There is systemic racism in CH
When institutions give an unjust amount of resources, rights and political-economic power to white people while denying it to people of color, this is systemic racism. According to sociologist Joe Feagin, white elites and even people of color perpetuate systemic racism. The Cleveland Heights government is such an institution.
In 1972, it was revealed that the city had been redlining—limiting black families to homeownership only on the north side of the city. In 1993, city leaders acknowledged it had not invested in that area's infrastructure, housing stock and local business districts, and promised to change its ways. Today, after bearing the brunt of the foreclosure crisis in this city, the north side has yet to experience a change in the city's racist ways. It razes vacant and abandoned property and hopes to attract out-of-town property buyers and developers to build high-density, high-income residential buildings along the “Noble Corridor,” to bring in a more-gentrified class of people and businesses—forget the issues facing the low- to moderate-income, primarily black, residents currently living there.
The city has required minority business owners along Noble Road to raze and rebuild their buildings, or acquire unsustainable financing in order to participate in its economic-development programs and grants. CH City Council harasses other Noble Road businesses and declares them nuisances rather than work with them to deal with unruly, sometimes violent, customers, as the city and police have done for businesses in other parts of Cleveland Heights.
City boards, commissions, committees and mayoral task groups are lily-white, with the only hint of color being two or three higher-income black residents (one from the north side of town and close friend of an ex-mayor) who are cycled through these different municipal entities.
Denison Park is on the north side. It is the poster child of systemic racism. (Pictures posted on my Facebook page demonstrate how differently it is managed from other city parks.)
The majority of trees are unpruned and weed-choked. The playground contains about an inch of colorless, decomposed bedding that resembles wood chips only on close scrutiny. A muddy track leads through heavy, sagging gates too large for most children to move. Children then face a nearly 1-foot drop over the concrete footers forming the boundary of the play area. Compare that to the deeply mounded fresh and bright wood chips in the Forest Hills and Turtle Park playgrounds, the concrete sidewalks that lead to smaller gates, and the presence of benches and tables in or immediately adjacent to the playground.
A soggy, inaccessible, decrepit baseball field has no discernible infield features, such as a pitching mound, base lines or a batting area. Benches are mired in mud and the backstop is damaged and rusting.
Where there was once a swimming pool and verdant picnic area now sits a gated all-purpose field that is off limits to local residents without costly CH Community Center IDs, membership and program fees. Claiming it could not afford to keep the pool open, the city decided to expend $650,000 from the city's Recreational Bond to bulldoze the pool and install a field that stole half of the park's land.
The city cannot claim a few lazy workers are responsible for the level of neglect at Denison. Its neglect, and the city's unwillingness to create parks closer to residents living further north along Noble, are symptoms of systemic racism.
Diane Hallum is a longtime resident of the north side of Cleveland Heights.