Christopher Columbus statue

Not to big myself up too much, but my strongest columns are usually ones I'd rather not be writing. I was all set to take a break from election commentary to write about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and visions of a unified Turtle Island, but then Columbus had to go and live up to its namesake. Which is to say I'm not surprised. The Indie Art Capital of the World was more than due. In fact this wasn't even the first, lest we forget Henry Green. Columbus Police have already killed 5 people this year, a rate that would draw props from any half-decent serial killer. Though this is the first child. And they can't even pull the shit they did with Tamir Rice talmbout “he was so big, how were we supposed to know he was only 12?” Tyre King was five feet even and less than 100 pounds, and they shot him as he was running away. I really should just end the column right there.

I feel so ashamed. I pride myself on having learned how to hate every square inch of this God-forsaken empire from sea to polluted sea, but I still have a soft spot for the banks of the Olentangy; it is my hometown after all. And it's not as though Columbus has treated me especially badly. I have fond memories of the coin-operated foot machines at the Ohio State Fair, the mac and cheese at New Harvest Cafe, aimless drives around Hilltop, acoustic performances at Kafe Kerouac, all night parties in the beautifully rustic housing stock of North Campus, and a distinct lack of memories at Highball. I want to believe this is a city I can live in, can thrive in, and at times, like watching my absurdly talented friends perform at Independents Day, attending a lesson on community power by the Ohio Student Association, or a redefining avant-garde exhibition at MINT, I make the mistake of feeling the beginnings of transcendence, that this crazy yet cozy city can actually rise above America, even without a light rail system.

To have the reality come crashing back is a bit of a surreal experience. The first time it happened was a story of disabled comrades being beaten by the police at the Taco Bell on Hudson and High. The second was reading a news story about a teenage abduction that happened on McGuffey, just two blocks from my high school. Growing up, Columbus was a lot of things, boring, quaint, plagued with bad weather, but a dystopian hellscape was not one of them. The most painful part of my coming into adulthood is understanding that the worst things that can possibly happen happen all the time on the streets you walk every day.

The only thing that consoles me is the thing that makes it even more horrifying; that there is in fact a logic to it. Tyre King was shot in the Near East Side, Henry Green in South Linden. Economically depressed areas that get over-policing instead of local breweries and fusion restaurants. Pacification requires an aggressive attitude from law enforcement. Childhood in these areas is irrelevant. One less hungry mouth on the welfare. Running from the police indicates a criminal mentality that cannot be tolerated. Planting a real gun on a kid is too extreme even for the cops (they're not monsters), but maybe planting a bb gun is good enough. The public seems to accept that a toy is a sufficient death warrant. Yes, Tyre King's death was a tragedy, but the real tragedy would be the disgracing of the city's suppressive apparatus, especially in places rife with criminality. You can't hate the cops, they're just doing their job, and yes, killing Tyre King is their job. The difference between authoritarian societies and free ones is that free ones make their extrajudicial murder public, even celebrated. It's called transparency.

A city named after the Western Hemisphere's first genocider should expect as much, and I don't want to put too much in a name. It's also the Whetstone Braves, and that's the high school in the liberal neighborhood. It's the WOSU Neighborhoods series that will ignore any minority-filled neighborhood not slated for gentrification. It's a political machine that sees no daylight between the city council, the university, and real estate developers. It's the Dispatch buying the Other Paper just to close it down. It's High Street getting rebuilt three times over while Parkwood Ave doesn't even have storm drains. It's putting the nation's second largest Somali population in projects and not even attempting any cross-cultural exchange. And it doesn't matter how many livable or smartest city lists we top, how many conventions we almost attract, how many food tours we offer, this is who we are, and who we will be. Maybe Wyandotte or Arawak City, maybe a revolutionized, decolonized city could be something different, but not Columbus, Ohio.

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