The tail of a failing racist city
I'm looking with growing concern about what is happening around Portland, and for that matter the rest of the country. Racists are out in force. The country is failing, people are getting scared and seem to need to dump their anxiety upon the innocent. Is there some sort of moral coup which has happened? Either way it must be stopped and failure is the best argument to stop travesty.
I used to live in one very racist city. The climate of racism fosters mounting hatreds and resentments, poverty and injustice. Hatred becomes the underlying thread of the city. There was a riot and people were entrapped in their own neighborhoods by police to protect white and corporate (mainly corporate) property. This ensured that damage would only be perpetuated in peoples own neighborhoods. What ensued after this was a mounting epidemic of black on black crime mainly in the form of a murder rate that went through the roof and has maintained itself ever since.
Anger turned inward, hopelessness or just acting out the devaluing of their own lives- its all that. The lesson that taught this was the police getting away with murdering an unarmed black man. No justice really does mean no peace because when you devalue one human life, everyone else naturally becomes insecure- very insecure. Activism is dead in the area and activists are pariahs because the problems are so bad and too few people remain. Hell is a word which describes it. Living in fear is hell.
Having no hope and I mean no hope- no one in the city likes taxes so people were graduating unable to read from Cincinnati Public Schools. Guns and crime are big issues even in the high schools and the school buildings were left in a state of such disrepair one class room had rain pouring in through a cracked ceiling. My school was a cornucopia of peeling paint when I first attended.
One reason the city lags on information is that the city isn't at all copacetic to outsiders, 75% of the population consists of life long residents and new ideas too are regarded with much antagonism. I grew up with family not from the region and was no way prepared for what was a long journey of discovery of how one of Americas most conservative cities operates. The problem is that it isn't like cities in Texas and Oklahoma, attitudes about race, class and sex are largely hidden, so you don't overtly see the problem. That makes it more dangerous in a way. Even friend of mine from Binghampton, NY insists that the city ISN'T conservative, though he doesn't claim to hold the beliefs of the region. Whether be denial, either his or that of his friends in Cincinnati influencing his perspective isn't clear to me. I have my suspicions.
The African American community tries to intervene with the cycle of violence futily. The answers elude because of the lack of access to the ideas, information and tools available to white, and even black activists in other cities. While this sounds pitiful Cincinnati as a whole, white and black is stuck in the dark ages. Mark Twain said he wanted to die there because everything happens there 20 years later. The African American community seems to have intact vestiges of the times of slavery and Jim Crow, since it is largely organized around the church. In the times of slavery the church was the only place African American slaves were allowed to congregate. The other half of the community leans towards Nation of Islam. Strangely that's the only radical portion it seems and they follow their own drum beat there, and this movement too seems to lack useful information.
As for the Christian Black community, while church is sometimes good- at least the charismatic churches I've been too- or at least tries- one I lived across from in a high crime area would put its sermon and music on a speaker to blast to the locals and drug dealers on the street on Sunday mornings (groan)- sometimes its not. Anti gay sentiment is taught there and much of the Black/Gay antagonism does have its origins in the church and the culture there. Cincinnati also takes it a step further- it boasts Black Republicans. Too illustrate this oddity, aside from voting records there is both a famous politician and famous band that I only need mention. Ken Blackwell, who "delivered" Ohio to the Republicans, in other words ensuring nearly everyone had to stand in line to vote in left-minded areas all over the state is a long time Cincinnati politician. The insanity of this city changed the fate of this nation and where I voted most everyone I knew had to wait. Worse, a Black friend of mine who fortunately was savy about politics was badgered and told he couldn't vote. There was a line long enough to reach in the streets in one neighborhood.
Then there's the Afghan Whigs. The name of Greg Dulli's previous band was The Black Republicans, probably switched for it being too touchy or strange for people outside the area to put in perspective. link to web.archive.org
The Afghan Whigs' name follows the same format of ethnicity and political party. When I met a black woman while doing canvassing for a "get out to vote" group, she insisted that she was voting for McCain. Her main reasons were based on her faith she said, because she believed abortion was wrong mainly.
Again, there is a church influence in the region. It seems local churches try to intervene in things like the violence in the city, but the reason they fail seems to be the problem that most young people are smart enough not to wholly trust the church of the white people who oppress them.
The worst thing about the city is that how bad it actually is a taboo thing to discuss locally. Most remaining white, semi-left thinking people (read Liberal- anarchists and anti-fascists seem to have been all but entirely driven out) won't even discuss the problems anymore. Keeping the cities secrets seems to be a huge objective now, most likely for purposes of luring friends who left back. Not to mention some people's shame for letting all hell break loose around them and doing little to stop it. While it is daunting to be around such negativity with so little support, this location has been key in setting in to motion events which have changed the world- for the worst. Bush came to Cincinnati to announce the war because it was thought it was the one place that the minimal amount of people would show up to protest it. Imagine the disgust of having that nightmare birthed right where you live.
Fear, anger is what people feel in the ghetto every day and it has to spill out, even if it is against their own kind. It didn't start with them. It starts with some white kid who proclaims, "my (bigot) family is good, the legacy of our family isn't one of cruelty. My folks weren't mean to me. All cruelty is okay." The only way someone can think so crazily is by having wed themselves to cruelty, by denying their experience of it and participation in it. An author M. Scott Peck says that people who do cruel things can least of all admit to themselves their failings and withstand "the pain of self reproach." That's a really good argument for never selling out because from that point on you will be split from yourself, spewing propaganda which replaces actual thought. I'm sure that's why arrests are so popular. Mass arrests are designed to take us in and scare the hell out of us.
I highly recommend reading about strategies you can employ to not be broken down. Judith Herman says in a book about Post Traumatic Stress and war veterans that the ones that survive captivity the best are the ones who kept an image of a loved one close to their mind the entire time.
Racism in my mind is mainly a denial. Never forget this word, because it is what ensures the ugly karma that's rearing its head against this nation, which is manifesting more and more with failure of our economic system, allowing corporate crime and atrocities. Denial the engine behind our cultural failure and capitalism. A soulness people find no joy in humanity, so buy toys to distract yourself and feel fake security and love. It is like gifts from a parent who isn't around to care given only to pacify the kids.
There are many theories about how bigotry originates and spawns. This book gives a scary look into the conditions which made Hitler a stark raving lunatic. This in no way justifies it but it shows that insanity like his his originates. I like to think of it as "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," or better still, "The Furor Wears no Clothes." This hopefully will annoy your Nazis for the time being.
link to books.google.com
We have the blood of Native peoples all over our beloved flag, where we have over 200 years of forced labor and now the blood of Iraqi's all over our imperialist hands. Where does it end? Racism is founded upon the lie that it is okay to exploit other human beings. The use of forced labor was justified by every African physical attribute they have. It was a rationalization for what was lazy, greedy behavior on the part of white people. The weak of our culture can't admit their parents and ancestors sucked, even so far as they personally are concerned.
Racism is still too profitable for people to give up just yet. Cheap labor is still what its about.
Ghettos seem to be manifestations of disaffected upper classes which need scapegoats to dump their shame about their indifference to the world and greed. The wealthy can be the most insecure, self-hating group of people and with this comes the need to inflict their misery on the world. It is like a toddler acting out, having a tantrum and throwing their expensive toys all around- because no one loves them. That's true. They don't love themselves. Self-love reaches out to the world and wants to share itself- incidentally so does self hate.
This self hate is where the class war starts. Every city you go to there are poor people. In some cities it is Native Americans largely comprising the poor. In PDX it is mainly white. In Eastern cities it is mainly African Americans or almost entirely African Americans. In other cities it is Latinos. What is the common thread?? The core problem is the irresponsible and greedy need a place to project their self hate for laziness on to the innocent. The rich need the poor and poverty. They need people to suffer for their sins and even their Jesus isn't enough to redeem them.
To walk through Cincinnati now you will encounter the frustration and anger on a disturbing level. People usually don't ask what you think or believe but they are looking desperately for the sources of their misery which always seem to know to stay the fuck out of downtown. At least the parts not colonized by gentrification. You want to scream, "Damn it, I'm not THEM." As a progressive you are screwed because the only radicals left (read African American) have entirely lost trust in anything outside their own community. Meanwhile you see the stagnation instigated by the police state, which has been at oppressing these people longer than any other. People who try to intervene and bring outwardly radical ideas into that community, while often very much welcomed, get harangued by the good old boy police force. This means arrest in this city can fuck up your life very fast, because the system is so fucked. Its a tricky game so the wise abandon the idea to survive. But I can't help always feel the loss and be haunted by the memories, often traumatic, of this city.
Don't ever forget what this means. This city is your fate if you fail, this place is the opposite of Portland, this place scares people away, and Portland draws in too many. If you ever want real change just dump your racists off in Cincy to let them see how crappy their dream city would be in reality, how miserable it is.
Cincinnati is a different place and it puts me in shock when I return. One Californian who was in the city nabbed me to convey his distress about being there. What he said wasn't just "damn rednecks" but "Why is this happening?" I was as usual too roped into surviving what was happening to really let that reach me. He made a good point- crap like this doesn't happen elsewhere. There is nothing to prepare you for it and I get ansy when Left-Coast people just affix the normal stereotypes to it- because it is far, far worse than that.
Overall in Cincinnati, there is no middle ground to walk, there are too many racists, too many inequities and an overall devaluing of human life over all in the city. Fortunately, the city pays a high price for all this moral disintegration- it has lost more population than any other city in America in a mere span of 15 years. Who left? All the smart people.
It also makes everyone really, really pissed at it. Read all the comments there and you have a rare exposure of the local culture through the eyes of outsiders and locals who lived there.
link to www.bestplaces.net
Too, this culture is failing because it is based on lies and all lies crumble in the end. Truth is more powerful but it is the one thing fought most fiercely by humanity. It always wins. Rome fell. Now so will we. Our group think can't sustain us, nor the planet, nor anything but our egos. Denial is the engine which keeps motivating simple people, weak people people to exploit our planet to total ruin. Denial sits behind the wheel of each SUV out there, and seeks out the police state that is here.
Oh and have you noticed how most SUVs now, infact all the new ones have seriously tinted windows? Gee what is THAT about?
More on topic, I fear that this hate culture is spreading, that it is intentional, that I can be alive long enough to see trash like this: http://www.latfh.com/page/10, when I was younger I thought the world was progressing, not regressing.
I'd never imagine we could ever regress this far.
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