BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Be careful when you open your voice mail. Black and white issues make some people see red.
"You doofus! Cincinnati is not a racist town." -- Eddie Johns, Oakley.
"Cincinnati is the No. 1 racist city in America." -- Robert Dalton, downtown.
Readers split along those lines when they called about last week's "Lunch with Cliff" column. That's where I treat people at their regular noontime haunts and they share what's on their minds.
Last week's lunch was with Eric McDaniel, a 26-year-old senior at the University of Cincinnati. Eric is black. Over a pizza at a UC restaurant, he said he feels Cincinnati, his hometown, is "a racist town."
Eric backed up his statement with personal observations. White people shun him on sidewalks. Women clutch their purses when he stands next to them at crosswalks.
When he has such encounters, "it makes me feel sick," Eric said. "I feel I really don't matter."
Eric's comments struck a nerve.
"This guy's eating pizza in college. He's not being discriminated against." -- A.Y. Harris, Loveland.
"I sympathize with Eric. I stand 4-11. But I get on elevators and see white women grab their purses. I can only think it's because I'm African American." -- Sheree Richmond, Over-the-Rhine.
"If Eric doesn't like Cincinnati, he should leave town." -- Arlen Blue, Fort Thomas.
"Why do people look funny at African Americans? We're just normal people." -- Betsy Daniels, Clifton.
"Racism isn't a one-way street." -- Reed Albertson, Harrison. "It's nice to see someone else holds what has been a longtime view of mine about this city." -- Betty Thompson, Avondale.
"That man should get a police scanner and listen to how many people are mugged by blacks." -- Roger Callison, Monfort Heights. "There's nothing wrong with Cincinnati other than getting rid of stupid people like you." -- R.J. Anderson, Symmes Township. "Eric's right. This city stinks." -- Ralph Carney, Bond Hill. "Eric's full of it. The only group discriminated against are white males." -- Thomas Warren, Cleves.
"Eric is right. And, I'm white. If you listened to the way people have defended Marge Schott on WLW over the years, you would never doubt this is a racist town." -- Bryan Brady, Westwood.
"I would avoid a group of blacks walking my way. I am not prejudiced. I worry about my safety." -- Robert Hines, Mount Healthy. "I totally agree with Eric. . . . I'm black, 56 years old. I was around for the sit-ins and marches, etc., and it's not better by any means." -- Helen Underwood, downtown.
"African Americans in this city are as much at fault as the whites. We're more afraid about speaking up and losing our jobs than we are about losing our dignity." -- Marcus Lewis, downtown.
Ann Smith of Covedale recently returned to Cincinnati after spending 30 years in Indianapolis. She wishes her hometown would shift its focus.
"Everyone in this city needs to stop judging people by the color of their skin," she said. "Cincinnatians should start judging themselves by how much they care for each other."
Vance Reid's right wrist is finally band-free. The last of his triplets has come home from the hospital.
The Reid triplets, Justin, Jarret and their little sister, Jordan, appeared in my Jan. 21 column with their mom, Dana, and their dad, Vance, a social studies teacher at the Harrison, Ohio, middle school. The triplets, born 10 weeks premature Nov. 29, spent many months in Good Samaritan Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care. Their dad swore he would wear three hospital wristbands, with the triplets' names on them, until all three were home.
"Miss Jordan, almost 8 1/2 pounds, came home May 23," Vance told me last week. She was welcomed by her brothers, Justin, a 12-pounder, and Jarret, at 11 pounds.
After the triplets were reunited, Vance cut off the last wristband. "A tremendous weight left me," he said. "We were a family at last. Everybody was home."
Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.