As Baltimore Burns at the hands of its own citizens, due to the recent riots, I reflect on the state of the city of my birth.
Racial tensions, and particularly police/citizen tensions have remained high, despite a current black female mayor, black Baltimore PD Commissioner, and a majority minority police force, as well as primarily black political control.
Still, there is a great lack of trust and disparity of justice. The recent death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, while in police custody, triggered a fueling fire. Unfortunately, the response to Gray’s death was largely expressed through violence and destruction, particularly to property and persons of the community. In fact, the neighborhoods that burned were some of the same that burned in 1968, after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The mayor’s office reported 144 vehicle fires and 15 structure fires. The manager of a CVS that was destroyed said, “We work here, man. This is where we stand, and this is where people actually make a living.” Mayor, Rawlings-Blake stated, “It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”
The aftermath; leaving at least 20 officers injured (1 in critical condition), countless citizens injured, and properties destroyed, may only be a segue to planned acts of violence. The Baltimore PD released a statement of credible threat, saying, “members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers.” Sadly, gang members who deal largely in the murder of one another, have temporarily ‘come together’ on a collective murder mission.
Baltimore has become a city with the fifth-highest murder rate in the country among cities with 100,000 or more people, as well as a city with an increase in property crime, and a city with the nation’s seventh-highest violent crime rate. The Economist stated that, “Baltimore is a city where young black men are occasionally killed by the police—and where most days a young black man is murdered by another young black man.”
Many of Baltimore’s life-long citizens, such as Jill Leovy of “Ghettoside” believe that “historically, the problem with policing for black Americans has not been its presence but its absence.” The Baltimore Police Department has too few members, to investigate too many murders. In many cases, citizens will not talk to police, therefore leaving crimes vastly unsolved. As well, former mayor, Martin O’Malley introduced a “zero tolerance” policy, which added to the damage between police/citizen relations.
- Nearly 1 in 4 Baltimore residents lives in poverty, versus 1 in 6 Americans
- 18 percent of Baltimore’s homes are vacant, compared with 13 percent in the U.S.
- The unemployment rate in Baltimore is nearly 3 percentage points higher than in the U.S. as a whole.
Beyond all this, there is another overwhelming inner-city statistic that continues to increase, and not only in Baltimore. The percentage of black babies born to unwed mothers is currently over 72%. The breakdown of the family structure is an unavoidable, albeit unpleasant, truth that negatively affects our society as a whole. Several prominent black members of society, who grew up fatherless, have made statements correlating the absence of fathers, and the recent inner-city violent unrest in response to injustice.
CNN anchor, Don Lemon, in a message to black people, stated “More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues.”
Similarly, in a white house press conference, President Obama stated, “In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem. And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.”
In the book, ‘Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage,’ sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas spent five years studying low-income mothers and compiling the most extensive study to date on the thoughts of this population in regards to marriage and family.
Dr. Natalie Carroll, a black OB-GYN who has dedicated 40 years to serving low-income pregnant women, sees the statistics as inseparable from her work. She speaks boldly about the issue of black unwed parenthood, and speaks truth to the women in her own office. “I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy.” Although research continues to show increased correlation between family structure and issues of poverty, and the black community’s 72 percent rate eclipses that of all other ethnic groups, “nobody talks about it,” Carroll says. “It’s like some big secret.”
As we shake our heads from our living rooms, watching the latest inner-city riots unfold, we must continue to grow in awareness and action, or watch the cycle continue. As Judge Andrew Napolitano stated, “For generations the residents of inner-city Baltimore have grown dependent on the government. The government of that once great city and of the State of Maryland have kept large numbers of folks in Baltimore in near poverty by offering dependence in return for votes — not personal or economic freedom, not even safety; just dependence.” When a community begins to ‘depend’ on government as a father figure, a provider, and a model of justice, an educator, a disciplinarian, etc., they will surely be disappointed and in turn rebel.
“Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance – these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.” ~Isaiah Berlin