Being white in Baltimore

Being white in Baltimore

Remember the controversial article “Being White in Philly”? The article, which ran last March in Philadelphia Magazine, talked about how racial violence was an everyday fact of life in the City of Brotherly Love. It caused quite a stir. Mayor Michael Nutter said the article was “despicable,” which as Hans Bader sagely observed, was an outward show of contempt for free speech.

Now we have a “Being White” redux. This time the setting is Baltimore, which, like the rest of the country, is busy celebrating Black History Month. At least it was until blogger Tracey Halvorsen had to go and spoil it all.

Halvorsen authored an article about crime in “Charm City.” How she and her mostly white neighbors live in fear. And how no one seems to care. Or worse, how lots of people think it is the new normal.

This Baltimorean let it all hang out in an piece that is going viral called “Baltimore City, You Are Breaking My Hear,” published an on-line magazine called Medium.com. A few quotes:

I’m tired of being looked at like prey.

I’m tired of thinking about the horrifying final moments for 51 year old neighbor, Kim Leto, stabbed to death in her own home by two teenagers.

I’m tired of wondering why city leaders haven’t said sh*t about recent horrific murders committed by children in supposedly safe neighborhoods.

I’m tired of living next to a beautiful park that I’m scared to walk into at any time of day, thanks to regular stories of day-time muggings, drug dealing and gang violence.

Much like the article last year, this one contained all the requisite apologies. All the protestations about the author’s black friends. All the denials that she was a racist.

That did not change one fundamental fact: Crime in Baltimore is a predominantly black thing. And black-on-white crime is a secret that is simply not discussed. Other than to excuse it as a product of white racism.

As indictments go, Halvorsen’s was pretty mild. She left out the dozens and dozens of examples of black mob violence documented in Baltimore alone in White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence and How the Media Ignore It.

In 2012, this violence became so bad that Maryland State legislator Pat McDonough asked the Governor to declare a “No-Travel” Zone around the downtown Inner Harbor area. McDonough said he wanted to “prevent the consistent and dangerous attacks upon citizens by roving mobs of black youths.”

Yes, he really said that. There was more:

St. Patrick’s Day witnessed another out-of-control incident involving hundreds of young people in a mob-like posture, fighting among themselves, and attacking innocent tourists and visitors to the harbor area.

A video of that beating and subsequent violence went viral and was seen by millions around the world.

McDonough saw an episode of black mob violence at the Inner Harbor while downtown with his wife. Over the summer, just a few hours after a rally to protest the verdict in the trial over the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black mob stalked and attacked a restaurant worker on his way home. They put him in the hospital with broken bones all over his face.

At a Baltimore skating rink, black mob violence involving hundreds of people has a been a regular feature of weekend festivities for years. Assaults, property damage, attacks on police. Surrounding businesses have been hit as well. The dozens of examples of black mob violence connected to the rink range from throwing bricks through police car windows to vandalizing the Denny’s restaurant next door. The violence includes beating clerks and stealing merchandise from a nearby convenience store, fighting with police, jumping on cars, breaking window, and ruining paint.

A woman named Amber Ruth was caught up in one of the periodic spasms of violence where hundreds of “children” walk in the street, stop traffic, destroy property – and worse. Says Ruth to the plucky Patch newspaper:

I was on my way home on a Friday night around 9:30 pm and they shut down Skate Land at Putty Hill because of fighting and those little hoodlums busted out my back window with me sitting in my car when i was stopped at the light in at Rossville blvd & BelAir Rd.

The list is long. But last summer it got so long that one of the largest employers in Baltimore, T. Rowe Price, threatened to move its headquarters out of downtown if the violence continued.

The company never made good on its threat. But more and more people like Tracey Halvorsen are deciding that the old-world charm, parks, and natural beauty are just not worth it anymore. Not if you have to worry about violence every day, everywhere you go. Not if friends have to borrow your pit bull for a stroll through the neighborhood.

Some of the black mob crime is aided by city officials. Last year, 13 guards were indicted for their role in allowing inmates who were members of the Black Guerilla Family gang to take over day-to-day operations of the Baltimore City Detention Center. The guards, many of whom were women, allegedly “had become romantically involved with certain gang members — who smuggled drugs, cellphones, and other illicit material into the jail for the gang’s benefit,” said Slate.

The inmates were literally running the asylum.

The Baltimore Sun has been a leader in ignoring, condoning, and denying the black mob violence and black-on-white crime. It led the condemnation effort of Pat McDonough for his comments about violent black mobs. When it does report racial violence, it is only to dismiss it.

But racial violence came home to the Sun in January. One of its editors, John Fogg, was attacked when he was getting out of his car and heading for his house just a few blocks from Halvorsen’s. His skull was fractured in six places. He lost 10 teeth. The black suspect, in custody, was recently arrested for two other assaults, but charges were dropped before the case came to trial.

That might have been Halvorsen’s tipping point: Like the “Being White in Philly” article, Halvorsen’s story is provoking what one observer called “one big group therapy dialogue — with every major media site in the city running stories on it.”

Critics of the article are breaking predictably along racial lines: Many of the white commentators have said race has nothing to do with crime in Baltimore. The black commentators disagree: They say crime had everything to with race: The white privilege that caused her to notice. The white racism that caused the black people to commit the crimes and violence.

A resident named Shereen at a local blog that focuses on journalism and music operated by NPR reporter Lawrence Lanahan:

I think the problem here is that many white and/or upper/middle-class residents of Baltimore — and, of course, the Maryland suburbanites who work or play in Baltimore — show no sense of the structural problems plaguing the city and the roots of violence.

Lanahan says it’s time to give some tough love to the white people in Baltimore who notice — and do not like – crime:

It’s tough to talk about white privilege in the face of crimes like the ones Halvorsen cites, with innocent victims killed and badly injured and stunned families left to grieve. There’s also a lot that goes on, from individual decisions to local, state, and federal policy, that ensures–whether intentionally or not – that all the social ills stay where they “belong” in the neighborhoods that people like Halverson and, frankly, I won’t live in.

White neighborhoods get “more resources, than black neighborhoods” Lanahan said. That disparity somehow causes violence, he said.

The Medium news site published a pushback a few days later by Tim Barnett:

What breaks my heart is when someone says they are tired of looking at black youth in the city as potential predators, as if they are the ones at fault. What breaks my heart is when someone acknowledges the sadness of the death of a white woman, but does not acknowledge the sadness of the bleak lives of 2 young black men.

Two young black men have been arrested in the recent home invasion and murder of Kim Leto, also close to Halvorsen’s home.

Salon published a piece from a college professor who said he and his friends were too poor to worry about what was happening to middle-class white people.

So far the Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has not made comments similar to what the Mayor of Philadelphia said about “Being White in Philly,” that it was despicable.

But her point of view on crime is clear: Last year, when the Governor of Maryland suggested that Baltimore should put more cops on the street to fight a spike in visible and violent crime, Rawlings-Blake was having none of it: In a statement to the Baltimore Sun, she said:

Returning to the days of mass arrests for any and every minor offense might be a good talking point but it has been proven to be a far less effective strategy for actually reducing crime.

During her tenure, arrests have gone down to 50,000 a year, compared to 100,000 in 2005.

One of the reasons police do not arrest more black people in the Baltimore area is because black juries are often reluctant to convict black defendants. This observation of racial jury tampering comes from academic and legal studies such as “Jury Nullification, Race, and The Wire.” And from David Simon, creator of the Baltimore crime drama, “The Wire,” a veteran of 13 years on the cop beat for the Baltimore Sun.

Simon is the Hollywood uber-liberal who made headlines in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin:

The season on African-Americans now runs year round. If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford.

In his recent book, “Homicide, A Year on the Killing Streets,” Simon talks about racial jury nullification with unusual candor:

As with every other part of the criminal justice machine, racial issues permeate the jury system in Baltimore. Baltimore prosecutors take almost every case into court with the knowledge that the crime will be seen through the lens of the black community’s historical suspicion of a white-controlled police department and court system.

The effect of race on the judicial system is freely acknowledged by prosecutors and defense attorneys — black and white alike — although the issue is rarely raised directly in court.

Race is instead a tacit presence that accompanies almost every panel of twelve into a Baltimore jury room. Once, in a rare display, a black defense attorney actually pointed to her own forearm while giving closing arguments to an all-black panel: ‘Brothers and sisters,’ she said, as two white detectives went out of their minds in the back row of the gallery, ‘I think we all know what this case is about.’

Follow Colin Flaherty at his website, White Girl Bleed a Lot.


Colin Flaherty

Colin Flaherty

Colin Flaherty is the author of “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The return of racial violence and how the media ignore it” — a #1 Amazon bestseller. He has written for Los Angeles Times, NPR, Court TV, FrontPage Magazine, and WND.

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