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Do as I Say, Not as I Do

By Kathy Y. Wilson · December 6th, 2001 · Your Negro Tour Guide
Mayor Charlie Luken's first official order of business as "strong mayor" is fraught with double standards.

Luken appointed the Rev. Damon Lynch III to Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN) for political reasons. Lynch is intelligent, articulate and connected to a faction of Negroes -- namely the Black United Front -- who'll never orbit Luken. And Lynch is outspoken.

Those are the same reasons Luken kicked Lynch off CAN.

It's almost as if the luxury car in the showroom turned into a hooptie as soon as Luken drove it off the lot. All the while, Lynch was wearing an "As is, no warranty" sticker.

Luken's appointment of Lynch looked good back in the hazy post-riot days. Probably felt good, too, seeing as how we were reeling from the shooting death of Timothy Thomas and Luken didn't know what to do with his mayoral muscles.

Lynch is intelligent because he knows the only way to the heart of powerbrokers is through their pocketbooks. He's articulate and outspoken because he's let it be known he never asked for the "officialness" of the CAN appointment and he's never copped to being a team player in the city's brand of racial and economic balling. He never asked for a seat at the cool table in the lunchroom.

The Black United Front -- the Sweat Hogs of local activism -- stayed the course, regardless of waning media interest and protest fatigue, by picketing and/or boycotting downtown businesses suspected of snubbing Negroes during Jazz Festival weekends. Luken rarely came into contact with these folks except to have them ejected from council meetings.

So now Luken is bitter that the man he chose for his team is strategizing new rules for the same game.

"The level of racism, discrimination, tyranny and general oppression in every area of life here in Cincinnati has grown to such a level that only national and international economic sanctions may get the attention of the corporate leaders and their political servants," says a letter on Black United Front letterhead signed by its president, Lynch, that was sent to an undisclosed number of potential Cincinnati-bound conventioneers.

The letter made its way to City Hall. This, as Martha Stewart says, is a good thing.

"Think of the irony of living in the city where the centerpiece of the National Underground Freedom Railroad network is being built, and we are struggling through the highest state of Apartheid," the letter continues.

That's probably the point where Luken started feeling betrayed and perturbed.

"You are hereby dismissed from further involvement of any kind with Cincinnati Community Action Now," Luken said in his terse, one-line statement to Lynch on Dec. 3.

Luken's pissed off, and rightfully so. Who does Lynch think he is, disrupting the city's progress?

We are progressing, aren't we?

If we weren't, Lynch would not have raised the ire of other council members like Jim Tarbell who've heretofore kept their yaps shut about Lynch's antics.

Feels like a pile-on to me. You can ask Roger Owensby's family about Cincinnati-style pile-ons.

Think about it. If CAN's mission is to help restore the racial and economic order in Cincinnati and to alleviate disparity in those same areas, shouldn't the group also be shoring up the stability of the city's foundation that fell to disrepair and got us here in the first place?

Lynch is a minister, so he undoubtedly believes in penance. Perhaps with his back against the brick wall of atonement, Lynch poked and sabotaged the flowery outer coating of CAN's sugary shell and its alleged mission so he'd be ousted from a job he probably never wanted in the first place.

Confused, betrayed and embattled, Luken has excommunicated the man for the same reasons he courted him. All the while he's blasting Lynch for some of the very same things he's guilty of.

"He has been counseled time and time again to cooperate for some good results and he throws it all away because he seems unable to resist name calling," Luken said. There's that infamous Mister Charlie paternalism again.

Luken is calling for Lynch's apology to the city and the cops. To that, I say: We're still waiting for our apology from Luken.

All this political leap-frogging reminds me of the lunch-line tango we used to do in junior high called "cuts/cuts back." It was an exercise in futility wherein someone from the back of the line, upon spotting a buddy further up in line, would cut in front of that friend. The person they cut in front of would then cut back in front of the line jumper.

People at the tail end of the line were mad they'd all been pawns -- dissed by interlopers and manipulators.

It's a long-forgotten game replayed and recast by Luken and Lynch. And don't you feel like you're at the tail end?



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