Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
News Opinion Op-Eds

After a mugging, renewed faith in Baltimore

I was jumped last Friday night. Around 11 p.m., while reaching for my keys to enter my apartment building, I was grabbed from behind, hit in the face, thrown to the ground and punched repeatedly a few feet from my door. My teenage assailants surprisingly made no effort to take anything from me and ran off laughing as I gathered my bearings and staggered inside. Though I had a fat lip, a bruised cheek and a pounding headache, my encounter left me with no lasting scars. Instead, my experience put me in a reflective mood.

I have lived in Baltimore for almost three years without incident, and in many ways the assault Friday night felt like a perverse rite of passage into local city life. I had heard stories from friends who had been held up at gunpoint for money and read articles in the newspaper of more extreme and deadly encounters. In the larger scheme of things, my experience was not really a big deal, as I explained to the police officer who arrived on the scene afterward.

Though I have been told that "a liberal is a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet," my reaction to the experience was not to seek retribution but, rather, to think about why our teenage residents had nothing better to do on a Friday night than attack a random person in the street. I'll never know what the reason was for their senseless, spontaneous assault. Was it a dare? Was it an initiation into a gang? Was it racially motivated? Was it out of sheer boredom? Whatever it was that caused these teenagers to jump me, my overall reaction is not anger but disappointment and frustration that these kids apparently did not have better opportunities and constructive ways to spend their weekend.

Since graduating from college in 2005, I have lived up and down the East Coast, from Washington, D.C.to Boston, and across the Atlantic Ocean in Dublin, Ireland. During this time, I have never felt such a close connection to a city as I have to Baltimore. Maybe it's the small-town feel. Maybe it's the city's perennial underdog status relative to larger metropolitan areas. Maybe it's the great music and arts scene. Maybe it's the Natty Boh. But for whatever reason, this city is special. It has a hold on me.

Yes, I know that my experience Friday night pales in comparison to many of the crimes and atrocities that take place here on our streets every week. Still, I believe in the promise and possibility of Baltimore. It is a city with a rich history and tradition that begs to be respected and resurrected once again. I understand that these opinion pages are often filled with condemnations and criticism of Baltimore and urban life. Call me naive, call me young, call me whatever you want. But I still believe that Baltimore has the potential to be a welcoming, inclusive and loving place to live (even if it is not the "Greatest City in America," as many benches around town proclaim).

Though I did not feel much love on Friday night outside my apartment, my belief in the potential of this city remains strong. If our teens are out on the streets attacking people, it says as much about ourselves and our priorities as it does about our kids. It is easy to demonize the young people in this city and simply say that Baltimore is doomed to live out its "Wire" stereotype. Instead, it takes more courage to invest in our young people and recognize that the kids out in the street today will be the ones shaping the future of Baltimore. Let's give them all the opportunities and resources we can to ensure that our youths are spending their Friday nights planning for a better life ahead of them, instead of attacking a random person on the street.

Brett Schwartz is a student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. His email is brett.schwartz@ubalt.edu.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Banner Neighborhoods: A positive outlook for Baltimore kids

    I want to thank Brett Schwartz for the measured and thoughtful response to his mugging at the hands of teenage assailants ("After a mugging, renewed faith in Baltimore," Feb. 29). It takes courage and conviction to keep moving forward and stay positive after such a scary incident.

  • A compromise on Howard County nutritional standards?
    A compromise on Howard County nutritional standards?

    Lost in the noise of the debate over Howard County Government's nutritional standards regarding sugary drinks are a few key questions. First, when, if at all, should government act in response to growing evidence linking certain behaviors to premature mortality and increased health care...

  • Addiction services needed more than statistics
    Addiction services needed more than statistics

    It is so frustrating to read about policymakers and their obsession with identifying the "numbers of heroin users." While they're busy counting, addicts are dying while on waiting lists for treatment.

  • Torture is not a partisan issue
    Torture is not a partisan issue

    I have been researching interrogation and teaching military ethics to midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy for years. I looked forward to the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA interrogation program to answer some specific questions raised in the course...

  • Turn investment back on, Congress
    Turn investment back on, Congress

    Manufacturers in America continue to face strong headwinds in trying to grow and create jobs. Despite this challenge, many of us are committed to thriving in a competitive global economy and conquering the obstacles we face day in and day out just to remain in business. Now that the elections...

  • Have you thanked an officer today?
    Have you thanked an officer today?

    Many Americans, upon encountering U.S. soldiers in uniform, thank them for their service. So we should. Fewer of us, upon encountering U. S. police in uniform, thank them for their service. Yet we should.

  • Finding yourself alone in the woods
    Finding yourself alone in the woods

    She divorced her husband, sold all her stuff, bought an outrageous amount of camping gear and set out to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, a trek of more than 1,000 miles from the Mojave Desert to Washington state.

  • Preset bail unfair to low-income defendants
    Preset bail unfair to low-income defendants

    When a person accused of crime misses a court date, judges properly issue an arrest warrant. Before hearing the reason why the defendant missed court and with the added stroke of a pen, the same judge may go further and take away that person's freedom until the next court appearance,...

Comments
Loading