First, I'll say that this truly sucks and reeks of a bygone era.

The storyline that's emerging from this whole basketball court beating incident on Lansing's south side is this: a bunch of black guys play basketball in a neighborhood referred to as "Cleaverville" (a reference to the outdated all-white 1950s sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" - a person who lives there actually said this), the neighbors perceive this as a threat, then tensions boil over and one of the black guys beats up Ward Cleaver (his name is Larry Ruble, and he is white), then the city removes the basketball hoops at the neighbors' request so that those big, bad black guys stay away.

Peace restored.

Oh, and, once again, police are looking for the suspects, nondescript except that they're black and they're young.

Now, several people have said - thank God - that the basketball hoops are not the problem (Police Lt. Noel Garcia, Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton), but the behavior of the guy who savagely beat the other guy. But this incident's portrayal in the media, and the city's response of removing the sports equipment, is ridiculous. I think the neighbors' desire to have the basketball hoops removed is racist and irrational. To wit: before Larry Ruble's beating, according to an LSJ article, the neighbors complaints were that the basketball players used the court after dark, parked on the grass and were occasionally rowdy. Annoying, yes. Criminal? Maybe, if you count violating a noise ordinance as criminal behavior.

But what screams to me out of this is that these neighbors saw the basketball players as a threat, likely based on fear of young black men. If they perceive their neighborhood to be "Cleaverville," then why would they want a bunch of black people there playing basketball after sunset?

Larry Ruble's wife was paraphrased in Tuesday's LSJ story on the removal of the basketball hoops that she is concerned the whole thing is taking on racial overtones. And she is right, it is. There's a forum scheduled Tuesday to discuss this, and the racial implications of this incident desperately need to be raised.

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