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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Four young lives, stolen

In East St. Louis, Ill., a woman named Tiffany Hall killed her friend Jimella Tunstall last week — a friend so close she called her "cousin."


Life in East St. Louis.
Tiffany Hall confessed and said she killed her friend, cut the fetus out of her belly with scissors, and left her to bleed to death in a field of weeds. Jimella Tunstall's three other children were found dead Saturday in a washer and a dryer.

The three kids — ages 7, 2 and 1 — were missing for six days. You can read the whole story.

This is a tragedy. It's horrific and scary.

I've spent time in East St. Louis, in particular with the East St. Louis Action Research Project, which sends University of Illinois students to one the state's poorest, most crime-ridden areas to bring college smarts and grassroots improvements to the city.

East St. Louis is one of the most striking places I've ever been. It's not much different than bad neighborhoods in most cities, but here it's a whole city that's poor. A city where Ike met Tina, where you can see the Gateway Arch from almost everywhere, a city that once had great jazz clubs and now has notorious strip clubs.

Today it's a place no one would want to visit. Buildings are abandoned and falling down. The only businesses that seem to thrive are churches, liquor stores and check-cashing joints. There are 72.5 males for every 100 females, and 97 percent of the population is black.

I don't believe that Tiffany Hall or Jimella Tunstall had what they deserved — in life or, in Jimella Tunstall's case, death.

We all make choices, and many would have you believe that all of us pick choices out of the same hat. But we don't.

I can't believe that Jimella Tunstall and Tiffany Hall had the opportunities that you and I had at age 16. Jimella Tunstall was pregnant by then. Update: So was Tiffany Hall. The Department of Children and Family Services intervened with both of their families. Both women had children who spent time in foster care.

I think that these women grew up in a place where desperation is an everyday emotion. I think that these women and children lived a scary, sad and difficult life through and through. Not because they were poor, but because they were poor in a place where poor is a fact of life.

I think that all the services that are available to help young mothers, poor mothers and uneducated mothers weren't enough. Poor is life in East St. Louis. Many girls drop out of high school there with swelling bellies and babies on the way. Another baby follows the first, and pretty soon Jimella Tunstall was 23 with baby No. 4 on the way. And even after Jimella Tunstall, the fetus in her womb, 7-year-old DeMond, 2-year-old Ivan and year-old Jinela died, no one came forward to say, "That baby is mine, too." Even days later no newspapers come out and call the situation an outrage.

This is our fault. We live in a rich, rich world.

Why can't we help women not have four kids before they turn 24? And why do I feel convinced that if the women and children in this story were white it'd be a tragedy, but since they're black, it's a fact of life in a shitty, poor city?

Tell me I'm wrong all you want. I'm an optimist. An idealist, even. But this is almost knocking me down. We can't live like this. Can we?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charity begins at home. I dont understand how such condition of living can exist in a so called 1st world country!!!!

Blogger Elvin Robinson said...

Shut up dumb ass. You don't got nothing to do with people having 4 kids before 24

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.