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Cincinnati is Still Smoldering
April 27, 2001
by Jeff Ritchie

Cincinnati is Still Smoldering

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I live in Cincinnati.

In recent weeks we've become a symbol of what's wrong with race relations in America. We're the cautionary tale that keeps big-city mayors awake at night, the harbinger of another long, hot summer. The property that was smashed and broken on the streets of Cincinnati can be easily repaired, but the smug belief that racial violence happens only in other cities is gone forever.

Cincinnati is still smoldering, white and black. The editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who happens to be an unapologetic Confederate sympathizer, had nothing but contempt for the African-American community following the riots. He suggested that race-baiting members of the black community caused the trouble.

The President of the Fraternal Order of Police said that the police are not to blame for the shooting death of Timothy Thomas, a teenager who was wanted on twelve misdemeanor traffic warrants. The police say that suspects need to learn how to behave in the presence of a police officer. This sounds suspiciously like the Cincinnati police are warning the community that they could be shot dead in the street for poor manners.

White Cincinnati is concerned that the unrest presents a poor image of the city. The mother of a woman who works for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce lamented that three days of violence undid five years of work. Concertgoers were miffed that a performance scheduled in the glitzy new Aronoff Center was canceled due to rioting.

Meanwhile the African-American community wonders what to do next. Their children are dying from drugs and poverty, and now the Cincinnati police have killed more than two dozen people in the last five years. One time it was a mental patient armed with a brick, another time was a joy-riding thirteen-year-old. This time it was a desperado who neglects to wear a seatbelt.

Next time?

And there be a next time. The city charter currently requires the police chief to be chosen from among the ranks of current officers, which means that the same toxic culture will be perpetuated. The police union is in deep denial over the issue, taking the view that only "bad guys" get shot by police officers. The city's Citizen Review Board that is supposed to be a watchdog for police affairs is toothless, lacking even the power to compel witnesses to testify.

White Cincinnati is aghast to learn that there is racial problem in their city, and Black Cincinnati buries its dead.

Looks like a long, hot summer.

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