Sunday, April 15, 2001

A familiar story of Easter




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        When we were little, my brother and I got up at dawn on Easter Sunday. An orgy of milk chocolate, jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps followed.

        Then, we put on our new outfits. White anklets and a bonnet with a ribbon dangling down the back for me. A clip-on tie for my brother. Mom was in white gloves, which covered up dye stains from the night before. Dad wore a snap-brim hat.

        They were taking us to church so we could learn that the day was more complicated than eggs, colored in secret by our parents. And where we were told something even more fantastic than a rabbit delivering candy. The Easter Story. Life after death. Redemption. Resurrection. Brotherly love. And, of course, civil unrest. A show of force. A mother's anguish.

Looking for leaders

        A comparison to the past week here is irresistible. It's not just the timing. It's the complexity. The drama. And the outcome.

        We're always looking for simple answers. We bused kids to distant locations because their neighborhood school was a reflection of their neighborhood — which was racially segregated. In other words, if the adults can't integrate, let's see if kids can do the job.

        We talk about diversity all the time, but in the crunch we want to hear one voice. We want someone to speak for the black community. Someone to speak for the white community.

"Bigger than that'

        Well, white FOP president Keith Fangman no more speaks for me than I do for Cincinnati City Councilman Phil Heimlich. WLW's Bill Cunningham may call himself the voice of the common man, but thankfully he is not the voice of all of them.

        Councilwoman Minette Cooper doesn't have the corner on black thinking. Nor does the Rev. Damon Lynch III. Nor does Judge Nathaniel Jones. Nor does WDBZ-AM's talk show host Lincoln Ware.

        It's more complicated than that. More diverse. As are the problems that led up to the past week of violence. It's more complicated than the police department. More complicated than hoodlums pillaging a furniture store in the name of social justice.

        When NAACP President Kweisi Mfume stood before the crowd at New Friendship Baptist Church in Avondale, I saw a white face in the crowd who had earned the right to be there over 30 years of fighting for fair and decent housing for people of color. It was Karla Irvine, director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal.

        “I don't want to see another person beat up just because they're white,” Mr. Mfume said. “We're bigger than that.”

        And what we have seen over the past few days is bigger than that. It's not just police. It's not just hooligans. It's housing and education and jobs. It's isolation. It's family. It's rage and fear.

        It didn't happen last week. More people just saw it last week.

        Some are saying it's hopeless around here. Wounds that will never heal. Businesses that will never recover. Neighborhoods that will die.

        But this is a special morning, one of the most holy of Christian holidays, when millions of people all over the world and thousands of people around here believe something amazing. Amazing and complicated. After a week of ugliness and violence, there was peace and forgiveness. Resurrection.

        Easter Sunday in Cincinnati. And the comparison is obvious.

        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/pulfer.

       



Tonight's curfew pushed back to 11 p.m.
City hopes healing begins
FBI, police investigate beanbag shootings
Mourners hear call for new Cincinnati
Sense of need sends many to service
Shooting set off tinderbox of old troubles
Feds study police practices
Stories of 15 black men killed by police since 1995
Officer Jorg's trial delayed
Fallen officers forgotten, widow says
King calls for inclusion, end to profiling
Protester Lynch becomes
Mount Adams patrons defied curfew
Vendors relocate to keep tradition
Hot dog vendor pays back hero with relish
Unrest rekindles memory
- A familiar story of Easter
Notebook: Here and there