More than 5,000 Americans have been shot by police in the past five years, and blacks are killed at more than twice the rate of white Americans according to data tracked by the Washington Post. Here in Missouri, we’ve had 139 police shootings since 2015. The murder of George Floyd has served as the catalyst for a nationwide wakeup call: This isn’t right, and racism must stop. Recent events in one Missouri County confirm we have more work to do in that regard.
Franklin County: A Microcosm of Missouri
Franklin County is located in the east central part of our great state. It adjoins St. Louis, Jefferson, Washington, St. Charles, Warren, Crawford, and Gasconade Counties. While mostly rural, it’s often considered part of the St. Louis metropolitan area.
According to the US Census QuickFacts, Franklin County’s population is about 104,000. The vast majority — nearly 97% — are white. Most have graduated high school but only about 20% have earned a college degree. That’s a little less than the state average (29%). The median income for Franklin County residents is about $55,000 per year, slightly higher than the state as a whole ($54,000).
By and large, Franklin County residents also have access to information. Data collected between 2014-2018 show that nearly 88% own a computer, and 76% subscribe to a broadband Internet service.
Why do these facts matter? With a few exceptions, Franklin County residents represent much of the state of Missouri.
Protesters Stand Up to Racism in Franklin County
Organizers have protested peacefully in Union, St. Clair, and Washington. More are being planned and these two recent examples suggest they’re needed. Apparently, there are those who still need to understand that there’s no place for racism in Franklin County.
An Ugly Past of Racism
Just a few months ago, the Washington Missourian published an article that highlighted an ugly part of Franklin County’s past: The lynching of an African American man. A group of local residents researched and paid tribute to Erastus Brown, a St. Clair resident who was murdered in Union by a mob while he was being held in the county jail on charges of attacking a white woman. The mob lynched Brown in 1897, but he wasn’t the only victim killed in Franklin County. The group wanted to call attention to the past in order to build awareness and tamp down local racism. Apparently, not enough people read the article.
Recent Troubling Events
In a recent edition, the Missourian reported on a local farmer who had shared a meme on his private Facebook page that many considered to be racially insensitive at best. The farmer stated that the post wasn’t intended to be racist, but county residents and the farmer’s customers reacted quickly. Many customers are restaurant owners in the St. Louis metro area. The farmer immediately lost a significant amount of his business.
That same paper published a cartoon in its editorial section on June 10 that immediately drew the ire of readers. The cartoon featured a white woman being robbed at gunpoint by a black man. The caption suggested the crime was the result of defunding the police.
The decision to publish such a cartoon is a shocking example of poor judgment, tone deafness, and arguably blatant racism. It forced a quick apology by two co-owners of the newspaper, stating that the editorial cartoon doesn’t reflect the views of Missourian staff. They pointed out that the paper’s editor/publisher selected the cartoon. According to our sources, the co-owners are related to the editor/publisher.
The Missourian has served most of Franklin County since 1937 and has a circulation of about 16,000. It will be interesting to see if readers will continue to support the paper.
The Bottom Line:
There simply is no place for racism in Franklin County, or anywhere in Missouri. It needs to stop. Now.
OneMissouri is committed to research, education, advocacy, and policy development on behalf of all Missourians.
Top Graphic Credit: Pickpik.com