Blog Health Equity

St. Louis bus tour

Written by Delphine Zhu, undergraduate in neuroscience and anthropology at Smith College and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

After getting to know one another on the first day of the program, we had the opportunity to learn more about St. Louis on a bus tour. The bus tour was led by Dr. Robert Hansman, Associate Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Beforehand, we were asked to read a few articles written by Dr. Hansman, highlighting his and his community’s perspective on gun violence, poverty, and racial divides – both as an advocate for and resident of the Clinton-Peabody housing projects.

The tour started at the Taylor Avenue building, where we gathered around Dr. Hansman as he shared his thoughts on our introductory biographies. It was a brief moment where he not only encouraged our various passions in global health, but also implored us to care wholeheartedly. His message was clear – change requires action, as complacency allows injustice to prevail.

The remnants of Dickson Street that divided the two sides of Pruitt-Igoe.

With the use of personal anecdotes, historical events, and supplemental images, Dr. Hansman’s famous bus tour took us across space and time. In a way, the tour reminded me of Ms. Frizzle’s time-traveling field trips on the Magic School Bus. We stood at the remnants of the segregated Old City Hospital, and watched the story of Pruitt-Igoe unfold on Dickson Street. Through Dr. Hansman’s tour, we became witnesses of the rampant and persistent racial and economic inequality that continues to poison St. Louis to this day.

Here is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., that Dr. Hansman shared in his 2010 MLK Celebration speech titled, “A Decision to Care” that sums up his message quite well: “…but the white liberal who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice, who prefers tranquility to equality….The suburbs are white nooses around the black neck of the cities….  It is not enough to say, ‘We love Negroes, we have many Negro friends.’  They must demand justice for Negroes.  Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all.  It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than what one would have for a pet.”