How Country and Ignorant is St. Louis?

How country is St. Louis? And when I say country I don’t mean in a good way like these semi-illiterate numbskulls like Nelly and the morons on local hip-hop radio who have made being “country “cool. Well, first I have to define country for a lot of my readers. It has nothing to do with country music or being from a rural area; it has to do with the way a lot of people in STL talk and the provincial nature of a lot of St. Louisan’s. People in STL used to get mad when people called them country; but then when Nelly came out they started wearing it as a badge of honor. Meaning the more ignorant you talked and the less you knew about the world the more real you were.

When I say country I mean an ignorant know-nothing Mf’er from St. Louis who no matter how educated is still a hick. Two recent examples of encounters with such country fools in St. Louis?

The other day I walk into Panera bread to meet someone for a meeting. Now, normally I do not go to Panera because I don’t drink coffee and the food is not filling enough for me, but it is a good place to meet someone for a private meeting.

This Panera is located in the pedestrian area known as the Delmar Loop that is home to such places as the famous Vintage Vinyl, Blueberry Hill of Chuck Berry fame, Subterranean Books, the Tivoli Theater (an arthouse theater) and a variety of ethnic restaurants ranging from Ethiopian to Thai. The Loop is next to Washington University, a prestigious university that has one of the best medical schools in the country, and is surrounded by diverse neighborhoods (to the north African-American and Chinese, to the South rich white globos, to the east a black ghetto and a gentrified area, and to the West an Orthodox Jewish enclave and a white, mostly Jewish, middle-class).

You would think with all of this diversity that a guy working at this Panera location would not be so country or at least would try and hide his staggering level of ignorance. Well, that was not the case. As I walked to the counter alongside a Muslim brother and filmmaker to place my order for a bagel and soda the guy behind the counter said ” Merry Christmas Santa, I see it is coming early” and pointed to my beard. I said “haha man you think you funny or something?” and got my stuff.

Can you imagine that happening in New York? New Jersey? Chicago? DC? Philly? I cannot; but here in St. Louis I was not surprised by this ignorant Mf’er. And FYI, for him or anyone else with jokes about my beard; I aint Santa, but I may come down your chimney, and when I do it is not time to look for toys, but time to get right with God. When this guy looked at my beard he was looking from the point of someone so ill-informed that he had no idea that it is Islamic or that it may be offensive to joke on my beard. Of course he is not alone; I get dumb passengers who get in and say “ZZ Top” and a lot of these are college student or urban yuppies who are supposed to know a little bit about the world. The level of knowledge of Muslims in St. Louis, despite our relatively large population, is almost nil, that is why I am surprised when I meet someone here who knows anything about Islam at all.

But, the ignorance here is not limited to knowledge of Islam. I cannot tell you how many times black St. Louisan’s would walk up to my ex-wife ( who is Puerto Rican and from Brooklyn) and ask her “girl, what you mixed with” or ” you aint full-blooded are you” and she would look at them like they were from some planet of mental midgets. Do not get me wrong, she was not bourgeois at all, she grew up in the Albany Projects in Crown Heights and went to Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy, hardly upscale; but she had never encountered people this ignorant. Even when she would tell people she was Puerto Rican she would get stuff like ” oh, that is kind of like a Mexican or something”.

My current wife is a light-skinned black woman who covers (or in STL Ebonics light-skindeded) largely of black Caribbean origin whose family is from the East Coast and has lived all over, but most recently in Texas. When we went to the office to get health-coverage the lady behind the desk looked at her and me and then put her race down as white. Yesterday, at the doctors office, she told the country ass doctor she was black and the doctor said ‘are you sure? You look like a Texas Hispanic?” WTF?

First of all, that remark by the doctor was highly unprofessional. Second, if she means by Texas Hispanic that my wife looks Mexican this dumb country broad has never seen a Mexican before. Now, you can say my wife looks Boricua, Dominican, Cuban, Brazilian, but never in a million years does she look like any kind of Mexican. This lady may have never seen a Mexican and may not be able to find Texas on a map (not sure if there is a geography test on the medical exam). But again, I ask, outside of Utah, Idaho and the non-annexed South, can you imagine this happening anywhere else and not being surprised?

Any Good News in Da Lou?

Yes, from this morning, Alhamdudilah. I had a young African-American lady in my cab who was going to work in the Western suburbs. We had a nice long conversation about all sorts of things before she asked me if I was a Muslim. I said yes and she told me her boss is a Pakistani Muslim and that he had bought her a very powerful book to read that she couldn’t put down. “What is the book’ I asked and she said “the Quran”. Masha’Allah, the next thing she asked me was where to go to for an intro to Islam class. So, things are not all bad in Da Lou.


12 thoughts on “How Country and Ignorant is St. Louis?

  1. Umar,

    Assalamu alaikum

    Yes, I can imagine this in New York. The same types of comments have been made to me about like Santa Claus comments. New York is not so open are you make it out to be. So many times people in New York thought I was Jewish as if only Jews have beards.

  2. wa alaikum salaam,

    I do no think NYC is that open. Whenever I lived in NYC I always saw it is a balkanized and tribal city full of different ethnic groups who mark their territories for none to cross ( this includes the Muslim community which is the most divided Muslim community in America). But, at least there is a degree of familiarity with the rest of the world. This may no mean you love the rest of the world, you may hate it, but you know it exists.

  3. That’s a good description of NYC Umar.

    As far as the reactions you got in STL…
    Welcome to the Midwest.
    Story of my life in Cincinnati, OH.

    Even when I was young…”you eat monkey brains, and cockroaches?” <—-Indiana Jones

    And now with the beard….you got white people AND black people having no clue what’s going on with you.

  4. Umar,
    All society has individuals with brains the size of pecans. I dealt with one at the coffee counter at a Barnes and Noble today. Here goes:

    Me: May I please have a refund on this red velvet cupcake? The top is hard as a rock and the cupcake is dry.

    Pecan brain (male, I might add….): Ma’am, it is supposed to be hard and dry. That is how we make them. *Note that he said this with a perfectly straight face.

    He then requested my receipt to give the refund. Receipt by then in the trash. I said, “Sir. You have only served one customer since I came to the counter. It will be your second receipt back.” He whined and cried as he handed me back my two dollars and change. Mental note: People rise to their highest level of incompetence.


  5. Speaking of hick towns…I went to school in Daytona Beach, FL.

    One, not long after 9/11, a Malaysian brother and I (I’m AFRAM) were invited by one of my professors to speak on Islam.

    The session went well, and after is was over, I was walking my Malaysian friend back to his car. (He went to another school).

    As we were going through the halls of my school (a predominantly black college) some silly ghetto chick asked my friend if he was Osama bin Laden.

    Real smart. My Malaysian buddy was about 5’2, very, very little beard, and Asian features. Nothing like Bin Laden. The only thing they had in common was a thawb and a kufi.

    I patiently pointed all of this out to the chickenhead who could say nothing else but advise my friend he shouldn’t “dress like that.”

    Thank you Forrest Gump and Homer Simpson for making ignorance and stupidity cool.

  6. Umar,

    Just for the record, there are black/”mixed-black” Mexicans who look lke “Puerto Ricans”. Granted, most Mexicans do look like mesitzos (don’t know if that is a PC term anymore), pure Natvie Americans, or kinda white, but there are “black” Mexicans down in the Yucutan (as there are black folks throughout that region in Central America–and of course, Panama).

  7. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Yeah, can’t you dump a doctor in the States? In this country you can switch doctors just by showing up at another surgery and asking to register. Our family did that when we moved to New Malden and we weren’t satisfied with the one-woman surgery we signed up at first, and I’m thinking of doing the same because the doctors at our surgery first couldn’t wait to get me off the phone when I called up about a “digestive problem” and more recently tried to get me to sign up for statins to meet his targets, without doing the blood cholesterol test properly.

  8. A nice ending to the sad truth of the MidWest of America. May Allah Ta’ala give the woman the opportunity to take shahadah. ameen

  9. I don’t think St. Louis is anymore ignorant than many place in Unite State, I’m literal amaze how much many American people don’t know outside world. I met people who thought Africa was Country and ask me if speak African, is Somalia near Iraq? I was once in DMV line in San Diego and white man that was next in line ask me are all the women India tall? I told him I would not know it because I’m not from India I’m African, he told me “oh no you’re not, you look like Indian.

    Old African American man that I used work with once told me that he didn’t know there were light skin people in Africa, and he continue said “you have good hair you’re not real African.” I was once shopping in Fabric store, and when I came to counter to pay the lady ask where are you from? I told her Somalia, then she ask me do you speak Spanish, I realized she didn’t know where Somalia is, so I ask her do you know where Somalia is? she said yes South American, I didn’t bother to correct her

  10. That’s a lot of words over a little incident, bro – a total 1,063 of them to be exact. I was directed to your blog by brasscrescent site and I must say, you and your readers appear to have too much time. Don’t sweat the small stuff, people, certainly don’t spend time sharing the fact that some small stuff made you sweat.

    If you are from STL, I think the fact you spent so many breaths on this tiny issue is more telling of how country the city is than what some ill-informed dude in a Panera Bread store said on a bad day. I still don’t know how country STL is, but I do know it gets cold out there this time of the year – you need to go out when it dips real low and take a deep breath and chill. Oh, and find out if you need to leave STL to grow a sense of humor.

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