Baltimore is nicknamed “Charm City.” Contrary to popular belief, it earned that appellation as recently as 1975, around the time New York acquired the equally ludicrous-sounding moniker “Fun City.” In both cases, the names were meant to promote tourism.
Although New York eventually outgrew its nickname, Baltimore continues to find itself charming. That charm was elusive in the spring of 2015, when scenes like the one depicted above became the order of the day, forcing authorities to place the city on lockdown. What precipitated the rioting and looting was the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody.
The extent to the damage was so severe that several of the rioters received serious jail time.
Another round of protests occurred in December after the trial of one of the Baltimore Police officers involved in Gray’s death ended in mistrial. The hatred of the “racist” police, which had ignited the first protest, became more palpable.
The murder rate in the city soared to unprecedented highs and remained high in the years that followed, reaching more than 300 in each of the years since Gray’s death.
Black residents are understandably at their wits’ end, but the identity of the individuals at whose feet the place the blame is beyond ironic. According to NPR, they hold the police responsible!
Some residents attribute the high murder rate to relaxed police patrols in the city following high-profile cases of police brutality. Officers have backed off in neighborhoods, like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested.
Talk about damned if you and damned if you don’t.
The article quotes, Rev. Kinji Scott, a local pastor whose view inadvertently encapsulates the problem. “We wanted the police there,” Scott says. “We wanted them engaged in the community. We didn’t want them beating the hell out of us, we didn’t want that.”
The pastor’s — and community’s — problem is seeing the police not as members of law enforcement but as thugs who “beat the hell out of” the people they’re meant to protect.
Scott insists that the solution is a “conversation between the communities directly involved.” But if any kind of meaningful dialog is to take place, then residents of the inner city need to be able to divest themselves of the attitude that the police, many of whom are themselves of color, are anti-black.
That sounds like a tall order at this point.