So one morning several weeks ago, I woke up with a title in my head, and sat down at the computer to write the rest of the piece: The Black, White, Blue and Gray of It All. It is about black men and police officers, and was written shortly after the Dallas tragedy – and also after Alton Sterling and
Philando Castile died at the hands of police officers.
I’ll copy it into this blog sometime in the next couple of days. In the meantime, though, I’m just going to talk about it. After I wrote it, instead of just sending it on to Cindi Andrews at the Enquirer, I ran it by son Brian. I wanted his comments on the tone and direction, because it was a very strong piece, and for some reason I was fussed about it. But I didn’t say that – so he did a copy edit. He also picked up a couple of statements that were not quite accurate from his memory and point of view.
Even after I made the changes I wanted to make, from the ones he suggested, I remained in a fussed condition. Most unusual for me – I usual write what needs to be said, very fast, and that’s it. And I never fuss. Even when I sent it in to Cindi, the editorial page editor, who used to be my editor at Women’s Business, a monthly newspaper of which she was part owner, I was still fussing. I told her to make any changes she wanted, and that would be fine. I have never said any such thing to an editor before.
A couple of days later, but before it was actually published, I realized there was a conflict in my own mind. I definitely wanted to be clear, wanted folk to see what I see, and wanted them to know the pain being caused. But I also was feeling compassion for the white folks who seem unable to see, and didn’t want them to turn away, didn’t want them to refuse to hear. Aaaahhh. That relieved my confusion.
After it was published on July 21, I expected to get nasty notes, perhaps a nasty letter to the editor – I’ve had that experience before. Published the next day, July 22 (so he must have sat right down at his computer), was a strong letter in rebuttal, but not particularly nasty. He did believe that my statements about Brian being hassled were ‘incredulous'(sic), and sarcastically said I seem ‘to be an expert on “racist” police-community relations’, and wondered how many police runs I had been on. Of course, having lived and working in inner city neighborhoods for 51 years, I have had a pretty considerable experience with policing and police officers, and have indeed ridden with officers. I have also had experience with my sons and many friends during protests against the war, against the World Trade Organization, against injustice. And I’ve worked with many great folk in and around City Hall, who work hard to listen and respond.
The main response to the column, though, was during my regular work day and regular life, when so many people – white and black, male and female, told me they appreciated my column, and were very glad I had written it. Proof for the Enquirer, I think, that readership is still holding and strong, at least among people involved in making Cincinnati a better and happier place.