Identity in action

This account of a former landlord in East Cleveland explains why blacks and other non-whites will never stop chasing down whites and trying to live in white societies until segregation prevents them from doing so:

East Cleveland has its own black-run municipal court. Sitting in that courtroom as the only white person was probably the most unpleasant part of my East Cleveland experience. It was even worse than hearing gun shots; that was over in an instant. But going to court, I always felt like the white outsider—and that everyone assumed I was there to screw over the brothers. You had to sit in a small room—a very small room—with a woman and her family whom you were trying to throw out on the street. I can’t entirely explain why, but I dreaded it beyond belief. The derelict city hall building and courtroom—typical of any black enterprise I have ever known—had a miserable, oppressive atmosphere that added to my misery.

The blacks in court had a strange informality among themselves that made it clear that they were in charge, and that whites were second-class citizens. Once, I was sitting in the courtroom awaiting my case when my tenant walked in as another case was being heard. He yelled out, “How ya doin’, judge?” The judge replied, “Larry, we’ll be with you shortly.” My lawyer looked at me and said, “Prepare to be screwed.”

Another time I heard a person in court for a traffic violation have a lively discussion with the judge about the movie Drum Line. They both thought the band at local Shaw High School compared favorably to the band in the movie.

Our black municipal judge seemed to do anything possible to favor the poor black residents of East Cleveland, and had no apparent respect for the property rights of white landlords. By Ohio law, when a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord may give the tenant a notice whereby the tenant has three days to pay, after which the landlord may file in court for an eviction. If the tenant has not paid the rent by the appointed court hearing, a move-out date is set, usually ten days after the hearing. The whole process takes about five or six weeks. Once, after going through the trouble and expense of this process to evict a non-paying tenant, I went to the court clerk to arrange a move-out, whereby the landlord and bailiff go to the unit and remove the tenant and his possessions.

The black clerk told me the judge had put a hold on the move-out date because the tenant had filed a “motion to stay.” I asked how this could be; I had never heard of a motion to stay. I had not received any rent for two months and had gone to the trouble and expense of this legal proceeding only to have it ignored. The clerk responded, “Tenants have rights, too,” and explained that in a “motion to stay,” the black judge granted a poor tenant extra time to get her affairs in order; the landlord was never informed of this proceeding. He didn’t explicitly say that this was something the black judge did just for black tenants who owed money to white landlords, but it sure seemed that way.

I lost my temper and yelled, “Look at your city! It’s a dump because of actions like this.” East Cleveland is the only court in Ohio that honors the “motion to stay;” it is something the judge made up and is not based on Ohio law. Other landlords have told me they have had tenants skip rent for another six months because of this scam.

Most of the time, blacks put on a show of solidarity with their brethren, but in private their true feelings sometimes come out: “Please don’t send that black repairman again, he never fixes it right,” or, “If I ever move from here I’m not moving to another black area, I only want to move to a white area.” I also heard, “I’m not going there. It’s too black.”

Once a thriving city of 40,000, East Cleveland now has a population of 17,000 and is in ruins, with street after street of abandoned and decaying homes and buildings. Former mayors and city officials are in prison for corruption. Schools that were once excellent now pass only two or three of 24 state tests, even though they receive more funding per pupil than most suburban schools. The police and fire departments are reduced to skeleton staffs, and many city services have disappeared. The mayor and city council president have recently been recalled, and the city’s only hope of survival is either declaring bankruptcy or merging with Cleveland. At one time, blacks moved to East Cleveland for a better life; now it is a destination of last resort.

Is that what you want for your hometown? Is it really worth the knowledge that no one ever… actually, you know, they’ll call you racist anyhow.

People who lived in East Cleveland as late as the 1970s have told me what a great town it was, and how they loved Shaw High School. Now there are no stores or businesses. Instead of living in an affordable community close to Cleveland’s cultural center, whites choose one-hour commutes and mortgages they can’t afford in order to escape from blacks. East Cleveland today is the result of a black population with black leadership, and until America begins to understand race, there are more East Clevelands in our future.