Is racism alive or dead in Ohio?

By Melissa Martin

There is only one race—the human race. There are many ethnicities and cultures. The word “race” needs to be removed from our dictionaries, our documents, and our lips.

Discrimination, prejudice, and racism grow when fed.

Past Racism in Ohio

“Ohio’s first constitution, the Ohio Constitution of 1803, outlawed slavery. Despite this legal protection, African Americans faced much racism and discrimination in the state. The state constitutional convention prohibited African-American men from voting. Black men and women could not serve in the militia, serve on juries, testify in court against whites, receive assistance at the “poor house,” vote, or send their children to public schools. Many whites actively sought to prevent blacks from coming to Ohio, fearing a loss of jobs to African-American workers. Many white Ohioans were also racists. Despite the discrimination that African Americans endured, many black Ohioans favored life in Ohio rather than living as slaves in the South,” according to an article by Ohio History Central.

Past Racism in Scioto County

Huston Hollow’s black community is said to have its origin in one of Portsmouth’s most notorious events and what must be considered one of the city’s darkest chapters of history. “Black Friday,” as it has come to be known, involved the forced expulsion of much of the city’s black population, a number of which found refuge in Huston Hollow.

The title of Rebecca Jenkin’s 2015 thesis is “Forgotten: Scioto County’s Lost Black History.”

She explored “the untold history of the Black community of Portsmouth and Scioto County, Ohio.” Her research focused on the struggle for integration of the Portsmouth City School system in 1885, and the larger political and cultural context in which these events took place.

Current Racism in Ohio Workplaces

According to a 2019 article by WOUB, Ohio officials will spend two days leading civil rights training at a General Motors plant in Toledo where repeated incidents of racial harassment were reported. “A group of GM workers are suing the company, saying it hasn’t done enough to stop harassment that includes nooses, racist taunts and graffiti. Workers say it has gone on several years.”

UPS workers at a distribution hub in Ohio have sued the company, alleging discriminatory hiring decisions and a series of racist acts, including a noose and Confederate flags in the workplace, according to a 2019 internet article at

Current Racism in Ohio Homes

Where does racism begin? A Ghanaian proverb proclaims, “The ruin of a nation begins in the home of its people.” Racism, prejudice, and discrimination is learned from the thoughts, words, and mouths of parents and caregivers. Racism is learned from the actions and reactions of adults. And racism hides in the silence of adults who do not speak out against racial hate crimes, racial bullying, and who do not speak out for racial equality. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” penned Edmund Burke.

“White Kids,” based on two years of research involving in-depth interviews with white kids and their families, is a clear-eyed and sometimes shocking account of how white kids learn about race. “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America” is a 2018 book by Margaret Hagerman.

Current Racism in Ohio Schools

Schools are a microcosm of what is happening in our society, in our communities, and in our homes.

A 2019 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on the topic of racism in Ohio schools. “Several high-profile incidents last year in nearby Mason, where a white teacher told a black student he might be lynched, and Kings, where a basketball team had words such as “Coon” and “Knee Grow” on its jerseys, show racism hasn’t gone anywhere. Elsewhere in the county, the Office for Civil Rights is investigating Springboro City Schools for racial harassment allegations. But what the federal investigation into Lebanon shows, in sometimes shocking detail, is what minority students go through in schools across the state. Using Ohio’s public record laws, The Enquirer reviewed more than 1,000 pages of notes, student statements and discipline records.”

Current Racism in Ohio Churches

The Ohio Council of Churches has a history of confronting racism and being a voice in the anti-racism movement that has become a priority of member denominations. One anti-racism ministry effort has been in concert with the “A.C.T. Now to End Racism” effort of the National Council of Churches in the USA (NCC).

Teacher Diversity in Ohio

A 2017 article in The Columbus Dispatch reported on the lack of diverse teachers in Ohio schools. Around 93 percent of Ohio’s teachers are white, 4 percent are black, 0.7 percent are Hispanic, 0.4 percent are Asian and 0.1 percent identify as multiracial. And of Ohio’s 1.7 million K-12 students, 71.1 percent are white, 16.5 percent are black, 5.2 percent are Hispanic, 2.2 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander and 4.8 percent are multiracial, according to 2015-16 statistics from the Ohio Department of Education. Around 61.5 percent of Ohio’s black teachers are found in 10 school districts: Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Akron, East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Trotwood-Madison (in suburban Dayton) and Shaker Heights (in suburban Cleveland).

Teaching Inclusion in Scioto County, Ohio

AHANA, an organization at Shawnee State University, was designed to increase awareness of diversity and multi-cultural aspects of African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American people and students. The club encourages interactions between its members and other students of different backgrounds and are committed to helping students cope and learn the university’s system, while also fostering a spirit of unity and togetherness, by taking an active role in community service projects.

On the Portsmouth City Schools website (PES) is a picture of two students representing two ethnicities. According to a 2018 article in the Portsmouth Daily Times, Portsmouth High/Junior High School offer a Multi-Cultural Club to educate students about diversity in the community and society.


How do you teach your children to respect and accept humans from different ethnicities? How does your workplace, church, and community support humans from other cultures? How does your kindergarten, preschool, elementary, middle, and high school teach and model diversity and multiculturalism to students?

Diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusion grow when fed.

By Melissa Martin