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Don't ignore working class - in city or suburbs

People attend a candlelight vigil at the Colonial Square Apartments in Glen Burnie for Tyrique Hudson who was killed at the complex. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

If you want to understand why Donald Trump is president, read Anirban Basu’s “Suburbanites, come back to Baltimore” (April 22) on what made Baltimore — and America — great: hardworking parents who invest in their children.

He claims “our region’s cultural heritage and greatness are inextricably linked” to elite institutions such as the Walters Arts Gallery, Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore Symphony. Somehow, he missed the Port of Baltimore, Sparrows Point, City College, organized labor, Morgan State University and more than a few other building blocks of the Baltimore region’s greatness. To be fair, he does mention Little Italy, the cultural birthplaces of world class political leaders from two Mayor Tommy D’Allesandros to Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In context, Mr. Basu sounds he likes it more for its expensive restaurants than its bocce courts.

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But he’s right that fine art, high-priced education and classical music are wonderful for the people who have the time, money, and interest to consume them. But then, gratuitously, he sarcastically labels Essex “exotic,” Rosedale “romantic,” and Glen Burnie “glorious.” What do these suburban communities have in common?

They are ethically-diverse communities where, for decades, many of Baltimore’s working parents have moved to raise their children. A hundred years ago, their newest residents were Italians, Germans and Poles; today they are African Americans and Latinos. These are not the elites on the UMMS board who got their hands caught in the cookie jar. They are not the financial speculators who made millions in the 2008 financial crisis as working families lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. And they are not the millionaire crooks who bribe college coaches to admit their under-performing children.

Mr. Basu is right that these communities, home to working people from around the world, are exotic — to many members of the Center Club. Romantic — to couples who marry and raise their families there. And glorious — to their children who ride their first bicycles and eat their first ice cream cones there. Revealingly, Mr. Basu neglects to disparage higher income suburbs where, I guess, he thinks his social equals live.

Mr. Basu also is right that more Baltimore suburbanites need to explore the city. They’ll find it’s filled with people like themselves — honest, imperfect, loving and hardworking. But maybe it’s time for Mr. Basu to get out of his own class bubble and explore the Baltimore suburbs, too. From his oped, it probably would be a culturally-enriching experience for him.

Jim Rosapepe, Annapolis

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 21, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, in the Maryland Senate.

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