Baltimore's Battered Face
West Baltimore is struggling to put on a happy face for the world in light of the controversy stirred by President Donald Trump. It is not easy and the grim reality is that the city is, and has been for decades, in a state of steady decline and decay. The descriptions of rats, violent crime, and urban blight are not hyperbole, but tragic truth.
Democratic politicians and the liberal media went after the president with the Twitter hashtag #wearebaltimore, created to incite you to empathize with Baltimore as an individual or a group of individuals. So let’s take this anthropomorphic description of the city one step further.
Baltimore has missing teeth, knocked out from beatings or rotted from years of decay. It is covered with scars, new and old, from stabbings, gunshots, and beatdowns. Baltimore has battered and broken facial bones, shadowing sucker-punched black eyes gazing out with a dull stare, hardened by endless dependency.
The missing teeth compare with rows of houses where some are occupied but many are not. There are many sections of West Baltimore where occupied homes are flanked on either side by abandoned and condemned buildings. The Baltimore Sun chronicled the problem in a revealing article earlier this year, reporting that Baltimore has over 17,000 vacant houses and is struggling to get the problem under control. Where is Rep. Elijah Cummings? His silence is ear-shattering. My family has owned residential property in the Bolton Hill area of Rep. Cummings' district for more than 30 years and I am apprehensive that the continued neglect of the city will further metastasize and destroy my family's investment, just as it's destroyed that of other families.
Old scars and fresh wounds are evident to casual observers. Baltimore city has the highest murder rate among America’s big cities -- over 300 homicides each year. The Sun stated in September, 2018, that this “cycle of violence has gripped the city since 2015,” but the TV series “The Wire” which premiered in 2002, accurately depicted this “cycle of violence” in Baltimore much earlier.
The broken and battered face of Baltimore reflects the city’s abundance of criminals, but many of the broken facial bones are the result of hard kicks and slams from a few corrupt officers in the Baltimore Police Department. In June, Arthur Williams, a former Baltimore police officer, was convicted of second-degree assault and misconduct for beating a citizen on the street. In 2014, Baltimore Officer Vincent E. Cosom Jr. was caught on a surveillance camera sucker-punching a citizen at a bus stop and was charged with assault and perjury.
The Baltimore Sun summarized the problem in the headline for its December 20, 2018 report, “Corruption, turnover, violence: Baltimore Police Department faced many problems in 2018.” I strongly support law enforcement and know the Thin Blue Line stands between citizens and the anarchy and chaos of crime. But there are a few police in Baltimore who should not be in uniform and we need to recognize that in the totality of the problem.
The dull stare of the city is hardened by Baltimoreans who are capable of working but choose to rely on government subsidies and perpetual welfare. We are a generous people who want to help our neighbors, and we do. But the ongoing abuse of public services destroys the hope of the human spirit and institutionalizes dependency.
We see the greatest abuses from our elected officials in Baltimore city. Former mayor Shelia Dixon was fired for stealing Christmas gift cards from the city’s needy. Her successor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, ordered police to give “space” to rioters and looters to destroy parts of Baltimore during the 2015 riots. Last May, Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned amid a kickback scandal. And there’s Rep. Cummings, whose 23 years in Congress have brought only continued decay and nothingness. These and other liberal Democrats have demoralized the people of Baltimore and they are fleeing; Baltimore city has lost about 40% of its population since the 1960s.
You can’t blame this on President Trump. He is guilty of the sin of unvarnished observation, but responsibility for this lies with Democrats who have controlled Baltimore city for decades. The last Republican mayor in Baltimore city was Theodore McKeldin, who served when Lyndon Johnson was president. More than 50 years of liberal tyranny and oppression has successfully brought about a twisted dystopian reality in Baltimore and the world’s eyes are now on us. But it’s not because of President Trump; it’s because a half-century of liberal neglect gave the world something to look at, and it’s not pretty.
Daren Williams is a lifelong resident of Baltimore County, Maryland, and a member of the New Journey Advisory Board.