By Dwight Tillery
Cincinnati is a unique city in its relationship to the Black community. The majority population is Black, and it suffers some of the worst social determinants in the nation. Unlike many cities in this country with significant Black populations, Cincinnati's Blacks have little political and economic power as well as few institutions to reflect its history. The history of this city doesn't chronicle the contributions Blacks have made in any meaningful way. Because of the systematic efforts over time to deny Blacks a significant opportunity, the progress of Black Cincinnatians is nothing to brag about.
Yes, Cincinnati is the quintessential good old boys' town where White men decide who gets what even if much of the money belongs to taxpayers. In many ways, this city is 50 years behind similarly situated cities in this country. One need only to look at the social determinants here, and you may be surprised or even astonished how poorly Blacks are doing here where some of the nation's most renowned corporations exist.
In the United States, the minority population has increased since 1980 while the White poplation has seen a decrease. The Black population increased by nearly 11% from 1980 to 2010, while the percentages of whites has declined by approximately 17%. In Cincinnati, the percentage of people of color jumped from 35.3% to 51.9%.
Immigrants who came to this country recognized they could use the government as a ladder to lift them from the bottom of society. Government jobs were decent in pay and steady work that gave generations opportunity to go to college and beyond. In the 1950s, Cincinnati Mayor Ted Berry who ran well under the proportional representation system became a threat to the White community as many Blacks thought he should be mayor. As the Black population started to grow, the White power structure decided to go to an at-large system which clearly disadvantaged the elections of Blacks let alone a Black mayor.
In other cities with sizable Black populations and a political ward system that gave jobs to Blacks never existed in Cincinnati. Cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia at least has a ward system which ensures Black representation and employment for Blacks living in those precincts. There was never a serious effort to have a ward system in Cincinnati nor any other system that would increase the numbers of Blacks on the local city council. Many researchers cited Cincinnati as a city that changed the political system to keep White Power structure.
As we fast forward, the power structure saw that Blacks would soon be the dominant population and of course, came up with various ideas to make sure the eventual White minority will continue to control the wealth of this city. The business community in particular and others came up with ideas of a The Port Authority, DCI, 3CDC, and a direct election of the mayor. These organizations are pretty much run the economic development of this city, unlike other cities that would never give up that power to private entities. After all, it was the government that allowed Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson to give opportunities to Black businesses to acquire wealth and changed the face of an old southern city that now has thousands of Blacks flocking there. Mayor Jackson understood how to use the political power to create real and sustainable opportunities for Blacks to live better lives.
Unless we demand that the Cincinnati mayor and city council, have the courage to be fair to all of its citizens, the playing field won't be level, and Blacks will continue to bear the burden of inequities. Political power is the power that Blacks now have to use to change the injustice in this city.
First published in The Cincinnati Herald.
By the Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Mayor of Cincinnati and Co-Convener of the Black Agenda Cincinnati
Jeff Berding and FC Cincinnati want the West End stadium named after Willard Stargel to be the new home stadium for FC Cincinnati. Coach Stargel was a great athlete, coach and man. I knew him and his children. I roomed across the hall from his son Scott while we were students at U.C. Coach Stargel endured many racial roadblocks while growing up in this city. He led U.C. to a big ten victory season in football resulting in his team being invited to the Sun bowl-- only to be told he could not play because of the color of his skin. He developed some of the best sport teams and athletes in the city while coaching at Taft. As a student at Withrow, our teams knew we were in a tough fight when we played Taft in football, basketball, and track. Even Taft’s marching band had the same flare and excitement we see today with the marching bands of the historically Black universities and colleges.
February is the month of Black History and Jeff Berding wants the school board to vote to demolish a perfectly good stadium named after our hero in order to provide a soccer stadium for entertainment and yes, profit. This stadium is shared by several public schools. I find it just insulting that Berding would not only make such a request but use our tax dollars from Council and the school board to make this happen. What is he thinking and why is the school board members seem to be dragging their feet with a simple issue facing it—sell a perfectly good stadium that our children are using to an organization that wants it for a private purpose—to make money?
This proposed transaction has absoutely nothing at all to do with educating our children. The School Board’s own vision/mission states the following: “Cincinnati Public Schools will be a community that ensures equitable access to a world-class education, unleashing the potential of every student. Mission: We educate all students with rigor and care in a culture of excellence to develop engaged citizens who are prepared for life.”The school board says it need inputs from the community, FC, the business community to make a determination? Parents ought to be outraged. This decision is a no brainer unless there’s more to the story and believe me there is more to this story and it stinks and black people once again will be sacrificed for the good of the majority. And how about the person for whom the stadium was named after? Can you imagine going to LaSalle, St. Xavier or Elder and say we need your stadium for a similar purpose. The school board owes the taxpayers, parents and their children a quick answer—no. Why are you wasting time unless you really think this is a good idea?
Folks, I’m told that Berding said in a meeting recently with stakeholders in the downtown area that the West End will become OTRWest. You heard me right. From OTR to the central city to the Montgomery Boathouse, Black residents will virtually be non-existent. Go to the Google maps and you will see why just not Berding wants this land but the Cincinnati business community as well. It will be an all-white community with Music Hall, three stadiums, CSO looking to be entertainment on the Banks, street car etc. The gentrification is ugly, and soon Blacks will be displaced in numbers you won’t believe. Look at the gentrification in Avondale, Walnut and East Walnut Hills, Mt. Adams, Mt. Auburn, Madisonville etc. Where will black people be able to call home? Where are our institutions and statutes recognizing that we passed through this life—gone.
As I think about what is going on in the West End, it reminds me when our family lived there. In particular, I recall peering out of my attic bedroom window and saw the bright lights of Crosley Field during the Reds game. White people laughing and driving those beautiful cars in our community. But one of the things that I’ll never forget was the fact that my father had to move his car off the public street so that the white people could park on game day. Now we’re being asked to remove a stadium named in the honor of Coach Willard Stargel—one of our heroes-- so that white soccer fans can enjoy themselves there and our black leaders once again sat silent.
By The Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Mayor of Cincinnati and Co-Convener of the Black Agenda Cincinnati
What an incredible time to be black and to have lived through the height of the Civil Rights Movement in this nation. For me, it is difficult to celebrate the racial progress this nation claims to have made. President Trump’s honesty about how he feels about people of color is not his exclusively but represents a significant part of people in this Country. And, unlike far too many whites who will deny the existence of racism, Trump is being honest about his feelings towards blacks. Of course, he’ll deny being a racist or racially prejudice but there are few who will make such admission. What else would you expect President Trump or others to say. I recall a debate that Malcolm X had at Harvard when he said he would rather deal with the Ku Klux Klan than to deal with liberal whites. His reasoning was that only when a person is honest with you can you have honest dialogue. It has taken my lifetime to understand the importance of Malcolm X’s statement.
Many whites say the discussion of race is difficult and that they are uncomfortable with the topic. At the same time, blacks have to endure it--even deny it in their own minds. What about our discomfort? How is it that only whites can decide when racism exist while intimidating blacks for even making such a suggestion? More than any group of people, blacks who would know better about the existence of racism. If it were not for King’s courage to speak out against the injustice of racism, would there even be a Dr. King holiday. From the history of slavery all the way up to present, there is a trail of attitudes among far too many whites that blacks aren’t their equal. Many surveys show that whites have racial attitudes that often result in discriminatory practices which keep blacks at the bottom of the ladder in America.
Studies reveal that when it comes to deciding whether racism exist in this nation, blacks and whites are deeply divided. That being the case, how can so many white Cincinnatians in particular say it doesn’t exist. From the media, to the local governments and the business community, the perception of race is sharply divided. But doesn’t the denial of racism only keep it in place? Whites want to point to what they call “racial progress” as their way of avoiding the truth about the two societies that exist. Whites want to speak about “inclusion, diversity, affirmative action and equity” without ever facing up to the reason(s) why they use this terminology.
Am I to wait another two hundred years to be a man in this city or nation? Am I still 3/5ths human based on institutional racism? Am I to believe that blacks are poor because they want to be poor, poorly educated because they want to be, unemployed because we want to be, live in terrible housing, unarmed black men shot down by police because we want to die. Either we are free or we are still in human bondage because of the color of our skin. There is no in between.
Segregation in and of itself is a clear statement about how whites feel about blacks in this community. Some surveys say Cincinnati is the fifth most segregated city in the country. And in the last four years, gentrification is the work to further segregation in this city. Professor Julian E. Zelizer of Princeton wrote the introduction to the 2016 version of the Kerner Commission report. He makes the following observation:
“Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget-is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
Does this mean that all white people are racist—no. Does this mean that all whites make conscious decisions to discriminate against people of color—no. For me, it does mean that racism/implicit bias is deeply embedded in this culture. Racial discrimination is morally reprehensible and everyone must take a meaningful stand against it.
Unfortunately, Civil Rights organizations lead by blacks and black leaders have been so badly compromised that they are so fearful of calling out racism as it exists—not as whites will allow them. Whites have picked and promoted certain black leaders as their proof that they aren’t racist while those blacks have the false belief that their achievement has nothing to do with their color. I don’t care how smart and talented you might be, your color always has something to do with your success or failure in America. Personally, I will continue to speak out against racism in this community; and those who want to continue to attack the Health Gap and threaten its funding, the Black Agenda, will not silence me. Anything less would be a dishonor of Dr. King’s Holiday.
Originally published in The Cincinnati Herald.
By the Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Cincinnati Mayor and Co-Convenor of the Black Agenda Cincinnati
By the end of this month, Councilmembers Simpson, Winburn, and Flynn will finish their tenure on the City Council. In the case of Yvette Simpson, she was unsuccessful in defeating John Cranley for mayor. Charlie Winburn is term-limited, and Kevin Flynn decided not to run for reelection.
Councilmember Simpson is a very dedicated member of City Council. She seems always prepared for committee meetings and Council sessions. Simpson is smart, debates well, and pretty much supported the Council’s agenda. While I had nominal contact with her or her campaign, I’m not sure that she had any idea what was about to come against her in the final days of the campaign.
I remember meeting with her early June for a brief discussion, and she asked me, “When did they turn against you?” I know who she was referring to –the power structure– and I said, they were never with me.
The lesson that she was about to learn was that Black members of Council are great when they do what they are told and not make waves. If you are cooperative, the press, i.e., the Enquirer will reward you with at best no coverage; but if you’re willing to challenge the status quo—look out.
Simpson decided to challenge Cranley—a protégé of Tom Luken—but she had no idea how nasty this race would become. She wanted to appear as non-threatening as possible because she thought if she could just show the citizens – especially the White community – that she is smart, has integrity, and didn’t make waves, they would elect her. But Jason Williams, the political reporter for the Enquirer, went after her so relentlessly that it felt like the Cranley campaign was orchestrating it.
During the time period leading up to the vote on Children’s Hospital expansion – and her not making a committee meeting, Williams went after the Black members for missing the committee meeting with a vengeance.
Yvette texted me and said,” I’m not used to having my reputation smeared, but I’m sure you understand.” And yes, I do.
And of course, the Children’s Hospital expansion was the Cranley campaign way to find some issue against Simpson. Children’s Hospital was a bogus issue with clear racial overtones. Simpson was trying to get money for a poor and depressed Black community. It’s no different than the Democrats in Congress who are trying to hold the budget hostage for the passage of DACA; it’s what politicians do. Their job is to work for their constituency. Furthermore, it was well known by members of Council and many in the community that Cranley had the votes for the expansion. Again, Simpson got a raw deal on this, but politics can be dirty.
Councilmember Charlie Winburn is a seasoned politician and has a passion for politics. As a Black Republican, as he likes to say, he’s done well in this city where Democrats make up a large percentage of the vote. I spent six years with him during the nineties and He would have given John Cranley a run for his millions had he run against him.
Councilmember Kevin Flynn is someone I knew very little about before he became a member of Council. I invited him three times to come to the Center for Closing the Health Gap to learn about us, but he would respond with a grumbling voice, saying that he already knew what we did. How wrong. He had no clue, but was satisfied to attack the Center with misinformation, mischaracterization, and flat-out lies. Flynn’s attacks on Simpson and op-eds were shameful, dog whistling, and mean-spirited.
The day the Council was to vote on Children’s expansion, Flynn strongly suggested that Simpson was a “criminal,” which fits all too well the racial stereotyping of Black people. As a lawyer, he should know better than to make such an accusation. Councilmember Simpson, which seemed to matter little to most of the Council members. Additionally, and as a member of a legislative body, such accusations are way out of line. His appearance in John Cranley’s commercial attacking Ms. Simpson was a new low for a member of Council. In my forty years of public service, I’ve never seen that kind of behavior out of any sitting Council member. His career on Council has been lackluster at best, but I will give him credit to know when it’s time to go.
Originally Featured in the The Cincinnati Herald. View Original
The Black agenda cincinnati
The Black Agenda is a Movement of individuals and organizations working cooperatively to improve the lives of Black Cincinnatians. The purpose is to bring the Black Community of Cincinnati together to prioritize our challenges as a race.