Cincinnati UpSouth

Cincinnati is the southern-most northern city. Yet, in our uppity northern ways, we make fun of all things southern. But they've made visible strides since sprayin' niggers with hoses was a sport.

Dec 12, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Cincinnati is the southern-most northern city. Yet, in our uppity northern ways, we make fun of all things southern.

But they've made visible strides since sprayin' niggers with hoses was a sport. And just how far have we come?

Our attitudes about class, race and gender are as southern as a plantation. It's a tired but true metaphor.

This city is, as my friend, April, says Cincinnati UpSouth.

Federal numbers bear the truth of who we've become. But our actions tell on us, too.

According to 2000 U.S. Census figures, Cincinnati is the sixth most segregated city in America, up from No. 18 a decade ago.

Census takers use complicated equations — segregation and dissimilarity indexes — to figure that we really can't stand one another.

Despite a population of 331,000 that's 53 percent white and 43 percent black and in spite of the fact that two high-ranking city officials — vice mayor and city manager — are black women, No. 6 means we're not mingling.

We don't co-exist. With few exceptions, we don't live together.

At work we maintain water cooler friendships with people of different races, if we work together at all. And at the first sign of trouble — cross or menorah on Fountain Square? — we show our true colors.

After reading such a depressing/oppressive government statistic, it'd be easy to point a crooked finger at banks for redlining certain neighborhoods based on race and class.

I wanted to rail against City Council for always setting a sad example of leadership and unity and for marching us straight to the crapper.

And I wanted to tell the cops to stop terrorizing everyone and then maybe, just maybe, whites would stay put and Negroes wouldn't be so angry, so riotous ... so black.

But our segregation is bite-sized. It's how we treat one another when the chips are all the way down.

When I say "we," I mean us — black folks. My own people.

Blacks are equally guilty on the road to perdition. Somehow we don't think so.

It's part socialization as perpetual victim and part chronic fatigue syndrome from centuries of servitude that make us this way. Together it's a heady cocktail.

One hit, and we become what we've loathed and seen at work, play and in the neighborhoods and families we've integrated — technicolor bigots.

Suddenly we're bigots of the loud-mouthed variety. We make generalizations based on revisionist history to further our own agendas and to reclaim the sick-hot spotlight of "they done done me wrong."

Case in point: The Dec. 4 "rally" on Fountain Square by the Black Fist, an ad hoc group of protesters and hangers-on who demonstrated against the placement of a menorah. This year it was a menorah and not a cross in the ongoing holiday festivities I like to call "Who's on First, and Is It a Religious Symbol?"

That we annually consider the Ku Klux Klan's cross on the square says as much about the lethargy and passivity of City Council as it does about our collective threshold for pain and bigotry.

Speaking of pain and bigotry, members of The Black Fist held signs demeaning Jews, and there were other signs that were just plain senseless. "KKK babies born with monkey tail and breast fed by black moms and dogs," read one. Wha?

"Jews killed Jesus, had black slaves, stole our black identities!!!" read one carried by Amanda Mayes, co-chair of Coalition for a Just Cincinnati.

Blacks think we can't be bigots. We're getting away with semantics. We're confusing bigotry with racism, hatred of a different hue based on the rich greens of economics.

But we can be bigots, and we are bigots with vigor more than we'll admit.

Black folks perpetrating hatred and oppression is nearly laughable, especially against Jews. And if protesters had a beef with one Jew or two, why curse them all?

What if whites carried signs on Fountain Square that said, "Niggers sell drugs, rape our women and overcrowd our prisons?" There wouldn't be enough mic time at City Hall.

Blacks manipulate biblical history to curse Jews, forgetting more recent history such as the Civil Rights Movement when Jews marched with us, fed us and bled and died with us. Further, cursing an oppressed colleague — Jew, Native American, Asian and Latino — gives grist to the larger hate mill.

And that is the point and the proof of segregation.

Those craving a racially divisive status quo rejoice at your ignorance and your tactics. The point is segregation isn't relegated to whites getting away from blacks or vice versa. Segregation is a tentacle of racism and its bastard brother, bigotry. We've all been reached.

At its base, segregation is akin to terrorism. Though quiet, it still effects us. Though not exploding, burning or murderous, it remains on our lips, in our hearts and guiding our subconscious.

Who needs the Klan or Bull Connor when we've got one another? Just remember that two wrongs don't make a white.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.