Editorial: Sorries From the Cincinnatians

(a la Sonnets From the Portuguese)

How are we sorry?

Let us count the ways.

We are sorry to the depth and breadth and height cash can reach, once asphyxiation halted the young breathing of black Roger.

We are sorry 6.5 million times; quiet now suits and continuances. Shhh.

We are sorry deeply, we strive for Right;

We are sorry purely, we turn from fright.

We are sorry with the passion put to use in our old beliefs, and in our cops.

We are sorry with empathy we seemed to loosen with our lost (ghetto) saints — we are sorry for Lorenzo, Michael, Timothy, for all their lives! — and, if we choose, we shall but love them better after their deaths.

We are sorry your son's death was public — a modern-day lynching preserved not with black-and-white postcards sold roadside but with the coroner's clinical photographs of a bloated monster whose eyes froze open, too scared/too dead to blink again.

We are sorry your obsession with justice set a precedent for our city, that it nearly blew apart your family and that we made you cry all those nights and then left you blinking back tears in the lenses of those unflinching news cameras whose bosses only want quotes and 5 p.m. sound bytes that bleed.

We are sorry none in the gaggle of officers standing around Roger Owensby Jr.'s body cared enough to give him oxygen. We are sorry he died alone, face down and handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

We are sorry we waited around for a jury to tell us we used excessive force; we're sorry we wouldn't see that for ourselves.

We are sorry Patrick Caton could get his job back through arbitration, and we're sorry Robert Blaine Jorg's father keeps demonstrating that ignorance doesn't fall far from the tree.

We are sorry.

We are sorry the media hypnotized us into believing you were consumed with vengeance.

We are sorry that, if you were a white family doggedly chasing reparations for your son, we'd have called you passionate. We're sorry for the ridiculousness of racism.

We are sorry for Nov. 7, 2000, a day which will live in infamy as an orgy of reckless power, of catastrophic violence, of colliding testosterone and of mistaken identity; this is for your eulogy — almost six years long and counting — stuck on "repeat" regardless of where you'll live out your days in the peace that lawsuits can buy.

We are sorry peace is for sale.

We are sorry the threat of economic hardship is the only language spoken and understood by wrongdoers, that it takes a coffer of millions to hold them back.

We are sorry your son was the gateway to a riot, an uprising, the rebellion, "the unrest;" we're sorry rage is demeaned by semantics.

We are sorry you had to wait and wade through two mayoral terms of soft-focus leadership before we found a mayor who'd dare push for resolution. We are sorry all this time fell away, but we're glad at least he knows Roger's life was worthy.

We are sorry you almost went to trial the same week in April the riots jumped off five years ago and that you've joined the families for whom anniversaries mark a domestic reversal of fortune.

We are sorry Roger Jr. was not the fortunate son, the one who would've lived to see his daughter graduate college, get married, give him grandchildren. We are sorry he gave his life for his country but that his city didn't want to give you anything for his life.

We are sorry Roger Jr. will never be 35 years old or middle-aged.

We are sorry we made you poor by erasing your son and then tried to make you rich by writing a check; we're sorry to have to even affix a dollar amount to his life, and we're sorry the passing of time devalues that dollar.

We are sorry we could never tell you we're sorry, that our own misguided anger and victim blaming kept us, all these years and all these lives, from the apology you deserve.

We are sorry justice sees more than she lets on, and we're sorry she fakes blindness.

How sorry are we?

I have counted the ways.

contact Kathy y. wilson: kwilson(at)citybeat.com.

Scroll to read more Opinion articles

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.