As Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell prepared to hand in his city manager-ordered 90-day plan to curb this city’s outburst of violence, black folks from Avondale to Westwood, Walnut Hills to Bond Hill to Winton Hills and even murderous black parents under the jurisdiction of the local branch of Ohio Jobs and Family Services behaved as though their black lives — and no others — mattered worth a damn.
Hashtags are empty jingoisms, and the protestors enraged by police killings of unarmed black men in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland and New York probably had no idea that behind their pithy viral hits of #blacklivesmatter, they were, in effect, diminishing and literally overlooking we blacks’ own myopic tendencies to disregard ourselves to the point of murder.
Not to take away from the racialized and heinous murders perpetrated with abandon in America by cops, but who needs a murderous cop when Ray-Ray or Little Man down the street will kill his black brother just the same?
Cincinnati is crumbling beneath the dark weight of 177 shootings by my last count this year — a 10-year high — compared to 141 this time last year.
There have been, of this writing, 31 murders; the week of June 1 marked the eighth murder in two weeks, including a murder in Bond Hill that Monday and the murder of Demitrius Collins in Winton Hills that weekend.
What no mainstream media head has the nerve to say is that black men on other black men perpetrate most of these shootings. So, then, this becomes a look behind the Great Oz of hashtags and into the frightening abyss of sociopathic behavior as it relates specifically to blackness. Hear now the never-ending death knells of black-on-black self-hatred ringing out in gun violence and see if we cannot hear hurt, pain and disenfranchisement between the notes.
There is so much wrong with us — and when I say “us” I mean Cincinnati and not merely black Cincinnati — that it bears discussing in detail.
First, Chief Blackwell is not solely responsible for getting murderers and thugs citywide to lay down their arms and wicked ways. Where he probably messed up and drew the ire of City Manager Harry Black was when Blackwell mused twice about resigning. I don’t know if he thought that would get him some sympathy or prompt someone to beg him to stay.
Instead, he got an invitation to sit in the Hot Seat. (Has anyone else noticed the irony of two black leaders with “black” in their last names who cannot seem to reach black men?)
Secondly, what we don’t need is a bunch of disparate rogue groups — talking to you, loud black preachers! — off doing their own reactionary thing, because we only see and hear from you in times of peril and press conferences
Councilman Wendell Young has proposed raising the $50 million he says it will take to “fix” our violence issues by turning to business leaders and the black faith community. Well, in all the years I have been collectively writing some form of this column — through riots, boycotts, federal intervention and a police department overhaul — I have never seen, heard or known of one black preacher to give money to any urban (read: black) cause.
I have, however, known black preachers to buy luxury cars, build bigger churches and espouse homophobic rhetoric during times when all factions of protest should have been standing unified.
Good luck, Councilman Young.
The city had a good thing going when Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV), a multi-agency program founded in 2007 with cues from the Boston Gun Project, was fully staffed and its street teams — a mere blip of what CIRV does — was thick on the most troubled streets traversing the meanest neighborhoods. These people hit shooting scenes at the speed of cops, calming law-abiding residents and giving the side-eye to the law-breakers. They eased tensions and helped tamp down retaliation shootings that occur so soon after shooting deaths.
CIRV was defunded in 2011 but reinstated in 2012, and it must never be disturbed again. S. Gregory Baker, its director, clarified for me that some of its street team has gone over to Cincinnati Works and duplicated CIRV’s street work; however, CIRV works with violent felons to ensure they know there is zero-tolerance of violence in their home neighborhoods. The troubled among us are also referred to rehabilitative agencies and sometimes even job referrals.
So, Chief Blackwell, in addition to the more than 100 cops you’re redirecting back out into the streets from special operations, make sure that agencies like CIRV stay fully charged.
I’d also recommend a citizens-advisory committee comprising long-time residents of statistic-heavy neighborhoods, and since blacks have a particular aversion to snitching, make sure they’re not doing that; rather, actually advising the cops who can’t seem to learn the real rhythm of neighborhoods they patrol. Just Friday my good friend, whom I call the Mayor of Over-the-Rhine, explained that beef between Bond Hill and Avondale started in the winter when brothers were robbing one another, and now that it’s warm it’s all about retaliation because, as he said, folks got to come out of the house.
Is this something police know?
Lastly, I’d warn mainstream media to balance itself and decide which is more important: The safety of all Cincinnatians or money from the All-Star Game?
Reports vacillate between the doom and gloom of violence and the bright, sunshiny days of the All-Star Game threatened by the doom and gloom of violence.
If they keep this up, tourists will come for the games but won’t venture out of their hotels to follow the Above Ground Railroad of the streetcar tracks to Gateway Quarter to eat $15 hot dogs and ride Segues.
Don’t we all deserve to live and thrive in safety?
Cincinnati has gone the way of most other American cities that have dusted themselves off and are now in the throes of (mostly) white men hitting licks and that is this — the dollar is king, and the biggest overall concern is whether violence will keep the people who have it from spending still more money.
Well, for every bullet that fells its victim, it’s not just the victim lying in blood; it’s his family.
His children, especially, die a little bit more, because now we have among us another generation touched by gun violence, and how do we propose — in 10 years, maybe — keeping guns and violence away from that fatherless child?
New police chiefs and reports can’t fix it.
We blacks just have to stop killing one another.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]