Jason Wilson is a father, husband, businessman and St. Louis native.
His relentless pursuit of entrepreneurship has led him from organizing car washes to owning coffee shops.
Jason’s aim? Economic progress for black neighborhoods in St. Louis.
“I took over Northwest Coffee and opened up Chronicle Coffee at the same time,” he said. “My goal was to create community engagement spaces.”
He wanted to put coffee shops in underdeveloped places that can prosper, given investment and resources.
Despite an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, an MBA and all his efforts to strengthen the community and improve St. Louis’ economy, he says that people still first judge him by the color of his skin.
“I’m ‘discounted at the door by 20 percent.’ That’s a metaphor, but I’m walking into a situation and I’m not par. I’m not even with you,” Wilson said. “I’m hyperaware of that.”
If you live in Missouri and are Black, the odds are set against you.
Throughout the state, there are gaps between blacks and whites in healthcare, housing, education and wealth.
A 2018 report by “For the Sake of All” shows the racial disparities between neighboring St. Louis communities that are less than 10 miles apart. Clayton, 63105, is 75 percent white, has a life expectancy of 85 years and a median household income of $90,000. The neighboring community of JeffVanderLou, 63106, is 95 percent African-American, with a life expectancy of 67 years and a median household income of $15,000.
Black folks in Missouri also face racism in policing.
In 2017, African-American drivers were stopped at a rate 85 percent higher than whites, up from 64 percent in 2012. On average, African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be searched than whites, despite being less likely to have contraband.
The state has not significantly updated its law regarding racial profiling in law enforcement since 2001, despite the growing racial disparities.
“When I started driving at 16, I was often stopped in my parents’ car,” said Wilson. “I was often pulled-over, made to sit on the curbs on my handcuffs, while they were interrogating me in search for whatever it was—drugs, guns, whatever.”
Jason’s experience was often justified by police officers saying that the car fit the description, in that area, while they were doing routine checks. Not much has changed from him since then.
“African-Americans are adversely impacted by this. We can’t coalesce around issues that would help us progress our position in our communities,” said Wilson.
No degree, level of prosperity, or quality of coffee can stop the impact racial profiling has on Jason’s life.
It’s time Missouri puts an end to racial profiling. We must demand change from our lawmakers and action from the community. Justice is past due.
Have you experienced racial profiling? Share your story with us.