Cincinnati Enquirer, June 2, 2008: The numbers in black and white

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There are few shades of gray in a new survey measuring disparities between African-Americans and whites in Cincinnati.

Walk into 100 local businesses and 93 will be owned by whites. Fewer than four will be owned by African-Americans.

Visit 100 African-American homes, and 27 families will be living in poverty. Visit 100 white homes, and 12 families will be poor.

Line up Hamilton County prisoners incarcerated by the state, and the line of African-American inmates will be 10 times longer than that of whites.

Make a list of local crime victims by race, and the list of African-Americans will be twice as long as that of whites. Do the same for holders of bachelor’s degrees, and the list will be four times as long for whites.

“This report shows that despite seven years of multiple sustained efforts to reduce disparities, the circumstances have not changed for African-Americans in our community,” says the introduction to Cincinnati in Black & White 2007.

The report was produced by Better Together Cincinnati, a funders’ collaborative set up to support the initiatives of Cincinnati Community Action Now. CAN was created out of the 2001 race riots to deal with disparities and later dissolved.

The new report is a somber reminder of how far this city has yet to go. African-American children’s test scores are still lower than those of white students in reading, math and school readiness. African-American adults are still less likely to have a job, own a home or have a bank account.

The lack of progress on key indicators is maddening for hundreds of Cincinnatians who’ve spent the last seven years working hard to shrink racial gaps and equalize opportunities. And some of the solid initiatives put in place by CAN and subsequent efforts should have moved the needle.

Raw numbers aside, the city is better off for the Police Department’s move to Community Problem Oriented Policing, which builds communication and trust between police and residents.

And while the number of minority-owned businesses is still woefully low, efforts such as the Minority Business Accelerator are supports that many cities have long had in place and that still can bear fruit here.

But in the end, education may be the key to it all. While achievement has inched up in Cincinnati Public Schools, the district has had little success in closing the racial gap. The bright light on the horizon here may be Strive, an educational partnership developed to improve instruction in the urban core.

As in other areas, collaboration is one key to taking on such entrenched and complicated problems. The other is a city’s resolve to keep fighting what will be a long battle.

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