Friday, July 17, 2009

Race and the economy

Two of the most talked about aspects of diversity in America are economic diversity and racial diversity. Of these two qualities come some of the country's most astonishing accomplishments as well as its most dismal failures.

In St. Louis, there is a wide range of both.

While it is without a doubt an industrial metropolis, the St. Louis economy includes the health and science fields, technology and service industries. Many smaller communities near the city -- on both sides of the river -- both contribute to and benefit from St. Louis city's economy.

The racial makeup of St. Louis is largely black and white, but there are significant populations of Bosnian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian and Hispanic ethnic groups as well, all living, working and playing in St. Louis and its surrounding communities.

At the St. Louis Beacon, we have taken and continue to take an in-depth look at both of these issues, with our "Race, Frankly" and "Uneasy Street" series.

In Race, Frankly, we recently asked members of our Public Insight Network to give us their personal perspectives on race. They responded with stories: positive and negative, about how other people have treated them based on race -- as well as how they've treated others, and told us what race means to them. Read the first part of the Personal Perspectives on Race story, and see the whole Race, Frankly project.

In Uneasy Street, we've been focusing on how communities in and around St. Louis have dealt with the economic downturn. Recently we turned to Maplewood, a small suburb of St. Louis city. A former transportation hub, Maplewood was a shopping district in the early part of the 20th century. But as flight to even more remote suburbs began and regional shopping centers sprung up, Maplewood's small shops took a big hit. In the last several years, however, low rents and business-friendly government attracted development, which has snowballed into something of a rebirth. While the wider economic situation has brought instability everywhere, Maplewood is still working to keep a happy ending on its rags-to-riches story.

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