Baltimore Burning

Baltimore 1It is discouraging to see the images of Baltimore glowing from the fires of violence, but sadly not surprising. Having lived down the road in Washington, DC for 13 years, I was over in B’more often. I used to catch Orioles’ games at Memorial Stadium before Camden Yards was opened in 1992. And while the Inner Harbor has blossomed, it fails to address the income inequality and high unemployment rates residents face in these troubled inner-city neighborhoods.

Baltimore is old school. It may be located in the shadow of Washington, DC, but it suffers from no inferiority complex. This City of Neighborhoods doesn’t care about political glad tidings. There is still porn in the downtown area, and Charm City has had a heroin problem since before smack got cheap, pure and plentiful.

The suspicious death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore Police custody is eye raising, and certainly not an isolated event of supposed police misconduct. Simply look at the amount of money the city has paid out in recent years for lawsuits claiming police brutality.

The Baltimore Sun reported in a September 2014 story entitled Undue Force, that “the city had paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects.”

Baltimore 3Many serious questions remain to be answered in the mysterious death of Mr. Gray. It seems unlikely that the severity of the neck injury he suffered, which led to his death, was somehow self-inflicted while in the back of a police van. The second perpetrator later arrested and placed into the same van has noted in television interviews that their ride to the police substation was smooth, so there was neither the velocity necessary or any jarring stop that together could potentially generate the force required to cause Mr. Gray’s injuries.

I fear for what happens in Baltimore if this investigation isn’t extremely transparent and indictments are not followed through upon to bring those responsible to justice.

Blood pressure across the country is already elevated due to the number of deaths of unarmed African-American men by white police officers. These continued incidences are compounded by the frustration people of color and other minorities are feeling from the abuse of authority by law enforcement when it comes to dealing with underprivileged populations.

Baltimore 2As a former law enforcement officer I appreciate the challenging job police have when patrolling high crime areas, but there are cities that refuse to tolerate prejudicial treatment of any individuals. And then there is Baltimore and Ferguson. There is a reason unrest is boiling over in specific cities.

Baltimore is one of those places where a fair shake isn’t available to everyone. You may want one, but depending upon the neighborhood where you grow up, the chances of elevating oneself from these broken streets is extremely difficult. From drugs, gangs and crime, to poverty, broken homes and pathetic schools. Life is hard in Charm City.

We can attempt to get tough on crime, but with the manufacturing jobs having moved offshore or exported, there is no work available. This breeds crime.

I’ve fortunately never had to go without food in my life. I find many that want to criticize residents in poor neighborhoods as “not trying hard enough,” are often fortunate enough to never have known hunger either. Try concentrating on school or anything else when you only eat once a day.

This kind of living environment makes it tough to develop modern job skills, and most employers are not looking to take on project employees from the hood, hoping they work out.

The fact is they usually don’t work out. Look at what happened when all the krewe kids from New Orleans temporarily re-located to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. They were provided food, clothing, homes, and jobs, but those folks were so disenfranchised in terms of education, skills and demeanor that Texas might as well have been trying to employ aliens from another universe.

The reverse is true for the disadvantaged person seeking employment. These corner kids in Baltimore don’t understand an office environment. It’s completely foreign and probably scares the hell out of them, which manifests itself in anger. It turns a person inward and fills that individual with embarrassment and despair.

Seeing crime and failure play out again and again changes people and their community. The hopelessness weighs on everyone, and no voice can lift these peoples’ spirits because change never comes.

Baltimore 4The unrest transpiring in Baltimore isn’t a black/white thing. It is a neglect thing. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was once the second leading port of entry for immigrants into the United States and a major manufacturing center. Its population climbed to a high of 949,708 in 1950, but has been in decline for 60 years, currently sitting at an estimated 622,104.

While B’more’s population is more than 60 percent African-American, the color of the skin for those that have held elected office in Baltimore has mattered not, it’s poverty-stricken residents continue to suffer.

Sure the Inner Harbor is pleasant. It’s a showpiece for locals and a destination for tourists, but its profitability is not trickling down to improve life in the slums. I love me some crab cakes and all, but these folks need help and they need jobs to restore their dignity before another generation of young people are lost.

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