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How the Caged Nigga Seems

By Kathy Y. Wilson · August 4th, 2004 · Your Negro Tour Guide

Cincinnati is addicted to containment. Gentrification on steroids pushes low-living whites and blacks closer together into a crushing embrace of poverty, rising crime and substandard public education. Enquirer gatekeepers slyly rename the paper's section fronts to curry the favor and hold the attention and subscriptions of suburbanites who migrated to farthest perimeters to escape the netherworld of urban life.

At the city's gritty center, niggas are left to their own devices and to the vice grips of aggravated cops who can't clear them away fast enough for developers and bulldozers. Yet brazen drug dealers in the West End and Over-the-Rhine are at an all-time high. Pun intended.

Find the answer to why -- in an uncertain economy with America at war on the eve of determining the next leader of the free world -- niggas can still get packs off faster than we can say "Kerry for President," and you'll win one of those genius grants. (For enlightenment watch HBO's The Corner, a saga of one drug-ravaged American neighborhood.)

I live in the mostly black section of slowly gentrifying East Walnut Hills. We call our stretch of Woodburn Avenue "the plantation" because it's on the south side of Madison Avenue, tucked away from the spotlight of development and not part of the gateway to O'Bryonville/Hyde Park.

It still reeks from the days when it was a crack-infested corridor, when car jacking, gunplay and even murder were frequent occurrences.

Slowly it's turning.

Residual crackheads cop rocks by the nightlight of a Cincinnati Police Department substation and within a neck stretch of a facility frequented by deputies of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. One prop cop cruiser don't stop the show.

Police can erect barricades all over O-T-R like the one posted last week at 13th Street and Reading Road. While it signals "Stop!" to the mullet-headed whites sucking Marlboros in taped-up strugglebuckets who come creeping off the expressway clutching crumpled singles and the habits they feed, it'll do nothing to break the relationship between dealers and addicts.

Put away the dealers. But when you do, you must rehabilitate and not warehouse them.

Then change the block they came from by giving the people dependent on the drug dealers' grind -- mammas, baby mammas, shorties -- another way to feel connected to a rent-to-own existence. That will entail a major overhaul of Cincinnati Public Schools, vastly improved public transportation so people can get to the good jobs and better access to increasingly better housing.

Conversely, block in the addicts. Concentrating attention, media and otherwise, disproportionately on rash, quick-fix/border town solutions like barricades that can be easily circumnavigated assumes a one-sided equation.

Supply and demand, fool.

We're so preoccupied with what Levee development is trumping our stadium-dotted riverfront, we've been sleeping on the ill ways our Kentucky neighbors are killing us softly. Cops should profile Kentucky drivers the way they profile blacks with broken taillights. Test the boundaries of probable cause.

Make it a Sister City program with Northern Kentucky. A Kentucky driver busted in O-T-R copping drugs should do jail time with the dealer. Talk about mixed market housing!

Police Officer Frank McGraw told TV news crews part of the crackdown (pun unintended) entails intimidating the fiends coming from Kentucky. "If you can get in behind these people and make them feel uncomfortable -- wait until they make a mistake -- and then we have them and then we can send them back to Kentucky or wherever they're from."


They'll find some other crack-infested poor white or black Cincinnati neighborhood to buy from. I bet when cops "send them back to Kentucky," they're not heading immediately to treatment.

This is the un-rehabbed addict's prayer: "Please, God, let me go and I won't do it again." Until next feeding.

It's like throwing ho's in jail and releasing Johns with a stern sermon. Somewhere there's another ho, another blow.

Go ahead, pat those Kentucky crackheads on their mullets and set their hoopties back on I-471. Somewhere there's another nigga. Go figure.

Kathy's collection of columns, Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White, is available in bookstores now.


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