Tales of Xenia: The unique racial attitudes

10 Jan

Being raised in Xenia was an exercise in racial schizophrenia. On the one hand black Xenians and white Xenians have, on the surface, always gotten along. Besides a few marches in the 60’s to protest Geyer’s restaurant not serving blacks and a few more inequities–like having to sit a certain place in the theater, Xenia has been a place of calm waters racially.

On the surface that was true. Beneath the surface however, things boiled and roiled and were not smooth. Occasionally something would erupt. In the late 1960’s or late 1970’s Xenia High was hosting a wrestling match with Roth High School, a predominantly black high school from nearby Dayton. Some of the Xenia fans began to call the Roth wrestlers “nigger.”  One of the XHS cheerleaders, Judy G., who was one of our first black cheerleaders, was outraged and began to cheer for the Roth players out of anger.

She was disciplined by the school administration and removed from the cheerleading squad.  Protests sprang up and she was eventually re-instated. The way the incident was handled was vintage Xenia–pretend this is an isolated incident that could have happened over any issue, clean it up, sweep it under the rug and forget about it.

I had white friends in high school, but our friendship did not generally extend beyond the doors of the school or football field or field house. They did not come to my house and I was not invited to theirs. In justice to them I am not sure I ever invited them to my house either, but then I was always made to feel as if they would not come in any case.

Xenia and Greene County have never dealt effectively with the issue of race–this is nothing unusual in this country, if it is anything it is normal behavior,but Xenia has lots of reasons to be able to do better.

The treatment of the two black universities practically next door, fewer than four miles down the road is a prime example. When CSU was flourishing the businessmen in town were eager to get their trade. Yet, they steadfastly refused to put up signs saying “Welcome Students” in the fall as many college towns and nearby towns do for other schools.

The town does not, has not, and will not support CSU or Wilberforce University athletics, students, activities, programs, arts, or anything else. I once attended a concert by Stevie Wonder at the height of his popularity in Robeson Auditorium on CSU’s campus. It was a free concert, and the auditorium was not half full. Many nationally know African American and white entertainers, politicians, scholars and celebrities have come to CSU and been ignored by nearly all the white people in Xenia.

I once joked to my husband after one of those events, ” If Jesus Christ was appearing at CSU, most of the white folks in Xenia would say, ” I’ll catch him on his way back through town.”

One of the ways you can judge the racial climate in Xenia is the employment habits. Xenia schools have never employed an equitable number of black teachers or administrators. Not that black administrators mean more black teachers. When Aaron P., a black man, was the head of human resources Xenia hired virtually no black teachers, sure they were safe from accusations of racism–even though the HR person is only the rubber stamp and recommendations for hiring are made at the building level.

The city and county likewise do not hire blacks, despite having one of the most highly educated pools of black candidates in the state, especially for the size of the city and county.

Years ago I was asked to be on the city’s Affirmative Action Committee. I reminded them that I lived in Wilberforce, not Xenia, but they said they still wanted me on the committee. But no, they did not really. At our first meeting we were told by city leaders that Xenia was losing federal monies because the city’s staff did not reflect the racial make-up of the area. There was no interest in making the ranks more equitable racially because it was the right thing to do, there was interest in getting the grant and other monies the feds were offering.

What they were attempting to do by asking some of us black folks they had identified as leaders to join this committee was to try to use us as a version of black whisperers. We were to find them some ” qualified” blacks that they could put on the fire department or other agencies that had no black employees. Quick fix, problem solved.

I pointed out to them that in order to solve the problem we had to approach it from a systemic point of view. Why weren’t there any black firemen in Xenia? Were black people genetically averse to red trucks? Were blacks afraid of sliding down poles? Of course, I did not ask them those questions, that was just my evil side. I asked them:

1) What part of the process is failing? a) Are they not applying b) are they not passing the tests required c) are they not being interviewed/selected for interviews d) are they not being hired having passed the test and been interviewed.

They said they did not keep any information about the race of candidates, they did not know if they were not getting applications, did not know if they were not being interviewed, or not passing the tests or just not being hired. They plead the fact that they could not require supervisors to hire minorities because of civil service rules. I asked them if fire chiefs and police chiefs and other administrators were not people who served at the pleasure of the city or county. They said yes, that was true. So I asked them why they did not make the successful recruitment of minorities part of the job evaluation for those folks? We never had another meeting. At least I was never invited to another one.

One of the problems with Xenia is that we all want to hire people we relate to, or know or who have some connection with us. Unfortunately, historically Xenia has been such a separated town socially that even though we attended school together white society and black society are still very much separate entities. That means when a job comes available and the person responsible for recruiting thinks of someone they believe would fit the position they are unlikely to know a black person to recommend.

Of course, the town should not rely on that, but hey, it has worked for certain segments of the population since 1803 when the city was founded. Check the names of business owners from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s and even up to the present in some cases and check who works for the county and city. You will find a lot of names in common.

Is Xenia any more racist than the rest of the country? Absolutely not. In some cases it is better, or tries to be. When it comes to truly wanting equity and inclusion, however, there is much more talk than action and the behavior of the decision makers in most positions of power is not congruent with people who truly believe in equality.

Nor are the black folks in Xenia, myself included when I lived there or nearby, totally innocent. I am not sure if we were just given enough respect and opportunity to keep us docile or what but I think the following quote describes X-town to a tee.

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” – Fredrick Douglass

Some folks who have been reading this blog will find this one hard to deal with. I will go back to what I was told by one of my idols, the great Dr. John Hope Franklin, who I had to honor of meeting shortly after I moved to North Carolina.  “Cookie, if you are talking about race and nobody is uncomfortable, you are doing it wrong.”

The sad part is that most people in Xenia ( and everywhere truth be told) are good people. They are simply unwilling to examine their own biases and refuse to accept the fact that racism and injustice and a few cases of true malice exist in their sphere, even when they are confronted with evidence.

Perhaps someday that will change, there is always hope.


Posted by on January 10, 2011 in Race, Xenia


16 responses to “Tales of Xenia: The unique racial attitudes

  1. Ron G.

    January 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Another great article! I love your stories about this town. I remember the cheerleader incident, it was the late 60’s as Judy graduated in 1969 with me. I left town for a few years after that so never knew if things got better or not.

  2. Alan

    January 11, 2011 at 12:39 am

    All true. And all somewhat uncomfortable to read. I do think that there is much more color-blindness these days than in the past. I know that at least one non-profit that I am affiliated with has a good representation of people of color. What we seem to be short of is people with testicles.

    • minerva5

      January 11, 2011 at 1:10 am

      Courage has gone out of style in our society. It is viewed as a character flaw.

  3. richard

    January 13, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Altho large cities obiviously are not perfect but clearly opportunity is and was much greater there.
    I often wonder is it or was it because the more adventureousome or liberal people leave small towns and go to the larger cities or is there a different answer. In Xenia was/is there a volunteer town(city)council or full time paid council/town representatives?
    In the sixties was there a black town alderman or council member?
    I wonder if the reason for the lack of concern was no political pressure!

  4. Judy G

    January 28, 2013 at 3:59 am

    I am the cheerleader you were referring to. After graduating from Xenia H S I promised myself never to return to the school. I just hope time has shown those judging me now realize what a small world they lived in and the ignorance of racial prejudice. Having just returned from the 57 th Presidential Inauguration, I can say I’m Black and I’m proud!

    • minerva5

      January 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Judy! Oh I remember the incident and you well! I did not name you because I don’t want to make other folks participate in my memories unless they choose to. Hope you are well and happy!:-)

  5. Central State Graduate

    July 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I am a Central State University Graduate who only attended there one year and I commuted everyday. I drove on Route 42 going through London and never thru Xenia so I had no idea how racist Xenia was and still is. I say this because my son now attends Central State University and he has always been a model student, never being suspended in court or anything. However, since moving to l Xenia he has been pulled over numerous times and been to court four times in less than 8 months. I had no idea I was setting my son up and better yet I can’t believe that the blacks that live there allow this to happen! Judy I don’t know you, but you are a hero and the rest of the people need to get it together! I am contacting the ACLU and they are going to know I take Route 35 thru Xenia now and I too am going to stand up for the African American Males being racially profiled!

    • Judy Greene

      July 3, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      I never thought of myself as a “Hero” but as someone who stands up for what is right. Your comments are on point. I see the more things change, the more they stay the same. The problem of racial profiling is systemic and seems deeply rooted, not only in Xenia but in Ohio. I sent my son to live with his father in NJ when it became a problem in Centerville, OH some 15 years ago. I found the local NAACP to be helpful in my case. I don’t know how active they are currently in Greene County. I now live in Phoenix AZ and despite it being a red state, people aren’t as small minded as in OH.

      • Vaughn Broadnax

        February 2, 2016 at 4:18 am

        Judy Greene, I believe I met you at this year’s Fiesta Bowl. I was reading the replies and when you posted your name and where you live it hit me. We didn’t go into great detail about our common thread other than OSU. I am glad to know you took a stand against the nonsense. Having lived my formative years in Xenia during the ’70s, Things took a small step for the better. My sister caused a stir when she dated the German exchange student and her parties had a mix.

        By the time I got to high school things got better, but maybe I was different. Take care.

      • minerva5

        February 3, 2016 at 1:43 am

        A blog is all about opinion sweetie. And while you are checking check how many black employees Xenia has and in what positions. Check what section of town had its schools shut down and never had new ones built and check how many black students are in honors classes at XHS. Xenia is my hometown, I love it warts and all and most of the people in it, but racially it is backward and biased. Your superintendent sent out a newsletter with not one black child, teacher or staff member or citizen in it last month. If you are not the victim of racism you will not see it.

  6. josierkwegina

    February 3, 2016 at 5:32 am

    I enjoyed your article. I am from Xenia too, graduated in 1977. I was in high school when Roots came out. There was such awkwardness and division at school. What was really interesting was that not one teacher discussed the series at all! Mind blowing. I continue to explore race and have created a website called biracialboomdotcom. Talking about racial issues is one step toward healing.

  7. Johnny "MACKnificent" Mack

    February 3, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Xenia, to me has always been a microcosm of America. It reflected the deep seated schizophrenia that affects the country. On one hand it is calm and pristine, on the other is desires to mask it’s bias and bigotry. I have come to understand that both sides of the cultural divide held views and opinions that were quietly adopted as correct. The East End/Wilberforce residents were of a mindset that demanded justice and inclusion, yet refused to tolerate the historical development of community and civic access that white Xenians prided themselves on. The diversification and divestment of the white community felt assuaged and justified in not connecting with the counter cultural existence of the “Other” Community.

    In that the country as a whole treated it’s African American citizens as less worthy and in many cases, nuisances, it was only business as usual to do the same. It should be noted that many if not most whites do not harbor hatred or bias. Yet their silence and acquiescence allows it to be practiced by the ignorant and racially narrow minded minority that see Blacks as threats to continuing their position of prominence and power.

    During my high school years we had a CHEERLEADER incident as well with Karen M being made prom queen to satisfy our thirst for acceptance. It has always been a fact that the moral clock does not grant blessing to the ones that DESERVE it’s time, but to the ones that DEMAND it. Great strides have been made. GREATER ones need to be taken.

  8. Jeffrey B Shaw

    February 4, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you for posting article. I agree that Xenia has its rednecks and ignorant white folk. You can look back on the history of Greene county and see it has been a struggle, but you cannot deny that both sides have reached out to bridge the gap and I felt, at least, we were ahead of the game when compared to our country as a whole. I was fortunate to have gone to the schools after full integration and had really no idea they were ever segregated at one time until I was older. I had several African-American teachers whom I respected and admired. Sports and extra-curricular’s were by far the best way to integrate students, and I was very fortunate to have many teammates over the years to instill equality and dignity to our relationships. I had always thought Xenia was better than Dayton in regards to this but later could see it was not much different, just in a smaller town. Jeffrey S ’76

  9. Robin Embry

    February 6, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I enjoyed reading…..I really didn’t have a problem with the Edomites like that…..Girl if I did have a problem then I would have said…..Devil or Edomite who are you talking to…..don’t you know my….”God (Jesus father) knows who his chosen ELECT anointed children are”…….like I told Goldie that racist judge…..all charges got dropped and I pulled a shot gun out on Markst St…….her face all red like all Edomites and it was dismissed……lol

  10. Al Smith

    February 7, 2016 at 2:25 am

    After reading your blog post, I can only say “Wow”. Finally, someone speaks the truth on this topic. I was raised in Xenia and experienced all manner of racism. It is a systematic issue that permeates through all aspects of life in Xenia. It’s institutionalized oppression and in many ways puts a limit on what is possible for Blacks in Xenia. The problem is so prevalent and ingrained in the lives of Blacks in Xenia that I don’t even think most people recognize the long lasting effect it has on the citizens living there.

    Everyone has a way of dealing with the effects of racism in Xenia. For me, it was to rebel against the system and the authority figures in it. I remember a teacher telling me that I could never take an honors math or science class. She did not think I was capable of grasping such concepts. Another science teacher told me the highest grade I would ever earn in her class was a B no matter how well I did or how hard I tried. The odds of success were against me and every other person of color in that school system. Despite the constant discouragement by some of my White teachers, I thought I could do more and be more. I attended Central State University and they reminded me of that fact. They had a belief in me that very few educators in my elementary, secondary, or high school had. They gave me the confidence to venture out and pursue my dreams. Without them, I would have probably fallen into the abyss that other Blacks experienced coming out of XHS. It is with hard work, luck, and the support of great people that I have been able to accomplish my life long dreams.

    I sometimes return to Xenia to visit friends. I am very removed from the every day life people experience there. I often wonder how or if things have changed since I last lived there 20 years ago. I fear that things have not changed much but I hope that I am wrong.

    Oppression isn’t always a physical phenomenon. It can be done psychologically to achieve the same result. Racism in Xenia is not worse than other places. It’s just that in such as small town it can seem overwhelming and smothering with little possibility for escape.

    To the author of this blog, I would like to thank you. I was a student in your class in junior high school. You were one of the few people who believed in what I could accomplish and held me accountable for achieving more of my potential.

    Thank you again for your enlightening blog.

  11. Rachel Jefferson-Davis

    June 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I attended Xenia Hi and I was on the BlockX cheering squad and that was1968 year before we graduated from highschool in 1969 when we played Roth basketball team and yes there was racist words being used by whites, and yes Ms. Green was kicked off the squad for what she did but she did out of concern for the other team and the way they were treated when they were at the school. I can remember when us kids from the Eastend was transported to West Jr. High School which is called Warner Jr. High now, we were not welcomed there with open arms and to be honest that was the first time I ever heard a white person use the N word. So there was a lot racism in Xenia, it was just all hush hush.


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