November opinion lacked evidence

To the Editor:

Two questions about Diane Hallum’s opinion piece in the November issue of the Heights Observer (“There is systemic racism in CH”):

Question one: “In 1972, it was revealed,” Hallum writes, ”that the city had been redlining—limiting black families to homeownership only on the north side of the city.” [i.e., the Noble neighborhood.] What exactly does she refer to? Who revealed this? And to whom? This is a highly charged, very damaging, controversial statement, made with no supporting evidence.

Here is the short version of similar statements she also makes: the Noble neighborhood is sadly neglected—even abused—by the public sector, especially Cleveland Heights’ “lily white” council and commissions, the perpetrators and sustainers of “systemic racism.” So let’s look at the public support and investment in the Noble neighborhood: two public elementary schools, one public middle school, two public parks, a police station, and a public library. The two food pantries—Heights Emergency Food Center and Start Right Food Program—are significantly supported with federal block grant funds allocated by city council. So is the Home Repair Resource Center. So are the Open Doors Academy program at Monticello Middle School and the Lake Erie Ink program at Noble Elementary School. In addition, city council just voted block grant funds to Central Bible Baptist Church and the Bhutanese Community of Greater Cleveland. FutureHeights, aided by public funds, will sponsor a study of the Noble Road commercial corridor. This doesn’t sound like neglect, abuse, or systemic racism to me.

Question two: Why does the Observer publish highly charged, very damaging, controversial accusations like this without checking them out, or at least, asking for some evidence? Even a column that is clearly opinion should be based on fact, and surely the Observer bears some responsibility for the accuracy of what it publishes. This is disappointing.

Marian J. Morton
Cleveland Heights

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Editor’s reply: Thanks for writing to express your concerns. As editor, I should have changed the wording to state, “redlining was taking place in the city,” not being done by the city. 

Here’s what the writer had to say re: her source: “The information I found was in newspaper articles that discussed a report detailing redlining actions within the city of Cleveland Heights. The articles were in the Plain Dealer in 1972; there was also an article in the Cleveland Press, I believe, as well. As I remember the article, since I could only read using a microfilm reader and the machine was not working well enough to make a copy of those pages on the day I was at the library using that machine, it appeared to be a working relationship between realtors and the city leadership in ensuring that black families were kept from seeing or considering homes on the south of the city and were directed to look only at homes on the north side of Cleveland Heights.”

The Heights Observer does give some leeway to writers of opinion pieces and letters to, indeed, express their opinions. It exists to provide a forum for all residents, to promote dialogue and exchange information. With that goal in mind, we’re usually going to err on the side of publishing something. —Kim Sergio Inglis

Marian Morton

Marian Morton is a longtime Cleveland Heights resident and historian.

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Volume 11, Issue 12, Posted 4:48 PM, 11.29.2018