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The Unbearable Whiteness of Being (A Postlude)

By Kathy Y. Wilson · October 4th, 2001 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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"This is a song that makes me spill out all my guts."
-- "Sometimes," Bilal

Just when you thought it was safe to return to your life ...

With the world in the toilet like it is, regurgitating/ruminating/marinating over the outcome of Officer Stephen Roach's trial might seem a bit trifling. What nerve.

To that I say: How do we go about cleaning up the street when our own backyard is impassible? Besides, sweeping Timothy Thomas/Stephen Roach aside is like saying we've heard enough about AIDS.

That will never be the case.

What is apparent, however, is that where Cincinnati-style justice is concerned, nothing's shocking. What did we expect? I mean, really.

Whether Righteous Caucasian or Marginalized Negro, surely we didn't expect the system that gave us Roach, Judge Ralph Winkler, Police Chief Thomas Streicher, FOP Propaganda Man Keith Fangman and Mayor Mister Charlie Luken could also create someone with the balls to rise up like Jesus -- the other white meat -- and do the right(eous) thing.

After stomaching part of the trial in person, I walked away secure in the knowledge that Roach would walk on both charges. It was something in Winkler's Invisible Man demeanor that screamed, "Not on my watch!"

My mother's DNA gave me a good gut. After sensing Roach's "innocence," I feebly warned folks of the trial's outcome. But they either overintellectualized the law, race and justice or they ranted like street corner prophets. Temporarily insane, they were.

What else besides lunacy could explain the assumption that a white, German Zinzinnatian society and culture such as this would reverse itself and participate in a self-imposed click/drag/delete? I'm talking now about not just a reversal of history but a reversal of fortune.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Somewhere along the line, we neglected to wrap our minds around the fact that ours is a systemic brand of racism. This is not a situation where flashpoints of racist behavior flare up out of nowhere.

No, our system -- judicial, educational, economic, housing, health care and political -- is rotten all the way to its roots. The dirt is dirty.

Everywhere I went after Winkler's mid-morning pantomime of the Sept. 26 verdict, folks were aghast. As a coping mechanism, many suffered diarrhea of the mouth.

Those who ran on about the miscarriage of justice, who sang in the "here we go again" chorus or who anticipated that Roach would've at least gotten a good-faith slap on the wrist are -- as Bug, my friend and barber calls them -- beggars in the marketplace. And it ain't even our marketplace.

Negroes here aren't thriving or represented on a level commensurate with our talents and our sheer numbers. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 43 percent of us here in Zinzinnati are Negroes. But something's amiss when the only time you see an all-out black "presence" is if and when you're in a severely economically depressed area.

That's because the main girder holding racism aloft is economic disparity.

Negroes flock to Atlanta because of its saturation of all things black. Atlanta is a collective reparation. After the Civil Rights Movement, black leaders with heft and name recognition helped shape Atlanta into a modern-day black Mecca.

And they did so with the cooperation and blessing of white folks. Aye, there's the rub.

Like Atlanta, this, too, is a Southern city. The difference is our whites are none too interested in giving up any of that tasty economic pie they've been scarfing down. And that's because ending (or at least greatly easing) racism has little to do with leveling off human inequality and everything to do with leveling off economic inequality.

And so, Whites in Most Power (WIMPs), it's up to you to turn the corner. We're in the car, but the WIMPs are driving. In essence, we're still beggars in the marketplace, and what an evil, surreal marketplace it is.

The afternoon before the verdict I was in Over-the-Rhine at the window of Bambino's Pizzeria ordering a slice for lunch. Police helicopters buzzed overhead. Police overseers were checking to see if Negroes were meetin' behind the slave quarters. We weren't.

Following the verdict, Mister Charlie instituted a citywide curfew. On the second night, I ventured up to Mount Adams to see for myself if those privileged few were abiding by the curfew they blatantly ignored in April. The only people on Mount Adams' streets were me and a black male news reporter doing a live feed for Channel 9.

Finally, a lockdown we could all enjoy.

How ironic: Two free Negroes allowed out to do our jobs.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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