Puttin' Out the Bone

The Bronson-Allen Doctrine Sells Us All Short

This is unorthodox, me writing a column in CityBeat countering one written by Peter Bronson in The Cincinnati Enquirer. But that's why we call this an alternative newspaper. We live outside the lines.

Since Bronson started writing columns full time, something has become clear: He can't feel African-American people.

While no one cares about my getting into an intellectual pissing match with a reactionary columnist from another paper, there's a larger reason to counter him. Bronson is bigger than Bronson. He is Cincinnati, or at least a sizable portion of it.

Sadly, that piece of Cincinnati cannot, or will not, yield one fraction of an inch to the appeal of African Americans for justice.

No, I'm not talking about the boycott. The African-American community is divided on that, at least somewhat.

Last summer the local television show Hot Seat commissioned a survey about public opinion on the Cincinnati boycott. And while more African Americans supported it than not, a significant minority disagreed with it as a vehicle for social change in Cincinnati. With three African-American city council members opposing it, at best you'd have to say there's division.

But find me any sizable number of African Americans, elected or common, who do not feel former Cincinnati Police Officer Robert "Blaine" Jorg should be recharged by Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen for the death of Roger Owensby Jr. No, on that issue of justice, there is near unanimity.

Yet Bronson wrote last week that African-American people need, in effect, to get over Owensby's death, that to recharge Jorg after he escaped a felony conviction on a hung jury would be bending the rules for the sake of race, that there isn't any new evidence, that hung juries are tantamount to acquittals, that to recharge Jorg would be legally unethical — and by implication, that in Hamilton County white jurors would always find Jorg innocent while black jurors would always convict. Bottom line, in the world of Bronson, is black folk just gotta choke down Cincinnati justice.

Never mind that it has been determined that a trial witness favorable to Jorg lied on the stand. Never mind that another group of white jurors — there assuredly won't be many blacks seated — just might see the facts differently.

Never mind that Allen continues to say he thinks Jorg is guilty of a crime. Never mind that another coroner, an independent one, says Jorg killed Owensby by kneeling on the center of his upper back, thereby cutting off his breath.

What baffles me is not that a rabid right-wing writer named Bronson came to Cincinnati a few years back to spew racial divisiveness among us, or that The Enquirer would hire him to write that stuff. What does baffle me is that mainstream Cincinnatians, whether it's in Mount Lookout or Blue Ash, can't connect the dots of our racial unrest.

You see, if people really wanted downtown to feel safer, if they wanted that pesky boycott to stop, if they wanted people from around the world to stop making fun of us, they'd be as outraged as African-American people that there isn't a retrial of Jorg after a racially divided hung jury.

That's what our racial divide is all about. White people around here generally can't feel black people. But that lack of empathy by the powerful majority race has always been our scourge.

Call me weird. Call me a communist, but in my moral world there is no time in history that enslaving people is justified. There is no time in history that telling a tired, African-American working woman that she needs to go to her assigned seat on a public bus. There is not time in history that we should tell a minority group that they just need to choke down Cincinnati justice.

Look. If you strip away all the legal "blah, blah, blah," this is the gist of what Allen, with Bronson as his PR mouthpiece, is telling black people. It goes something like this: You all live in a mostly white town, and if I did call together another jury, they'd be mostly white people from Western Hills and Anderson Township and Hyde Park and Finneytown and places like that. Well, those white people — no matter how many times we go before them, or how strong our evidence is — they'll still think cops can do no wrong and that if a black man dies around one of them, it must have been the black guy's fault. Now I know that doesn't seem right, but that's just the way it is in Cincinnati.

Do I have that right? I mean, isn't that the Allen-Bronson doctrine?

I'm telling you, Bronson and Allen and a huge segment of Greater Cincinnati can't feel African-American people. As long as that sad condition persists, we're doomed for unease.

As I said, run a poll in the African-American community. Put the question up for a topic on WDBZ (1230 AM). Ask random black people on the street. They'll universally tell you they want a retrial of Jorg. Yet no one, not the mayor nor council members nor Cincinnati Community Action Now nor leaders of our corporate oligarchy have stood up side by side with our African-American brothers and sisters to ask for a simple retrial.

Go on. Tell me things are getting better in Cincinnati.



PUTTIN' OUT THE BONE appears monthly.