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Altercations

By Kathy Y. Wilson · October 6th, 2004 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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Race seems tired. Race is that badass kid who terrorizes and exasperates her teachers, family and onlookers. We cluck our tongues and talk shit about what we'd do if she was ours, but nobody wants to roll up those sleeves.

Few want to wrestle race, finally, to the ground. Whatever that even means.

The recurring point of Alteractive Speaks for the next six Mondays at Playhouse in the Park is to manufacture engagement around the specifics that hinder Cincinnati still: Over-the-Rhine, the boycott, community values/personal freedom, same sex issues, fear on the streets and JoCardo Ralston's retelling of No Sex in the City.

Throughout runs a racist, classist thread radiating like the red coat of the dead girl atop the pile of Jews in Schindler's List. I see it from here.

I'm a deeply entrenched participant, a black woman so possessed with race and class that sometimes I think they're tag-teaming me to insanity. Then their vulgarities are validated.

Cincinnati doesn't bonfire its vulgarities. Instead, we suffer from polite inhumanities.

"Yes," "please" and "thank you" are code for "don't move in next to me," while "Cincinnati is a great place to raise a family" means "a heterosexual and secretly dysfunctional family."

If you come to these Alteractive Speaks sessions to sit on your hands, stay home and watch Monday Night Football. Instead, put fire to the feet of people who make decisions that trickle down on the rest of us.

This Monday, ask Des Bracey what part of 3CDC's development plans doesn't include attracting the attractive but selfishly apathetic "creative class."

On Oct.

18, ask Councilman David Pepper how he, after his father's Rolodex gets him the mayor's seat next fall, will learn from Mayor Luken's (mis)handling of the post-riot boycott.

At the Alteractive kickoff event Oct. 4, a black woman ensconced in (and, I think, angered by) her corporate affiliations said the boycott did nothing but hurt "all the black businesses" downtown. "All what black businesses?" I asked, remembering that last week's Business Courier said there are three black-owned commercial business in downtown Cincinnati.

The boycott began as a correct and well-intended tactical response to the culmination and convergence of Stephen Roach's murder of Timothy Thomas and Cincinnati's slow-moving responses to economic disparities. Like most other black quests for power and leadership, however, it turned into a barrel of crabs.

Citizens for Community Values madman Phil Burress was to participate in the Oct. 25 session but backed out. Satan has other plans for his minions during what they tell me is a crucial election, so Burress will be off working for his side. Instead, ask CityBeat Editor John Fox or attorney Louis Sirkin to define community values and to explain when individual freedoms -- like Burress' "freedom" to spearhead removals of CityBeat from certain outlets -- become willful encroachment.

The only thing in Cincinnati more fear-inducing than race and class is homosexuality and the thought that same-sex couples might be privy to the same rights as "normal" people. On Nov. 1, ask Stonewall Chairman Terry Payne how some gay-rights groups get excommunicated from working with black grassroots groups because gays blur the lines between gay and civil rights.

Is it scary where you are? Cincinnati's homicide rate is eight or nine deaths above last year's rate this same time period. The 2001 riots snuffed out as quickly as they flared, yet we're still dangerous enough that violence -- domestic, black-on-black, parent-on-child -- sparks up citywide.

The only police officer who'll be on hand at the Nov. 8 session is retired. Part of our fear, real or cranked up by the media, is because the cops "police" us but don't engage us to explain why or how. Come anyway -- it'll be worth it to hear social service worker Joe Wilmers from Washington Park Elementary talk about how he keeps fear and loathing out of the hearts of schoolchildren despite the din of surrounding gunfire.

As proof that we need these Alteractive Speaks sessions, here's an anonymous voicemail message in response to "The (Un)Invisible Man," last week's tour about Ralston's one-man show, which is the Alteractive closer on Nov. 15.

"Yeah, Kathy Wilson, I just read '(Un)Invisible Man,' and I've got one suggestion for you," the caller sniffed, a TV blaring daytime's noxious fumes in the background. I held my breath, waiting for the other shoe.

"Why don't you just tell JoCardo to commit suicide? We don't need that type of scum." His voice was calm, pausing before he hung up like he had more to add.

Some people are beyond the reach of reason and respect. But I know you're up for respectable altercations.



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

 

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