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Pants Make the Thug 

Letters published April 4, 2007

Race may be fate, but poverty is voluntary: As an American of African descent who grew up at East 82nd and Kinsman in a broken home with a working mom, and as someone who wound up residing in Cleveland Heights with a white wife and some honey-skinned stepkids from a previous interracial marriage, your article ["Paradise Lost," March 21] left me compelled to expound on the difference between race (a difference without distinction) and class (a difference that makes all the difference in the world).

While race is an accident of birth, these days class is largely a function of behavior and disastrous life choices (drugs, gangs, routine out-of-wedlock births, etc.). Baggy pants, oversized T-shirts, and baseball caps to match -- set at a crooked angle -- are now the uniform of choice of the sociocultural underclass and, more specifically, its criminal element, not to mention countless thug wannabes.

I would submit that, for all but the most hopelessly naive, liberal (i.e., brainless) do-gooders, not only the fear, but both the weapons and the violence now threatening Cleveland Heights are all too real.

Robert W. Horn

Rab-id Race Baiter
Urban problems complex? Who knew?
In her article, Lisa Rab describes a veneer of perfection that exists over Cleveland Heights. Now that it has suddenly cracked, she has the opportunity to reveal a community just as screwed up as the rest of the world. Oh, gee, you've found us out.

I am certainly not pleased about the situation she described, but I am disappointed that she used such a racist argument to make her point.

According to Rab, it was poor blacks who caused the problem, that everything was fine before the renters moved in. She describes poor, African American families as an unnamed "they," showing up on my (gasp!) "suburban doorstep" like an unwanted grocery-store circular. Ms. Rab said very clearly that middle-class blacks and middle-class whites once lived comfortably together, but when "poverty arrived," problems arose.

A critical reading should have told Ms. Rab that it's more complex than race -- and that maybe her own racism was at work in that assumption. Instead, she belittles efforts to have an honest dialogue about race and chastises white citizens for feeling guilty when the rest of her article seems intended to do just that.

If she were really interested in reporting the situation, she might want to address the fact that schools across northeastern Ohio are trying to cope with inadequate funding, declining enrollment, and racial tensions. Or she may have veered into productive cultural criticism to examine a society that devalues education, simultaneously fears and empowers youth, promotes violence, and then denies responsibility by pointing the finger of racism at everyone but itself.

Arin Miller-Tait
Cleveland Heights

All Broke Up
Black Diamonds blacken brother's name:
I would like to address the Black Diamonds' breakup [Around Hear, March 21]. Chad Van Gils (my brother) was not contacted to respond to the dishonest and unfair trash-talking from Dylan Francis. This is a shame, since Chad contributed so much to their success. He is devastated, not only that his friends did this to him, but that they did so publicly.

Chad went so far as to quit football at Baldwin-Wallace so that he could spend more time with the band. Every time he came home, Chad had new lyrics to show us. He went to every practice, unless there was a vital reason to be absent.

Just two days before, they had been writing new songs and practicing fine. If they were ever upset about something, Chad was never informed. I believe that Dylan was jealous and wanted to be the frontman. If people think this is a good move, just listen to Dylan sing for 30 seconds. It is a shame that my brother has to deal with the loss of friends, a band he loves, and a lifestyle he sacrificed so much for. But to do this publicly is a whole new low.

Nicole Van Gils

Bank on Banks
Urban artist makes her a believer:
In a time when Clevelanders are subject to fluff organizations full of "leaders" (I use that term very loosely) and "young professionals" who are foot soldiers in the pathetic "Believe in Cleveland" campaign -- ones who barely live within the city limits, nestled in their cushy suburban homes -- we can find comfort in knowing that there is hope in Robert Banks.

Kudos to Scene for showcasing Banks ["Broke Banks' Mountain," March 21]. Raised in the city, living in the city, and working in the city, he is one of Cleveland's best-kept secrets. He is, literally, a starving artist.

I'm not even a huge fan of experimental film, but I admire Banks for his passion and work. He stays true to his vision and refuses to sell out. I have been lucky to talk to him from time to time, and I always leave feeling renewed about my commitment to Cleveland.

This city often turns its back on artists and other innovators who really are committed to making our region better, yet he marches on. He is an example that doing what you really love is what is most important.

Believe in that, Cleveland.

Maria Miranda

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