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Norman Holloway...Live From Cincinnati

Today we feature the opinion of one of our viewers, Norman Holloway, who is actually from Cincinnati. He provides a commentary that not only explains what conditions are prevalent in Cincinnati but also connects those conditions, or effects, with their cause(s). Mr. Holloway also makes suggestions as to how the situation there can be improved.

Here it is:

Reflection Upon A Rebellion

By now most of you are aware of the recent social upheaval that occurred here in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was the death of Timothy Thomas; a 19 year old Black man; shot and killed by a white police officer that sparked a week of protest and rebellion. Thomas was the 15th Black person killed here by police since 1995; the fourth in five months. To many in the Black community; Thomas's death was merely the latest tragedy in a disturbing pattern of police insensitivity, profiling, harassment, brutality and murder! As in the aftermath of previous uprisings; the Mayor has announced the formation of yet another blue ribbon commission, more sensitivity training for police officers; the changing of how the police chief is hired; none of which will alleviate the conditions that make Cincinnati and every other urban city ripe for rebellion and rioting. The events that transpired here last week are merely cyclically in nature; for it was in 1967 that Cincinnati erupted in similar violence.

Cincinnati prides itself as being one of America's model cities; it was billed a few years back as America's most "livable city". The reality is Cincinnati is clearly divided amongst racial lines. Blacks comprise 43% of Cincinnati's population and that number is steadily climbing as a result of White flight to suburbia. Cincinnati is currently ranked 8th amongst America's most segregated cities. Despite the presence of corporate giants such as Proctor and Gamble and Chiquita; Cincinnati ranks 12th amongst America's 75 largest cities for people living below poverty; a disproportionate of those people being Black. The issue of police misconduct is merely a symptom of a much larger issue; unfortunately to often we treat the symptoms as opposed to treating the disease that causes the symptoms. There is a virulent pathology that exist within practically every Black community; Cincinnati is no exception. Police brutality is merely a manifestation of this virulent pathology; it is one of the many plethora of maladies that the Black community suffers from. Poor and inadequate housing, unemployment, lack of education, the scourge of drugs, the breakdown of the family unit are all symptoms of this virulent pathology that exists here in Cincinnati and throughout America's urban cities. This virulent pathology was "originally created by Whites, maintained today to an extent by whites but PERPETUATED internally by Blacks themselves"; as poignantly stated.

We here in Black Cincinnati must ask ourselves the hard question of why is it that our young Black men experience so much contact with the police in the first place? Are we blind to the seemingly obvious correlation between socially dysfunctional communities and the subsequent criminality that results; which in turn results in the inevitable confrontation between those citizens and the police department. We must inform our brothers and sisters that when they commit to a life of crime they immediately create an adversarial relationship between themselves and law enforcement. We must intervene in the lives of our young people and do a better job of shepherding them to insure that we at least minimize our young people's contact with the police. To do this we must vitalize our communities with economic development. More importantly we must empower ourselves SPIRITUALLY and socially.

The Black church is and has been the most influential institution in our community. The Black church must spearhead social and cultural upliftment within our communities. The church must utilize it's influence to reduce the burgeoning permanent Black underclass from whence springs much of the nihilistic behavior that leads our people to crime which too often leads to violent confrontations with the police.

Though clearly the police could stand to improve the manner in which it polices the community; it is my contention that the greater onus is on us the Black community. The rebellion that took place here in Cincinnati was the result of justifiable frustration and righteous indignation over the abject poverty and deplorable socio-economic conditions that Blacks are subjugated and relegated to day in and day out. I implore us as Black Cincinnatians; to exhibit the same avidity, fervor and intensity in rebuilding our communities that we exhibited while protesting the police. This is the greater challenge; for it is easy for us to focus our furor and rage over an external enemy while failing to neglect the greater responsibility of policing ourselves! When we improve the living conditions of our communities; we will see a general improvement in police and community relations.

The Black church has missionary work to perform; in the words of Norman Lockman;" the Black church must stop trying to combat social dysfunction with promises of a pie in the sky hereafter"; instead we need to implore an activist theology that helps in the here and now. Let us begin to empower ourselves spiritually, economically, educationally and politically; this is a great day if we only seize the initiative. The moment that we begin policing ourselves then we need not worry about a recalcitrant out of control police department besieging our communities. The power is within us; changing the culture of the police department and the hiring practices of the chief are laudable actions; but again this is not a panacea for police and community relations.

The real solution relies upon us improving the living conditions of our community.

Norman Holloway

Thursday, April 19, 2001

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