This past Sunday, I drove through downtown Cleveland at 9 am, amazed as I watched hundreds of volunteers sweep up broken glass, paint over graffiti and work to begin rebuilding our city in the aftermath of a very tense weekend. Peaceful protests turned angry and violent in many cities across the country. It occurred in Cleveland too. People are angry that social injustices, racial inequality and police brutality can’t seem to get the attention of those who have the power to make systematic changes to our country.
I live in the Cleveland neighborhood of Tremont. The march/protest happened just a few miles from my home. I could walk there. If I weren’t so cautious about Covid-19 exposure, I would have been at the rally in downtown Cleveland myself. But global pandemics scare me so I watched it stream live through friends’ and neighbors’ social media videos. I was so happy to see such a diverse gathering. I thought faces of every color showed such solidarity. When I tuned out to continue gardening Saturday midafternoon, I had warm feelings about my town…happy for how Cleveland was dealing with these issues. Then, I turned on the evening news and realized how differently the day ended up from where it had started.
I adore my city. I make a living telling others what a wonderful place it is to live and raise a family. But Cleveland bears several scars from recent injustices, including the killing of teenager Tamir Rice, so I get why people feel that they have waited politely long enough for changes to happen. Is it too much to ask that black people have the same rights, respect and freedom that whites take for granted?
Today, Monday, June 1st, the city center is on curfew with a parking ban with hopes to ease tensions and avoid further physical damage. Ramps from freeways into downtown are blocked which must confuse the heck out of travelers from other states. Even Steelyard Commons, my shopping center in Tremont, is barricaded, all stores closed. Maybe this is why it feels so close and personal to me. But I am a white woman who has never been afraid when I was pulled over by a police officer and that is a huge difference.
So, as incredibly painful as it is to see the damage done in our business district, I understand the anger. As a small business owner, I feel the despair of shops and restaurants, already reeling from no income since March because of a global pandemic that shut them down, now having to repair the damage, restock their shelves and replace window panes when they have so little in cash reserves.
I have thought a lot about balance these past 3 months. We have all had lots of time to think, haven’t we? I have thought about how I balance the risk of having my employees come back to work and risk their health with the need for our city and country to get our economy started again, I have thought about how to balance my life as I, like much of the world, am working from home and so work creeps into home and the other way around. There is no division. But these balancing acts seem so insignificant to the ones I am thinking about today. There has to be a better balance of justice, freedom, respect, economic equality, access to resources and jobs for all.
My older siblings remember the Hough riots in the 1960s and the Kent State shootings in 1970, but the last few years have been my vivid exposure to the inequality hardwired into our country.
Let’s all listen, be compassionate, not quick to judge until we know someone’s story. Cleveland has tackled everything that has ever been thrown at it and come back stronger. In the coming days when the community begins conversation and we work at rebuliding the connections that tie us all together, no matter what color we are, I hope to feel the healing. We will get through this.