Which is More Dangerous: Downtown Cleveland or Beachwood?
In the aftermath of last night’s shootings in downtown Cleveland, I’ve been thinking about the thoughts of the late Yale scholar, Letty Russell, who once compared the city to a battered woman: The city is beaten and bruised, isolated, abandoned, and then blamed as if she somehow did this to herself. How easy it is for us to take what we want from our city – jobs, resources, entertainment – while disavowing any responsibility for her.
A shooting in our city shouldn’t be cause for retreat and, especially, blame. To the contrary, it ought to awaken within us a deeper resolve to reclaim our city as a place of civility, culture, commerce and faith. Those who abandon her for the suburbs or grumble with reproach about her dangers, as did Robert Watson Sr. who commented on-line, “War combat zone. Stay out of Cleveland war zone, all of Cleveland” in response to Michael Sangicomo’s cursory article in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer are not only out of touch with the strength the core brings to the entire region, or the growing downtown neighborhood – 10,000 residents strong, which represents the city’s highest per capita income and level of education, they are also part of the problem in that they perpetuate a myth that crime downtown is more dangerous than any other place in the region.
Is downtown more dangerous than Beachwood? It was just a year ago that three hostages were held at gunpoint by a rape suspect in Beachwood. Yes, Beachwood. Why is it so hard for us to remember this story? Because crime in the suburbs just doesn’t make the news the way it does when it happens in the city. And because we refuse demonize the suburbs the way we do our downtown, let alone talk honestly about the crime that exists there. It would destroy the illusion of suburban security and possibly pop our bubble of safety if we did.
Instead of blaming our city in times of crisis, we need to get involved. First of all, the Allure night club, which has had shootings before, has got to go. We as a people can decide what we want in our city and what we don’t. Violence of this kind has no place in our new residential/mixed-use downtown neighborhoods. As the President of the Downtown Cleveland Residents Association and as the Senior Pastor of the Old Stone Church (Allure’s next door neighbor), I will do my best to see Allure closed. The recent Warehouse bar owners MOU and the forthcoming night club legislation will help, too.
But we have to be more than reactive, we need to be proactive. We need to reengage in the life of our city. Walk its streets and shop in its stores. Eat in its restaurants and worship in its sanctuaries, claiming sacred space and peace for our city once again. One of my favorite things about living and working in downtown Cleveland is the sense of community I share among my neighbors. Rarely am I out for a walk or dinner in a café that I don’t bump into a friend and visit for a while. I feel a relative sense of safety because I know my neighbors and I spend time with them in my neighborhood.
The best way to help a battered woman heal is through a kind of love which empowers her. Fear and reproach, or perpetuating misguided myths about her dangerous behavior only keep her down. Truth-telling, love and generosity of spirit are what will lift her up again.