give me a good reason to do
anything and that reason can’t be to end racism. I don’t believe that
will ever happen.”
“How about revenge?”
“My interest is peaked.”
“Well, I’m still hating on Rob Levy. I think messing with him would
bring satisfaction.”
“Cyber hack The Beacon?”
“What? No! I was going to say flood his email with lots of positive
images of Spanish Lake.”
“And there goes my interest in your lame revenge plot.”

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