Thursday, February 26, 2004

Tour Guide never afraid to tell truth

Peter Bronson

I once asked Kathy Wilson if a redneck rust-bucket "beater" is the same as a ghetto "hootie."

"No," she corrected me. "Hootie is a Blowfish. A beater is a HOOP-tie."

I guess I'm just lucky she didn't drop the F-bomb or scorch me with her favorite flame-thrower sarcasm: "I'm not your Negro tour guide."

That's the name of her column in City Beat: "Your Negro Tour Guide." It's also the name of her new book of columns. And now I know from her book, it's also what she thinks white people are doing when they ask about hoopties, "bling bling" and all those other words that needed subtitles in Barbershop.

She thinks we're asking for a "tour guide" to walk us safely through the kitchen of black culture.

The truth is, race makes hypocrites of us all. We all talk about how much we should talk about it. But whites are worn out from lugging around the anvil of guilt - and blacks are tired of being ambassadors from Blackistan.

Wilson is a salve on our wounds. She takes us to another side of Cincinnati that we seldom see, except in the grotesque caricatures of white liberal "concern" and angry black radio.

And her writing is good enough to drag me along, even when the destination is an opinion that's totally wrong.

I know her as a regular panelist with me and Cincinnati Herald Publisher Eric Kearney on Hotseat, a 7:30 a.m. Sunday show on WCPO-TV that is Wayne's World meets Firing Line.

We get along fine - and that seems to be a source of great annoyance or befuddlement to her readers and mine. I think that's because we respect each other, even though we are just about as far apart as a square white hankie and an African Kente scarf can get.

Her writing talent manages to shine through the stale smoke of profanity that is the merit badge of alternative weeklies.

And she has courage.

Lefty papers like City Beat still fancy themselves as counterculture. They don't know they are the culture (see the MTV Super Bowl). Skewering the Enquirer and bashing cops is easy work. It doesn't take courage.

The real counterculture today is found on the outskirts of the liberal Utopianatti, where reality sidles up and says, "Gimme your wallet." It's a place where most news dogs refuse to play fetch in the minefield of political correctness.

Kathy Wilson is not afraid to go there.

She smacks around the usual suspects like the mayor, the cops and me, too, but she also drops an occasional canister of napalm on the New Black Panther Party, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson. She called boycott leader Nate Livingston a fool and said former Assistant Police Chief Ron Twitty was a "nowhere man" for taking advantage of "the lap dance of misplaced black loyalty."

"Dear black males ages 13-55 years old:" she wrote. "You're scaring me."

She says her column blasting Vice Mayor Alicia Reece was the biggest shock to her fans. "I think they finally noticed my unflinching ability to apply to blacks what I apply to everyone else. We're not exempt from the truth."

If hoopties were newspapers, not junker cars, City Beat would be a hooptie, and Wilson would be at the wheel, taking us up and down Vine Street to see what we knew was there all along: So-called "leaders" don't speak for everyone, and the black "community" does not have one official opinion and copyrighted voice.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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