TGR: ONLY AS STRONG AS THE WEAKEST LINK: Baltimore’s Conundrum: Race and Class in 2019

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” 

By Doni Glover, Publisher
Unapologetically Black: Doni Glover Autobiography

(BALTIMORE – June 4, 2019) – A wise man once said that common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in every garden. My question is if such a garden exists at all at City Hall. As the dog days of summer quickly approach, a story line has already begun. We all knew it was coming, too.

It started with a large group of African American youth acting out recently in downtown Baltimore.

Sure, some racist law enforcement personnel have called some of them “criminals.” Sure, a lot of white folks are having a fit. Sure, the real victims have been villainized once again.

Yet, in all of this reaction, not one voice of reason has said anything that makes any sense. Now, to be fair, the City has been hijacked by cyber gangsters and is in the midst of one of the worst times ever. At the same time, those in charge have the duty and responsibility to fix it.

Otherwise, why are they there?

My dad used to say to me that God was smart when He created the world. He spoke about how God spread out all the natural resources across the lands so that man would be interdependent on each other. No man is an island.

In Baltimore, though, we don’t think like that. We think what happens over there is over there and has no consequence whatsoever over here. Right?

You see, there are a lot of people who see Baltimore through two different lenses. We call it ‘the Tale of Two Cities’. When it comes to the “white L”, there is no limit on what can be spent to further develop territory frequented by white folks, namely from Johns Hopkins University south to the Inner Harbor and Eats to Canton.

As for the “black L”, East and West Baltimore …. Oh, well! And if there is some development underway, best believe city planners are waiting for black folks to kill each other off, OD, or just move to Baltimore County like countless others have done over the past five decades or so. Even though millions of dollars, for example, were set aside for the redevelopment of Park Heights for several years and even though we had plenty of black elected officials around the table, the end result is that whatever comes to Park Heights now will not have poor people in mind. Park Heights was deliberately neglected, again, even though there was money available to make much-needed improvements.

The solution is so simple I cannot believe it even needs discussion. However, for the record and for the love of Baltimore, here we go one more time.

Dear upwardly mobile white people in Baltimore, you have to share! Because of Baltimore’s terribly racist past, including the policies of former Mayor J. Barry Mahool, the Father of Segregation in America – there is a lot of pain that still exists on all sides and consequently there is a tremendous need for healing. Frankly, the whole darn city needs therapy.

Frankly, after “Freddie Gray”, I figured folks had learned a lesson and would be more apt to spread out the resources more …. democratically. You know, like build an empowerment center at Penn-North, create new recreational opportunities for youth on both sides of town, and employ a couple thousand young people throughout the year?

Given all of the Fentanyl floating around, I’d also think there would be a massive push to get people into treatment, including the hundreds if not thousands of new white addicts now frequenting black neighborhoods all day and night from God knows where (they are not from Baltimore). But that has yet to touch the news. Instead, we are bombarded by negative reports about the Squeegee Kids.

Back in 2016, Baltimore’s former mayor, Catherine Pugh, rushed to get then-President Barack Obama to sign a Consent Decree for Baltimore which has had an adverse effect on crime here. Frankly, the cops have taken a knee, nobody is being checked, and many are now carrying a gun – obviously with the intent to shoot someone.

In case you missed it, Baltimore is America’s most murderous city. Further, we are looking everywhere but the right place for solutions.

Dear upwardly mobile black folks – specifically the ones who are in key positions, elected and otherwise: There are far too many of you in position to not make a positive difference here in the City of Baltimore for black folks. You sit at the board tables. You have lunch at City Café. You drink your lattes.

And, you have a chance to say something. To do something. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s as if all you care about is your paycheck, your car note, your salon appointment. Meanwhile, the people you are charged with serving are no more than a number.

As for the black elected officials in Baltimore, if you are not equipped with the testicular fortitude to stand up for black people, then please quit right now, pack up your stuff, and go home. All I can say is that we have one of the highest percentages of black electeds in the nation. However, since Freddie Gray, the only developments in Penn-North and Sandtown (where the Freddie Gray Unrest began and majority black) since 2015 are: A renovated Western District police station; a new homeless shelter directly opposite an open-air drug market and a block that’s 100% vacant; and Al Wylie’s new funeral home a few blocks south in Harlem Park. Vacants, handcuffs and caskets!

Can you see the imagery here? Do you understand what this says to the people in the communities most disaffected by the first riot in Baltimore in 47 years?

To boot, we live in an era when Baltimore City Public Schools are in a steady decline in terms of providing a quality education which means we are producing yet another generation of unemployable citizens. Last year, we had 13 high schools where not a single student was proficient in math. Huh? Tell me, where are they going to work? Who is going to hire them? You? Me?

No one seems to see how we, as adults, have consistently failed our young people. Blacks and whites in position to make a difference are instead all about a paycheck, a development deal, a TIFF … As for the community people who pay taxes and are quick to get taxed at a higher rate for everything, Oh, well!

A classic example of the chicanery at City Hall in recent years was the Grand Prix. Then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake put $10 million on a race that recouped nothing. At the same time, she cut funding for the recs.

So, because of both racism and classism, we get to where we are today: Oh, look at those bad black kids!

I’m here to tell you that the only problem in Baltimore is our so-called leaders who are more concerned with their own trajectories than they are with the quality of life of the otherwise beautiful people – black, white, Latino and Asian – of the City of Baltimore. There’s a total disconnect. The people who are running the ship have failed to connect with the people in the bottom of the ship. And they have a consistent track record of this kind of ignorant behavior.

Hence, our leaders continually demonstrate how they have no clue – that is, until their own little cousin is the one who was shot down ‘up the Heights’ at 2 am on a school night.

As long as the victims and the culprits belong to someone else’s family, we feel emboldened to think it has nothing to do with us. But the truth of the matter is, we are without a vision that includes every single one of us – from South Baltimore to Gilmor Homes to Park Heights to Upper Park Heights.

A young man said to me last night that some people are just too smart for their own good. He asked, “You ever meet someone who was so smart that they are stupid?” We were talking about the City and how it is being run. We have some of the smartest people in the world who live in Baltimore. Yet, we are in such a conundrum. We are saddled with our own selfish desires and as for the poor, uneducated people of this city … Oh, well!

Until everyone realizes that we all have a role to play – including the local media in this one newspaper town, we will continue to be riddled with problems we should have solved years ago. No longer can we afford to point fingers and put our heads in the sand. Baltimore needs leadership and it needs it now. Otherwise, this will be a very long 18 months until our next mayor takes office. Prayerfully, that person will have a vision, because at present, we’re failing miserably – just like the Orioles.