Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Justice Delayed: Killer Cop Trial Results in Hung Jury

After deliberating for about 25 hours, on November 11th, sequestered jurors in the Ray Tensing trial in Cincinnati could not reach a unanimous verdict. The judge, Megan E. Shanahan, declared a mistrial. Tensing, a 26-year-old White University of Cincinnati police officer, was tried on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges after shooting Sam DuBose, a 43-year-old Black male, during a routine traffic stop on July 19, 2015. DuBose was not on the University of Cincinnati campus but was stopped because he did not have a license plate on the front of the vehicle he was driving. The University of Cincinnati has a mutual aid agreement, which allows University of Cincinnati police officers to police areas surrounding the University. During the stop, Tensing killed DuBose with a shot to the head.

Tensing’s defense was that he was being dragged by DuBose’s vehicle and feared for his life. Tensing testified in his own defense during the trial. The Supreme Court has ruled that shooting a suspect who is fleeing is not justified unless the officer is in danger of severe injury or death. Video evidence presented during the trial clearly disputed Tensing’s claim. Scot Huag, a police use-of- force expert, testified that Tensing repeatedly violated police procedure during the routine traffic stop and the shooting was not justified. During the two-week trial, evidence was also presented that Tensing was wearing a t-shirt, depicting the Confederate flag, under his uniform the day of the shooting. Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joe Deters, reported that Tensing was an outlier in his department because he stopped more people, wrote more tickets, and made more arrests than any other officer in the University of Cincinnati police department. In addition, at least 75% of individuals he stopped, cited, or arrested were Black, the highest racial disparity in the department.

The jury was comprised of six White males, four White females, and two Black females. The judge was criticized for refusing to make juror questionnaires public, but Judge Shanahan reported several members of the jury had expressed fears for their safety. During the trial one juror was excused due to extreme safety fears. At least three members of the jury voted to convict Tensing of murder and eight jury members voted to convict on voluntary manslaughter charges. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will have until November 28th to decide whether to try Tensing again. 

The Cognitive Dissonance Election

The theme of the 2016 Presidential election is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological theory that explains the unpleasant emotions that one feels by either holding two dissonant beliefs or acting in a way that is contrary to one or more beliefs. The discrepancy between the two causes discomfort and the individual tries to relive that discomfort by trying to reconcile the two.

There are many Democrat, Independent, and Republican supporters who eagerly admit that Hillary Clinton was not their first choice for President. I am one of them. However, I choose to support her in the upcoming Presidential election. This was not a decision I took lightly. I honestly considered either not voting or supporting a third-party candidate. Then I remembered that I live in a swing state and realized that I cannot afford to throw away my vote on a candidate that cannot win. I am not judging others who vote for other candidates. This is what I have decided is the best for me. My point is, there are a number of individuals who have decided to vote for Clinton, when she was not his/her/their first choice. My decision produced dissonance in me and dissonance is experienced by everyone who did not select her as their first choice for President.

I admit that I cannot understand why any woman, ethnic or racial minority, or disabled person would vote for Donald Trump. Any individual who belongs to any of these categories and chooses him, if they are honest with themselves, have to be experiencing tremendous cognitive dissonance. Donald Trump consistently expresses himself in a way that makes it clear that he believes people in these categories are less than. They are the other. In terms of cognitive dissonance, that means these supporters either have to agree with Trump that they are indeed less worthy or come up with other reasons to justify their vote and reduce dissonance.

It appears that a majority of Trump supporters and close to or a slight majority of Clinton supporters will vote against the other candidate, not for the candidate they choose on the ballot. This is a rare occurrence and certainly underscores the importance and uniqueness of this election. This election is likely to be a turning point for the county. 

I hope you voted, and that is the view from here.

It is 2016 and Cincinnati is still racist…

July 13, 2016

As I have mentioned in previous articles, I am a recent transplant to Ohio. I have lived in Cincinnati for about eight months now. Throughout my 40+ years, I have lived in a number of states in the Eastern U.S. I grew up in rural Delaware and as an adult have lived in urban areas in: Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, Florida; Baltimore, Maryland; metropolitan D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. I have also lived in one of the Whitest states in the country, Vermont, which was 94.6% White in 2015 ( Except for a total of four years spent in Delaware and Vermont after the age of 18, I have lived my adult life in large, urban areas where Whites are generally the minority.

While I am a White, non-Hispanic female, many of my closest friends and former lovers are not. That has exposed me to numerous experiences of racism directed at myself and my partner. Therefore, racism is probably more salient to me than the average White, non-Hispanic woman. In addition, my academic background consists of studying prejudice and in-group favoritism as part of Psychology graduate programs. My background is important to provide context for my reflections on race in Cincinnati. As a newcomer, I have not lived through the years of racism and police brutality that is a part of Cincinnati history. However, I have never lived anywhere where I have experienced such casual and pervasive racism as Cincinnati.

Just in the past several months, I was told by long-time Cincinnati residents that I did not want to find an apartment in certain areas in Cincinnati because “that is the Black part of town.” My current landlord (in the “Black part of town”) explained to me while giving me the keys to my apartment that unfortunately one of the apartments in my building housed a Black male, “but he is a missionary, so it is okay.” A new friend who works at University of Cincinnati, a large urban university, has explained in detail the everyday racism she experiences at the hands of co-workers and supervisors. These three discrete examples are just ordinary instances of life in Cincinnati. These interactions, and others, have left me shocked and dismayed and I have begun to investigate some of the contributing factors.

According to 24/7 Wall Street, the Cincinnati metropolitan area, which includes parts of Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana, is the fifth-most segregated in the United States. Their 2015 analysis indicated that 48.6% of Cincinnati metropolitan area residents live in segregated neighborhoods. The poverty rate for White residents was 10.3% compared to 33.5% for Black residents. Similarly, the unemployment rate for White residents was 6.1% compared to 10.2% for Black residents. While these numbers may not seem so disparate, they indicate that Black residents are more than three times as likely to live in poverty and the unemployment rate is 67% higher for Blacks than Whites in this region. Perhaps part of the level of segregation in the Cincinnati metropolitan area lies in the proximity of Cincinnati to Chicago, which is the most-segregated city in the United States ( Segregation leads to the conceptualization of others as part of another group, commonly termed the out-group. Past experimental psychological research, including my own, has consistently demonstrated that individuals will discriminate against others who they perceive as out-group members. Therefore, lack of contact due to segregation can be acknowledged as a strong contributor to racist attitudes and behavior.

I have also discovered that Cincinnatians are extremely religious and this is another major contrast with other places where I have lived. Earlier this year, Zimmerman reported that Cincinnati is home to the sixth-largest parochial school system in the U.S. In the last religious census in 2010, there were more than 400,000 reported Catholics in Cincinnati, coupled with more than 300,000 Protestants (

In 2010, social psychologists Deborah Hall, David Matz and Wendy Wood published a meta-analysis of research studies that examined the relationship between religion and racism. A meta-analysis occurs by examining multiple research studies, including research methodology and findings, to determine whether there is clear and consistent support for a particular finding. In this study, Hall, Matz, and Wood examined 55 research studies and found strong and consistent evidence of a positive relationship between expressed religiosity and racism. This means that as level of religiosity increased, so did racism. Interestingly, professed Agnostics was the only group that did not express racist beliefs ( A relationship is not the same as causation, as any research methodologist knows. However, because of ethical obligations of researchers, causal research cannot be conducted on subjects like racism.

Perhaps Cincinnati is making strides in reducing racism compared to the past. However, from my observations, the attitudes expressed by White residents in the Cincinnati area seem to be many years behind those of the United States, in general. Those attitudes will not change significantly without Whites engaging in purposeful interactions with members of other races and without an honest examination of the danger of adherence to certain portions of religious texts that can lead to racism and lack of adherence to other portions of religious texts that clearly express that love for everyone is mandated and that all people are equal.

To be fair, I have made new White, non-Hispanic friends who share my horror of the casual everyday racism experienced in Cincinnati. These experiences provide sharp contrast to multiple interactions with White residents who casually express racism, without self-consciousness or shame, in normal conversation.

This primary season, with a Republican nominee that spouts racism as easily as he breathes, has put the country on edge. The gun violence we have all experienced the past several months has hurt all of us. Mr. Trump’s racist words has emboldened many and contributed to violence at his rallies and elsewhere. This country is poised on the precipice of change. Will we work together, acknowledge the inherent racism that built this country and choose a better path or will we continue in this endless cycle of racism and violence?

It is summer 2016 in Cincinnati and that is the view from here.

Porter, N. (September 2016). A look at racism in a Midwest city. The Gay Word, 25(4), 23.

Ohio, Will Your Vote Count?

August 2016

I am a veteran of the hanging chad debacle in South Florida in the Presidential election of 2000. To this day, I wonder whether my ballot is one that was thrown out because of an incomplete separation of the chad. It was that experience that taught me the importance of voting and how important every vote is.

I was shocked to learn last week from the Cincinnati Enquirer (“Lawsuit: Ballots discarded for minor errors in Ohio,” August 4, 2016 print edition) that Ohio is appealing a federal decision that favored voting rights advocates. There were two parts of this matter that I found disturbing.
First, each county gets to decide which ballots are discarded as illegitimate. Ballots can be deemed illegitimate if there is an issue with the informational fields, such as date of birth or address. In 2014, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, 2,800 ballots were deemed illegitimate and thrown out. In close races, that is enough to change the outcome of an election. In some Ohio counties, if a voter signs his or her name rather than prints it, the ballot can be thrown out. Forget to check the absentee ballot box? Missing a zip code or one number of your zip code? Depending where you live, your vote could be tossed out. There is no course teaching people how to complete a ballot. In addition, the manner of voting has changed over the years, and it is quite easy for anyone, especially younger and older voters, to make a small mistake.

Second, why is the state of Ohio wasting money on appealing a federal court decision that existing Ohio law was unconstitutional? The federal ruling is very consistent with a number of federal voter rights rulings and it seems unlikely that the State of Ohio will win on appeal. Federal courts have ruled that many of these laws passed to prevent voter fraud are unnecessary and have a differential (and therefore unlawful) impact on non-Whites, the elderly, disabled, and lower-income citizens.

Please vote in November. It is important that your voice is heard and your vote counted. If you live in Ohio, please make sure to verify that your information is correct and complete so your vote will count. It is Summer 2016 and that is the view from here. 

40th Annual Dayton Pride Festival

June 3-5, 2016 was the 40th annual Dayton Pride festival. Friday evening, June 3, kicked off the experience with a beer and food truck event in Courthouse Square downtown, which served as the center of Dayton Pride festivities. Later Friday night, there was a .5 kilometer bar crawl sponsored by Svedka vodka. Saturday festivities included a breakfast at MJ’s on Jefferson Street, the Pride parade at noon, Pride festival from 12-4 pm in Courthouse Square, followed by the Dayton Gay Men’s Chorus at 8 pm in the Victoria Theatre. Sunday activities included a 5k run/walk sponsored by PFLAG and a round robin kickball tournament from noon to 6 pm.

I recently relocated to Cincinnati from Florida. I have attended Gay Pride celebrations in multiple cities, mostly in South Florida, but on June 4th, I attended my first ever Pride event in Ohio at Dayton Pride. Not only was this my first Ohio Pride event, but my first trip to Dayton as well. I tried not to have too many expectations as to what it would be like. But I did know that it would be the smallest Pride event I have ever attended.

I arrived in Dayton on Saturday around 11:30 am to watch the parade staging activities. There was palpable excitement in the air and choruses of “Happy Pride” rang out between friends and strangers alike. The sun was shining, although rain clouds threatened and finally burst in mid-afternoon. The visible police presence smoothed traffic issues for attendees and Dayton residents to minimize driving delays. After visiting the staging area, I walked along the first street of the parade route for several blocks, soaking in the atmosphere and listening in on conversations. Visitors to MJ’s spilled onto the outdoor patio, which provided a great viewing spot for the parade. Large and small rainbow flags were on sale from street vendors as well as other pride items. I found a spot on the curb towards the beginning of the parade route to watch, take notes, and pictures. Just down the sidewalk from me, a 30-something individual explained to her friend that she had been attending Dayton Pride events since the age of 16. She recounted her amazement at how Dayton Pride events and attendance had grown through the years, a sentiment echoed by a number of people during the afternoon festival.

The parade began a few minutes after noon, and for the next 35 minutes, individuals, floats, and other vehicles followed the parade route ending in Courthouse Square at Festival booths and vendors. 
There were visible representatives from all spectrums of the LGBTQ community as well as a number of community allies. A number of parade participants were from various church organizations, such as The Center for Spiritual Living,  Unitarian Universalist church, and David’s United Church of Christ. Walgreens and Kroger had large contingents as well. The color green seemed to be the theme of the day, as several organizations, such as the Dayton Gay Men’s Chorus, marched in matching green t-shirts. Equality Ohio had a visible presence, as well as GLSEN of Greater Dayton, PFLAG, and LGBTQ members from local colleges and Wright State University. Floats for Dayton bars were sponsored by Tito’s and Stoli vodka. I was dismayed and disappointed that HRC (Human Rights Campaign), my favorite civil rights organization, seemed to be missing in action in the parade, although they had a small booth at the festival. Due to the GLSEN contingent and student marchers from a local school, there were a number of children marching in the parade as well. These children were made to feel welcome at the festival in an area for children and families fittingly called “Rainbow Land,” which was new to the festival this year.

As the marchers rounded the final street corner and entered Courthouse Square, they were greeted on the left by several individuals holding signs that read “Homo sex is sin Romans 1” and “Repent of your sins Believe the gospel Obey Jesus Mark 1:15.” There was also an individual with a megaphone as well, yelling at people to repent or face hellfire. Instinctively, parade viewers with large rainbow flags moved in front of the picketers, shielding them from the marchers’ view. I was somewhat shocked to see the picketers, as I was unable to recall any other gay event I had attended where there were picketers, especially a Gay Pride event. Throughout the afternoon, most of the festival attendees ignored the picketers, although later in the afternoon they became louder and more unruly and aggressive. In response to their increasing volume an aggressive tone, the emcee asked festival goers to treat the protestors in a loving and civil manner. I was proud to see that happening for the most part, although I heard multiple comments within the crowd that the protestors should be physically removed from the festivities. Their presence was a tangible symbol of the work that is still needed in promoting LGBT civil rights in Ohio.

During the festival, I was able to speak with a number of individuals about the work of their organizations and what the festival meant to them, personally. Equality Ohio volunteers were signing up individuals for mailing and volunteer lists. They provided pamphlets on a number of current legal issues affecting the Ohio LGBT community, such as bathroom bills and conversion therapy. A member of the Center for Spiritual Living (Greater Dayton) reported that this was her sixth appearance at Dayton Pride, but she believed the Center had participated for at least the past eight years. Walgreens employees conveyed to me that it was important for them to have a visible presence; they view this type of community outreach as essential to show their support for equality. Medical students at Wright State University expressed they were visiting classes of their fellow medical students and conveying to them some of the unique experiences and challenges of the LGBT community in interacting with medical professionals. Kevin Mabry, the Co-Chairman of GLSEN of Greater Dayton, explained to me the exciting and important work they are doing in middle and high schools. I hope to provide more in-depth interviews and information about this important work in future issues.

Although I was only able to attend the Dayton Pride festivities on Saturday, I was buoyed by the optimistic tone of the festival goers and volunteers at the festival. Although we realize there is a long way to go in our journey to full equality for all members of our community, it is an exciting time to be an LGBT American. Attendance at Dayton Pride was robust and the younger generation was well-represented. Although admittedly different from my past Gay Pride experiences, I was able to appreciate the hope and optimism conveyed by festival attendees and volunteers alike. In the wake of the Orlando tragedy on June 12th, I have realized that these events are even more important for our community. It is vitally important to convey hope, love, optimism, pride, support, and acceptance as we connect and reconnect with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and heterosexual allies. Although Pride month has brought positive and negative experiences for our community, we must always remember that love and civility are the only ways to overcome the hate directed at our community.  

Porter, N. (July 2016).  Dayton celebrates 40th Pride Fest. The Gay Word, 25(2), 22-23. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Too many are dying from gun violence

Another day, another shooting. Tragic stories about gun violence abound. However, a recent tragedy unfolded in my own backyard.

On Jan. 12, a 73-year old Cincinnati father dropped his son off early at the bus stop, due to snowy weather, and returned home. Later he texted his 14-year-old son again to make sure he was on the bus. The son responded with a phone call assuring his father he was on the bus to school. However, unbeknownst to his father, Georta Mack circled back to his house and hid in the basement.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, soon after 6 a.m., his father heard noises coming from the basement and grabbed his .45-caliber gun. After going to the basement to investigate, he opened a closet door and Georta jumped out and yelled “Boo!” His father fired, striking him in the neck and killing him. The transcript of the father’s anguished 911 call is heartbreaking. Prosecutors announced on Jan. 13 the father would not face charges for killing his son.

Earlier this month, the statistics for 2015 were released: Shootings in Cincinnati were up 28 percent over 2014; homicides increased 13 percent. These tragedies happen on a daily basis. In October 2015, The Washington Post reported that, as of the 274th day of 2015, there had been 294 mass shootings. Mass murders due to gun violence occur most often in metro areas. Since 2013, Austin, Texas, is the only city in the U.S. with a population of 100,000 or greater that has not had a mass shooting. However, only 2 percent of overall gun violence deaths occur in mass shootings.

According to the, as of Dec. 23 there had been 12,942 deaths in 2015 due to gun violence, an average of 36 deaths every day. While the news was dominated by reports of European and domestic terrorism in 2015, in the previous 10 years only 71 people died in the U.S. from terrorist incidents. There were 301,797 deaths in America due to gun violence during the same period.

Every traumatic death is a tragedy, but why do we as Americans not have a better sense of perspective? This means that people in the U.S., from 2005 to 2015, were more than 4,000 times more likely to be killed by guns than in a terrorist incident. These statistics represent mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers and friends. Each death has created a ripple effect in our communities, such that many lives are changed forever.

Many of these shootings kill individuals under the age of 18, snuffing out the unlimited promise and potential of these young lives. In 2015, an average of two children were killed every day by a shooting; 75 percent of these children were under the age of 12. Scarier still, in an average week in 2015 a toddler under the age of 3 shot someone, often him- or herself, after accessing an unsecured loaded gun. Many times the toddlers injure or kill themselves, but they also have killed other people as well.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Transportation Security Administration announced recently that 2,653 guns were found at security checkpoints at U.S. airports in 2015. More than 82 percent (2,198) of these guns were loaded. Unloaded guns are allowed in checked baggage, but must be declared. Loaded weapons are forbidden, as are guns in carry-on baggage. The ramifications of these statistics are startling. These only represent guns that were detected by the TSA. As might be expected, two of the top five airports with the most confiscated guns were in Texas: Dallas (1st) and Houston (3rd). Airports in Atlanta (2nd), Denver (4th) and Phoenix (5th) rounded out the top five.

So consider this: The next time you are on a domestic flight, imagine that some of your fellow passengers are carrying a loaded weapon. If that makes you feel safer, perhaps you should work to change the current laws regarding guns and air travel. However, for many of us, the thought of fellow passengers carrying a loaded weapon on our flights is a sobering and scary thought.

Let us not pretend that racism is not at the heart of this issue. While black men comprise about 6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 50 percent of deaths through gun violence.  Reflect upon this: What would the response be if 150,898 white men had been killed by guns from 2005 through 2015? Would the response have been different?  I think we all know in our heart that it would be quite different. The news media would be full of stories about the hunting of white men and Congress would be drafting and passing legislation on gun control to stem these predators stalking the most powerful members of our society.

There are no easy answers. Historians point to the founding of this country and the role guns played in doing so. Early American settlers were able to steal land from the Native Americans due to the advanced weaponry of guns. As Americans traveled westward during the expansion, often guns were the difference between life and death, useful both for killing animals for food and warding off animal and human predators. Gun violence has played a large role in our collective American DNA.

Our attitudes toward life and death are different than other first-world countries, as evidenced by our continued use of the death penalty in many states. Meanwhile, our counterparts around the world shake their collective heads and wonder when Americans will finally wake up and decide that too many people have died because of gun violence.
Recently, I have read of conservatives railing against any form of gun restrictions and proclaiming that owning guns is “a God-given right.”  Really?!  I will never understand why it is that many of the same people who claim to be “pro-life” are often also the same ones who claim there should be no limits on military spending or gun rights.

There is also a Constitutional argument for gun control. The founders specified in the Second Amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I know my opinion is not a popular one, but I believe the Second Amendment provides the right to bear arms only in the context of belonging to a state militia. This opinion is shared by some scholars as well.

Regardless of one’s belief about the right to bear arms, I think we can all agree too many people are dying due to gun violence. I encourage each of you to think about what your responsibility is to help address this issue.

Porter, N. (March 2016). Too many are dying from gun violence. The Gay Word, 24(8), 11.

Reaction to anti-conversion bill a surprise

A Conversation with Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach
By Natalie Porter

According to his biography on the Cincinnati City Council website, Councilman Seelbach was a key player in the effort of repeal Article XII in Cincinnati. Article XII denied legal protection to gays and lesbians in the City and led many gay men to leave Cincinnati ( This anti-gay law cost the City over $25 million in lost revenue, an estimate provided by the Visitor’s bureau. Councilman Seelbach grew up in Kentucky and began advocating for LGBT rights as a college student at Xavier University in Cincinnati. He became the first openly gay City Council member in Ohio in 2011.

On February 9, 2016, I sat down with the City Councilman in his office in City Hall to discuss his personal experiences with conversion therapy, how he became involved in local politics, and the process of getting this bill passed.

Part two of this interview (in the April 2016 issue) will focus on the process of getting the anti-conversion therapy bill passed in Cincinnati.

Porter, N. (April 2016). Reaction to anti-conversion bill a surprise. The Gay Word, 24(9), 18.