Tuesday, April 28, 2015

State of Emergency

Baltimore was always one of those cities that people warned you about before you visited, in vague terms that masked the racism of the comments: You need to know where you're going, Don't wander far from the hotel, Stick close to the harbor, Don't stop on the way in. A lot has been said this week about the institutional segregation that encouraged African American residents to "respect... the sensibilities and prejudices of the white people" and led to two separate and unequal HUD programs in the city of Baltimore. One of the most interesting things I've read this week, which comes from the author of a book Simon recommends, is about the role of the Baltimore Sun in advancing and solidifying segregation and anti-Semitism in the city.

"Before I began working on the book, I had little idea of the extent of the white-supremacist record of the newspaper that employed me from 1969 until 2004. The record makes me utterly uneasy – and not only because of The Sun. My uneasiness stems from a realization that other newspaper companies in various parts of the country may share similar histories of segregation, except that those remain hidden because no one has probed them."

A month ago, the police commissioner was under fire for declaring that Baltimore had a race problem. And even though the reporters of this article were writing about a topic on which "leaders agree," they tempered their discussion with examples of the races getting along and the point that the commissioner came from a place that ranked even higher on the racism scale than Baltimore. Media coverage of Baltimore that focuses on the "mother-of-the-year" beating her rioting son seems to me no better than the Sun of 1910. By all means, let's blame Baltimore's problems on bad parenting.

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