When the president called Baltimore “a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess” and said that its residents are “living in hell,” some of the media and the usual purveyors of discord detonated a familiar refrain: “Racism!”
The rationale for the criticism seems to follow this half-witted logic: If one criticizes a city that is more populated by blacks than whites and the majority of its leadership is black, it naturally follows that the critic is a “racist.”
Should we assume that Bernie Sanders is a racist because he said in December 2015 after a Baltimore tour, “You’d think you were in a third-world country”?
Or perhaps we should label the former mayor, Catherine Pugh, a racist because she said during a tour of the city, “You can smell the rats!”
“Rats and rodents” are only a part of Baltimore’s problems. Here’s just one report on Baltimore schools: “A new project that analyzed 2017 state testing data found that one-third of Baltimore, Maryland, high schools have zero students proficient in math.” (www.americanactionnews.com)
The only thing that makes the infestation of “rats and rodents” seem less threatening is the infestation of crime and drugs that plague the city. These stats are from the Baltimore City FOP as of Monday, July 29, 8:38 am: Murders -- six murders in Baltimore since July 26; 38 murders total for July; 196 murders since the beginning of 2019 (22% higher than 2018). Shootings - six shootings since July 26; 80 shootings in the month of July; 437 shootings since the beginning of 2019 (30% higher than 2018). Even Baltimore’s Deputy Police Commissioner isn’t safe on Baltimore streets. On July 19, he and his wife were robbed at gunpoint on Pratt Street.
So what’s the problem and what’s to be done about it? And on whom does the burden fall to “fix” it? When Trump suggested that the city was rife with corrupt and/or incompetent officials, heads exploded: “Racism!”
Enter Al Sharpton, the Flamethrower-in-Chief. You can always count on him to show up at a fire, spraying accelerant on the flames. In lieu of a cogent solution to a city in crisis, Sharpton diverts the issue of responsibility with his caterwauling: “Racism!”
If we are not going to hold city officials responsible for the dismal mess in Baltimore, whom should we hold accountable? The rats? I doubt that Ratatouille and friends are on the payroll. Then, in an attempt to assuage Baltimore’s rat concerns, the city has been blessed with this good news: “D.C. has more rats than Baltimore.” (Apparently the Pied Piper showed up, called out the rats, and city officials took a head count.)
To be clear — Baltimore officials do not have a stellar reputation. Two of the last three mayors were forced to resign. The third, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, during the Baltimore riots in 2015, ordered the City Police to stand down and told them to give “those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.” Even she was later labeled a racist after referring to “thugs” who were involved in the mayhem. And let’s not forget the former police commissioner who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for failing to file tax returns.
The challenges in Baltimore are all reminders that throwing money at a problem without competent and scrupulous oversight is not productive, and it is just as unproductive to assume a “racist” lurks around every corner.
While many areas in Baltimore are flourishing (the Inner Harbor first comes to mind), and Baltimore is home to Johns Hopkins, the definition of medical excellence, a rising tide is supposed to raise all boats, not just the yachts.
The President is angry, and I’m not happy, either. Baltimore is my hometown. It’s the city where my immigrant grandparents settled. It’s the city where I was born and spent much of my childhood. It’s the city to which I returned as an adult to work. And it breaks my heart to see a once-thriving metropolis neglected and deteriorating. Baltimore deserves, and its citizens should demand, accountability from its officials.
Mollie K. Sprinkle writes from Hampstead.