Issues of race in Cincinnati

A little over a month ago, an opinion piece by Kathy Y. Wilson was featured in City Beat entitled “Mahogany’s: In the Dark.” The piece seems to be a review — if it can be called even that — of Mahogany’s restaurant in The Banks development just south of downtown.

Though the piece purports to discuss the quality of the restaurant, it ends up focusing on the race of the owner. It is surprising that it was even picked up, and more so thatit remains posted on City Beat’s website. The piece berates the newly-opened and struggling restaurant, attributing most of its problems to its “black” ownership and the “black” attitudes surrounding the typical “black” restaurant.

The author begins by accusing the Cincinnati City Council of being “color struck (sic) … by the very idea of a black-owned business.”

Wilson also claims that “black business owners feel entitled to the financial support and patronage of not just customers but specifically of black customers,” that Cincinnati “has a history rife with Bad Black Choices” that benefit everyone but the African American community and that “in the middle of the second term of Barack Obama blacks are still waiting for economic crumbs and wholly dependent on set-aside programs.”

Wilson’s argument ultimately blames Mahogany’s for being a “black” restaurant when the restaurant business is a “white” game: the “black” style of management, the “black attitudes” of customers and the attitudes of the City Council are the reasons behind this struggling “black” restaurant.

The most disturbing part of this piece is how it identifies a restaurant by the color of its owner. If it were actually the case that the restaurant owner’s ethnic characteristics determined his or her clientele, then ethnic restaurants would be for “ethnic” people only, and that’s not the case. Wilson’s vocabulary and argument betray a dark motive in this piece: it is not about critiquing a failing restaurant, but rather targeting a “black” one.