As a potential visitor or resident, there is no need to ignore Cincinnati because of your lingering worries from the racial riots that made national headlines in 2000. Cincinnati remains just like any big city: if you mind your own business, everyone else minds their own business. Any person would be absurd not to come to Cincinnati due to racial-relations issues. I only feel the need to mention this because I know there are more subconscious racists still out there than are willing to admit it. As a telecounselor for the University of Cincinnati Office of Admissions through 2004, I was ashamed for the occasional parent who still brought up those riots as the basis for being concerned about their child's safety here. I always thought, "get over it— it’s been quite a few years now"!
In 2000, a year before I moved to Cincinnati, the city made national (and possibly international) headlines as violent rioting occurred over several days in the poverty-stricken Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which is just a few blocks north of the nice downtown business district and immediately south of the updated University of Cincinnati campus. Over-the-Rhine’s exact borders probably are not marked on any map, but you will notice the buildings’ conditions and the people’s appearance gradually changing from about 9th Street northward, especially along Vine Street. Over-the-Rhine is primarily a lower class, African-American community, that was very upset over the controversial death of an African-American minor at the hands of an allegedly racist Caucasian Cincinnati police officer. For a few years, many African-American entertainers (such as Oprah) boycotted the city and would not visit until they felt racism was eliminated from the city government.
Overall, Cincinnati is not unlike most major cities. Every city has its not-so-nice areas that most people generally want to avoid; in Cincinnati, this would be Over-the-Rhine. Most cities also seem to have a general untrust between citizens and police of a different background. Even after all of the city’s hard work to eliminate racists in the city government, things I have heard and seen from others suggest that racial tensions are still mildly present. Even my African-American boyfriend, who was in no way involved with the riots, gets nervous around the seemingly primarily Caucasian Cincinnati police force, and I can’t blame him. I think what happened in Cincinnati’s past is just a physical demonstration of the stereotypes that still exist in many Americans’ minds.
I‘ve ridden the city bus (alone) directly through Over-the-Rhine, and guess what—I lived through it without witnessing anything bad. Honestly though, the other passengers can seem a bit scary, so I would still avoid using the downtown buses if possible. Driving through Over-the-Rhine in your own vehicle is perfectly fine during the day, but I make sure all my doors are locked, just as I would in any shady neighborhood. At night, especially if you are alone, you may notice a few women working the corner or people with drugs to sell, so if these sights both you, I suggest taking I-71 or I-75 around Over-the-Rhine. As far as walking around the downtown business district or UC campus, use the same precautions that you would use in any other civilized place—even small, rural towns have criminals. I would avoid walking through Over-the-Rhine at any time of day, but even if you accidentally do, I wouldn’t panic; chances are nothing bad will happen.