Be the change

by ASHLEY PRESTON, Staff Writer

A street in East St. Louis, Missouri


For my sociology class, our last assignment is to “Do Something.” Since I write, I figured my “something” could be done in a way to inform you about issues you should be aware of. I have learned a lot from this class. There are many things I had always believed to be true, but after reading essays and hearing about many different real scenarios, I realized that some things are much different than they actually seem.

Most of us are familiar with the idea that America is a pretty well developed country and that there are many less developed countries in the world. What if I told you that there are places in the United States that appear just as underdeveloped as the places we term as “third world countries?” Would you be surprised? I was.

Sure, we hear that there are various areas of poverty. The unemployment rate has gone all over the place in the past 10 years. Of course some people are wealthier than others, that’s how capitalism works. But does that warrant polar opposite living conditions in a so-called “land of opportunity?” It’s important to consider that some people do choose to live in a much different way than the majority of people, but the number of people who live in these horrid conditions NOT by choice is disheartening.

The next thing to think about is that if a person is unhappy or unemployed, they should change it. Get a job. Move to a better area. Go to school. I agree with these things. I think people should absolutely make their very best effort to change things if they are in a bad position. What I hadn’t considered is the fact that it could be so incredibly hard for some people to do so.

There are many communities that trap people in a cycle of hardship. Among these are East St. Louis, Missouri. I had never learned about this city before this year. Information on it was never expressed in the curriculums I had been a part of.  Most people are familiar with St. Louis, Missouri. East St. Louis is just a nine minute drive away, without traffic, according to google maps. East St. Louis can be paired with the keywords “ghetto,” “crime,” and “gangs” with an image search. After reading about this city in class, I was convinced it wasn’t in our great prosperous country. With crime and poverty at alarmingly high rates, I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about this city. After all, the news always seems to highlight the bad things that happen.

As a proud American who believes in both hard work and helping others this new information was conflicting to me. Can hard work and dedication really not always get you to better places? How is that fair? Furthermore, I questioned why we hadn’t fixed this city of East St. Louis. To my dismay, there are also other cities like this in our country. Some we are well aware of and some we’ve never heard about. Whether or not you’ve heard of the struggles in East St. Louis, I encourage you to make yourself aware of the places in poverty around the country. Don’t just push them aside since they “don’t apply to you” like I did, because the struggles of others always apply to us.