Dayton Comment

 Dayton Comment

Everyone bleeds red. So why is everyone hung up on the “R” word?By Jim Bucher

When I asked the doctor how my relative was after an operation he said, “She’ll be fine, but to tell you the truth, I did so many surgeries today all I remember is we all bleed red.”

Now I’ve heard that line before, but when you think about it, he’s right. The only difference for the most part is the outside—skin color. That’s what makes us different.

So why the hang up from so many of us on the color of one’s skin? Maybe it’s where you grew up.

I was lucky enough, some would say cursed, to call an inner city neighborhood home while growing up. I had many white and black friends. When you’re eight years old, you’re not thinking of someone’s skin color, but rather, “Let’s go play!”

When then, does it seem to go wrong? When do we become judgemental of someone who doesn’t quite look like us?

I remember my dad saying there’s an imaginary boundary running in the middle of Dayton at the Great Miami River with one side being mostly white and the other black. I didn’t think much of it at a young age, but grew up with that in the back of my mind.

I’ve had “friends” make comments about not to going to the other side because “you know why.”

Come on! Whether you’re black or white, someone has made a racist or inappropriate remark to you at some point in your life. I think if we don’t speak up, then we condone it. You know me. I’m one of those who speak my mind!

Once in a restaurant, a white server made a comment about a black family who just departed with their four kids. She said to me, the wrong person by the way, “You know those people never tip.”

Sitting there, fuming internally, I responded, “Who are ‘those’ people? Do you mean the black family that just left? Those people? Well, I’m with those people and not coming back here again.”

Wow, did that feel awesome! I hope she figured out that not all white people are in the “white racist club.”

But what do Dayton Magazine readers think of the “R” word and is the river the dividing line?

Boy, did I get an earful, or rather an email flood.

Wanda writes, “I am sad to say I think the river still divides the city. As a people we have more work to improve race relations, on both sides.”

Angie adds, “I left this town for 17 years. When I left, certain [parts] were lily white, and when I returned, there was a much larger blend of people in those same [parts]. I know that my children’s generation doesn’t see black and white in the way that it used to be. I think that’s progress.”

Kim is glad we’re talking about it: “…Wonderful of you to at least want to talk about it. It is the history of Dayton—still one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. I have lived on the east side for years, and personally have no problems. Guess I just love people period, and for starters we must eliminate racism as a system.”

Edna sees a change for the better: “Seems there’s more racial diversity on the east side of the river than just 10 years ago. By racial diversity, I mean not just blacks and whites, but also Hispanics and others who have recently emigrated from Eastern Europe.”

Allen is more blunt: “Yes, the river says black people live here and white people there. People choose where they want to live and I doubt many consider race.”

Tracy is very impassioned: “I used to call the river the ‘Mason Dixon Line.’ I moved from New York State and the amount of racism here is mindboggling. We intentionally moved to the ‘black’ side of town and haven’t regretted it. Where we are is diverse and we have no problems. However, when I worked at a local business, I couldn’t believe the stereotypes of ‘inner city’ Dayton. The comments were ignorant at best. I believe that those of us who live in the city are less racist versus the suburbanites.”

Robert says, “I’m black and on the west side. Many of my friends make racist white remarks, but I check them. Sparks really good debate and they see they’re wrong.”

So what can we do?

“Have faith, be kind and don’t judge people as a group because you had a bad experience. Give each person you meet in your life a chance no matter what their race or culture,” writes Gigi.

Ralph adds, “The important fact is we are human beings. Then we would see a better Dayton.”

Finally, my old friend and former Channel 2 news photographer Ron Hicks speaks of an experience that sees the good in all of us.

“During the ’60s riots, I had a wholesale milk route on the west side. The day of the riot, someone left me a note at a stop at Third and Williams that read, ‘Be sure you’re west of Summit by 11 a.m.’ Now spin ahead some 20 years to Channel 2. I’m shooting some video around Fifth and Williams when a few young men started harassing me. Out steps an elderly woman, pistol in hand yelling at the young men to leave me alone. I walked over to thank her and she called me by name. She owned a carry out on Broadway and remembered me from the milk route. If you’re nice to people, it comes full circle.”

And know what, I just got a paper cut. Yep, you guessed it. My blood is red.

How about you?