By: James Neyer ~Staff Writer~
History repeated itself on Jan. 21, as a crowd of Xavier Students, faculty members and other concerned citizens gathered in the Conaton Board Room to discuss the Cincinnati race riots of 2001.
The original discussion occurred right after students returned from spring break in 2001. The riots were covered nationally, and there was one question on everyone’s mind: what does this mean for Cincinnati?
“Students said, ‘this had to make a difference,’ but saying it must make a difference does not say what type of difference it makes,” Fr. Michael Graham said, recalling the first discussion.
Last week, a discussion was led about what happened in 2001 and what can still be done in response. In this way the discussions differed, as the most recent involved Xavier’s role in easing tension between the community and the police.
Along with Xavier’s director for government relations, Gene Beaupre, and director for strategic communications, Kelly Leon, Graham discussed Xavier’s role in bringing the community leaders and police officers together to create a better relationship. What came out of this relationship was the “Collaborative Agreement,” which aimed to strengthen the police’s focus on their relationship with the community.
Despite this progress, the discussion this year touched on ways to continue improving, especially after incidents like the shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose earlier in 2015. Beaupre specifically commented on child poverty in Cincinnati, which is the second highest in the nation.
Graham commented that whatever fueled the discontent originally is still here. At the end of the Q&A, the director for the Eigel Center, Sean Rhiney, said that the goal was to help shift the focus onto the younger generation and help them decide what to do going forward.
One specific change that Graham noted was police culture. According to Graham, officers mostly come from the same part of the city and don’t represent the city’s diversity. As the police chief could only be chosen from their ranks, this culture was perpetuated for a long time. The consultation of FBI agents, who helped bring in a fresh, relatable view to the police, helped change this.
This event previewed the town hall discussion, titled “Fifteen Years Later: The Cincinnati Riots and the Future of the City,” which will take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 in the Cintas Center. Those who played a major role in creating the agreement will be at the discussion to address questions.