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Give Me a Reason

By Kathy Y. Wilson · December 26th, 2013 · Kathy Y. Wilson
kathy 2013-12-26

Since this is the time of year when everyone’s list-happy — Paula Dean’s ever-so-slight slippage form white grace, the pretty much expected Trayvon Martin verdict, “twerk” (for white people only), “selfies,” Kimye, the government shutdown and the marathon coverage of the Boston marathon bombing suspects — I’ve come up with a list myself.

It’s sooo Cincinnati.

I am sure you will love it.

The Top 10 Reasons Why I’ve Only Seen the Same Black Guy Among the Masses Whenever Believe In Cincinnati Was on the News Advocating for the Streetcar:

No. 10: Because some black people in Cincinnati may have thought that “street car” meant there was going to be a ballot initiative about parking all cars on the street. They were looking forward to not worrying about hiding their cars from the repo man.

No. 9: Because many blacks believe, in Cincinnati, the tough uphill political battles are for white progressives.

No. 8: Because it’s easier to sit back and complain about where “all that money” could be going instead, like to housing, education, public safety and a better, less punitive Metro bus system.

No. 7: Because black people only show up to vote for black presidents. (Not really, but pesky ballot initiatives ain’t always our thing.)

No. 6: Because blacks aren’t impressed by the “sites” along the initial 3.6-mile long loop — Government Square, Fountain Square, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Main Public Library, Aronoff Center, Horseshoe Casino, Gateway Quarter, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Music Hall and Washington Park — a cluster of inner city improvements and economic development they’ve been mostly shut out of building but are expected to support with their dollars.

No. 5: Because, before they got their way, some white streetcar advocates went around town acting like streetcar thugs asking: “Did you sign the petition? Are you voting for the streetcar?” in ways that demanded allegiance and resulted in judgment.

No. 4: Because the streetcar may make the city look good, but blacks always need to know how will their individual lives improve if more storefronts open up in neighborhoods where poor blacks are being pushed out of.


3: Because middle-class blacks can be largely apathetic and poor blacks can be angry. Between the two, who cares about a streetcar?

No. 2: Because being black in Cincinnati often means choosing a weapon in any number of fights and, for some, the streetcar just didn’t rank.

No. 1: (Sing in a voice reminiscent of Paul Robeson or any other dead black singer of Negro spirituals you may have done a Google search on.) Because that ’ol streetcar keeps rollin,’ it just keeps rollin’ along.

Hilarious parody aside, the $133 million dollar streetcar, nearly the city’s white elephant and another missed grasp at the brass ring of being a big city, is a terrific metaphor for Cincinnati’s brand of race and class with a smidgen of Charlie Luken-era patriarchy thrown in.

Believe In Cincinnati successfully strategized their end-run around Mayor John Cranley’s guaranteed veto if the issue went to a council vote, and Cranley so far — and it’s very early — comes out of this whole thing looking like a stubborn, hard-nosed Daddy figure. And though he’s handling having his ass handed to him by his foes as his first order of business, Cranley should have at the very least forecast there’d be chance of losing showers with slight southwesterly winds out of Gateway Quarter coming off the streetcar whizzing past him.

Read the charter much, mayor?

We have this thing called a super-majority that is above reproach or mayoral veto power.

In politics, everyone (I’m talking to you, Kevin Flynn and David Mann) can be swayed into a super-majority, even if the swing votes (I’m still talking to you, Flynn and Mann) campaigned for their council seats on the promise not to build or support the streetcar. So, going forward, as they say in corporate America, Cranley needs to double-check his support base on council and triple-check the low-hanging fruit of their testicles to make sure they’re made of steel when it comes to standing up in the times of tough choices. (Talkin’ only to you, now Flynn, since you liked to use the drama of “stand up” in your campaign literature.)

I don’t know if the streetcar is absolutely right or absolutely wrong.

However, I do know in the court of public racial opinion, blacks either like sitting back and getting the lap dance when (largely) whites bicker over projects ultimately affecting the public good; or blacks can be political eunuchs who’d rather bitch on talk radio, in church, on Facebook (as they have about the streetcar) and in barber shops and beauty salons where they come up with a million and one solutions no one else ever hears about; OR blacks actually are involved with the white people making moves in power plays like getting the streetcar built and those blacks are so scant, their involvement is informed more by class than race.

And there it is.

Either way, race, like a black domestic during pre-civil rights America, has taken a back seat on the streetcar “issue.”

I know.

Why everything gotta be about race?

Because everything usually is about race, we just squeeze around the elephant in all the rooms all the time.

For example, where are the black men and women on the streetcar work crews? So far, I have seen all white men at every juncture of construction. We may or may not give a damn about the streetcar, but can we at least get some jobs out of it? Where’s the oversight on best construction practices?

I know.

It takes a real set of big ones to harp on race during the biggest feel-good moment in Cincinnati besides the Bengals going to the playoffs and then demand that black people get jobs.

All I can say to that is this: The streetcar route ain’t the only thing on an endless loop.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com


12.26.2013 at 04:31 Reply

The pioint of this opinion piece isn't really clear. It seems like you made a race-related post and used a traffic-winning format (a list) without really thinking through the point you were trying to make...

"The Council and the City ignored the plight of poor blacks in the Streetcar decision. Poor blacks have bigger fights than the Streetcar. The Streetcar is not benefitting blacks in Cincinnati. Blacks are politically apathetic. Blacks need to speak out about their opposition."


Why not just say it straight: "The decision to build the Streetcar was largely influenced by wealthy private interests that support the middle and upper classes. These interests cannot or choose not to understand/work with the lower-middle to lower classes that have a large stake in the decision to build the Streetcar. This class-based decision disproprotionately affects blacks because blacks have been and continue to be discriminated against in our society."


12.28.2013 at 04:39

Becasue kathy is a creative writer and the alternative version you posted isn't her style. I think Kathy's writing, particularly in the section you highlighted is a very good, direct, and controvertial statement. I think she is the best writer in Cincinnati hands down not just becasue of what she says, but also the way she says it.


12.27.2013 at 03:17 Reply

Kathy, I think you had to stretch it to get ten reasons not that they aren't true but they did not compare in significance to the final ten or so lines of your effort.

I have for the last twenty years observed public works projects in the city and noted the absence of blacks; it is that blacks can't handle a shovel for thirty bucks an hour?



12.29.2013 at 09:03 Reply

First of all, I see plenty of black men working on the streetcar line, particularly the high-earning steel workers. In fact during the final day of city hall testimony, I witnessed at least 10 and perhaps as many as 15 Black men testify, on behalf of the streetcar project. Over half of these men wore uniforms that indicated their employment in the construction of the line and the others were concerned citizens that testified how public transportation projects will benefit ALL of the citizens and visitors to our city.

Second, the real tragedy to ALL citizens of Cincinnati, but particularly to the African American community, are the outright lies and misinformation that many of our politicians spread about this project to the vulnerable and uniformed. Disparaging propaganda spread by Cranley, Smitherman, Murray and Winburn particularly disturbs me as these leaders have significant influence and clout among the black community but choose the regrettable path of dishonesty, as they campaigned against this durable public infrastructure that will prove to help us all via improved connectivity, increased population density and bouyed tax revenue. 

Third, you list a series of institutions of which the streetcar will connect ( btw, the casino is NoT on the line ), yet claim them to be of no interest to the black community because they didn't build them? Really... I didn't build them nor profit from them either but I enjoy ALL of what they offer, and mostly they offer them for FREE! Hang out at the riverfront park network, see a Reds game, visit the Freedom Center, borrow a book or CD from the public library, visit the CAC (for free on Mondays), go to a play or school at SCPA, enjoy A safe and rejuvenated Washington Park, listen to a performance at Music or Memorial Hall, buy your groceries at Findlay market, or see the most significant collection of Italianate Architecture still standing in the USA as you ride through the OTR. I contend that you are mistaken about significance of the sites that this system connects and the benefit it will provide to both the wealthy and the poor in terms of culture, education,  recreation, employment and nutrition.

The true outrage of this saga should be the lies spread by politicians on AM Radio and elsewhere to a mostly car-centric, homogeneous suburban audience that has proven to divide our city, once again, on lines of race, fear, income and lifestyle.....I'm very sorry to see you perpetuate this misinformation with your platform here at City Beat.


01.02.2014 at 02:19 Reply

I'd like to echo the comment refuting the claim that streetcar construction is a white-only affair. Had Kathy been in Council chambers for week two of the streetcarbattle she'd have seen 20-30 yellow uniformed iron workers who'd come to beg the Cranley and the Mann council to resume construction so that they might have paycheck in time for Christmas to put something under the tree (and to afford a tree) for their kids; virtually all these workers were black.

What does concern me is Cranley-Mann's insistance that Cincinnati be the only municipality in the US that does not subsidize its streetcar operation, which likely will mean fares that put riding it beyond most working people's budgets – thus instead of stopping it from being built... killing it after it's completed. The most successful and effective streetcar projects are those which are cheap or even free to ride (p.e. Portland), and this requires City support.