Prior to viewing The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, I’m ashamed to admit that I had a certain stereotypical view of people who lived in housing projects. I didn’t understand why there was so much crime, hatred, and needless violence. Why couldn’t they just be more “civilized” like the rest of us? I must say with all sincerity that The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, quickly and clearly brought things into perspective for me, giving background information on how this particular housing development, Pruitt-Igoe, came to be and began its descent on a downward spiral of a decline that was irreversible. The causes were clear, and I soon realized that perhaps that the state of public housing was more than about just housing – it was about the degradation and dissolution of the black community.
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth presents a very sobering and painful look at how the government, in all of its wisdom (not!), can destroy families, and how racism under the guise of public housing can be a poison to one generation after another until finally it devolves into what we have today. The “Myth” has always been based on some truth. The first families to find refuge in Pruitt-Igoe were promised that "Shining city on a hill," which in this case, turned out to be the middle of St. Louis, Missouri. But the sweetness of the new promise was laced with insidious, proven elements of social and spiritual destruction, perfected during the time of slavery in that part of the country. The deliberate prohibition of the male influence in black families who were allowed to “escape” to the promised land of Pruitt Igoe trumped all other factors in the determination of whether these families would succeed or fail, and whether communities would be born or destroyed. The enticement of the white middle-class to "escape" to the suburbs with the same federal funding that entrapped the poor predominately black families, with the myth of the 'new' American dream, was a bait and switch. The icing on this cake was the ill-prepared lack of funding for intricate building maintenance which led to deplorable living and social conditions. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth makes all viewers witnesses of the complete and absolute failure of one social experiment, and the absolute success of another -- how to make a ghetto with bitter people who have no one else to take their rage and disillusionment out on but each other. The migration of jobs and work from traditional locations of easy access for the working poor is seen today on a national scale with corporation globalization moving American jobs to the poorest countries.
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is the template of systematic urban destruction under the false pretense of renewal, and this film is such an eye opener that it should be mandatory viewing in every classroom and all households so all may understand why certain things are the way they are. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth more than tugs at your heartstrings – it impacts you on such a deep level that if you have any conscience about yourself, you’ll never again be the same. The lesson learned from the film is that we have a responsibility to understand the failures of Pruitt-Igoe, learn from them, and do better. It most certainly accomplishes its mission of imploding “the myth.”
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was directed by Chad Freidrichs, and produced by Chad Freidrichs, Jaime Freidrichs, Paul Fehler, and Brian Woodman. It is heavily endorsed by me, the viewer and one who wishes to see the world a better place for all to live in, Michele Wilson-Morris.