Share this article

print logo

Keeping our latest racism to ourselves

Anderson Cooper, are you still watching?

Let's hope not.

Buffalonians -- who live in fear of any ding to the region's national image -- were aghast that the CNN host would make fun of our post-Lenten Dyngus Day festivities.

Similarly, we burst into full-on damage control when a visiting athlete says we could use a decent hotel, or calls Buffalo "a ghost town. The worst city ever."

So I wonder what the reaction will be if the national media start revealing something else: That in 2012, blacks still get run out of certain parts of Buffalo.

What if CNN or other networks decide to interview Ann Cooper and her family, the African-Americans forced to flee their Lovejoy home last week after having bricks, a baseball bat and a hockey puck thrown through their windows?

What will that type of coverage do to our precious national image?

How will Buffalo Niagara Enterprise turn that into a sales pitch as it tries to convince corporate honchos that this is a progressive place to locate. I can't believe there are that many CEOs who still think naked racism is a selling point.

The city also is scrambling to pull together the Michigan Street Heritage Corridor and capitalize on Buffalo's role as a final stop on the Underground Railroad to Canada.

But I pity Visit Buffalo Niagara, the convention and tourism agency with the responsibility of attracting, among others, black tourists and their dollars. Coming to visit authentic Underground Railroad sites is one thing; coming to a place where 1850s attitudes still exist is quite another. Lovejoy takes "living history" way too far.

Common Council President Richard Fontana, who represents Lovejoy, insists the attack wasn't racially motivated, even as he condemned the racial slurs the family was subjected to in the first place.

That takes splitting hairs to a whole new level, as he blamed the bricks and other housewarming gifts on the fight that ensued when some of the Coopers -- fed up with the slurs -- retaliated.

After investigating, Fontana calls the Coopers a nice family, and points out that other blacks live on the street.

That's all well and good. But the Coopers are still gone, and they're not the first to flee, even if Fontana says the neighborhood is "light-years from where it used to be."

Apparently, he means back in 1998 when an interracial couple had to move out after the black man was attacked and white youths openly voiced their racism. Or the racial brawls in 2005.

And as the Coopers settle into a new home and try to put the nightmare of Lovejoy behind them, the feds are still probing the possible race-based firebombing last year of a black man's South Buffalo home a few miles away.

So forgive me if I don't see the progress.

But it's not me you have to worry about as marketers try to rebrand Buffalo. In the interest of civic pride, tourism and economic development, I plan to keep Buffalo's dirty little secret to myself.

But CNN and the rest of the national media? I can't vouch for them.

email: rwatson@buffnews.com