Millions were appalled by the intensity of the terroristic violence of the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville. The Sun’s blogger David Zurawik, even cited a “moral outrage when [President Donald] Trump refused to categorically denounce the people carrying those torches and the violence they generated,” (“Zurawik: With Trump's rally, watching a president coming unglued before our eyes,” Aug. 23). Yet, in Baltimore, silence dominated the response to Gov. Larry Hogan’s subtler but race-infused violent cancellation of the $2.9 billion Red Line light rail project. The project’s 10,000 jobs, reduced commute times, and transit-oriented-development at its 19 stations from Bayview to Woodlawn would have proven economically transformative for the region. Mr. Hogan openly racialized his decision when he spent the money dedicated to the Red Line on road projects in rural, white areas of the state. He knew that angry reaction in the state and in Baltimore would be tempered by the customary normalization of white privilege and its accompanying violence in racial, economic, political and social relations.
When normalized as governing social policy, white privilege need not be self-announced, blatant, or bombastic. It becomes “just the way things are” and not particularly noteworthy. The Red Line’s benefits to African Americans and by association, low-income and transit-dependent households and the region’s economy must not be realized. White privilege always retards development. Nevertheless, there are no enforceable public policies whether in housing, health, education, employment or transportation that are permitted to challenge white privilege in form or substance.
The theatrical, fascistic violence of Charlottesville has the same origin as the subtler violence in the race-driven transportation policies of Governor Hogan, i.e. the need to exercise continuous control over the economic, political, and social status of the African American. Instead of an equitable transit policy that made 10,000 jobs and reduced commute times available to struggling families and impoverished communities, Mr. Hogan chose the violence of poverty and high unemployment — the punitive status quo. Therein lies a violence greater than that in Charlottesville, or as Gandhi put it, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
The Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition seeks to complete the Red Line project but with the caveat: Transit equity is the gateway through which Baltimore must pass if it is to have a modern, economy-boosting, racially just, multi-modal transportation system.
The writer is the president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
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