343, the number of homicides reported in 2017 in the city of Baltimore. 343, the number that made USA Today determine that Baltimore is the most dangerous city in America. 343, the number of victims slain in Baltimore City streets. The youngest, 5-month-old Emmanuel Johnson. Killed by his blind father who beat him with his guide stick. The oldest, 97-year-old Waddell Tate. Killed by unknown assailants who invaded his east Baltimore home and took nothing of apparent value. Baltimore, the home of popular television shows like, The Wire, Homicide, and The Corner. Known not just for its rich seafood or small city row homes, but also for it’s criminals.
Home to over 600,000 residents, Baltimore belongs to no counties, making it the largest independent city in the United States. Governed by the Constitution of the State of Maryland, created in 1867, Baltimore has a rich history. As a major seafaring and trading community, Baltimore played an important role in many of America’s historic events, such as The Revolutionary War, the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner, and the African-American Slave trade. In fact, many US slave owners depended on Baltimore’s slave jails to house their slaves as they traveled from one city to the next. The jails were built to keep slaves from escaping while their owners slept at nearby inns. Slaves were kept in the sweltering heat. Men, women, children, and infants, dressed in rags, shackled in chains. On July 24, 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg, the Union officers freed the inmates of their concrete cells, which were located mainly on Pratt Street in the Inner Harbor.
Before the Civil War, dozens of slave traders operated the human trafficking business at the Inner Harbor alongside storefronts on Pratt and other near-by streets. Advertising regularly in The Sun Newspaper, proclaiming “5000 Negroes Wanted!” On any given day, one might see a large procession of black faces, both young and old, chained together, migrating from Pratt Street to Fells Point where they boarded ships heading to New Orleans. Domestic slave trade was booming at this time, due to the newly invented cotton gin, which revolutionized agriculture in the South. Thousands of slaves were shipped from Baltimore on a regular basis, tearing men from their wives, and mothers from their children. Thunderous weeping flooded the air as men, women, and children cried for their loved ones, knowing full well they would never again see or hear from them in this life.
Family ties dissolved. Relationships undone. And people still wonder why there are so many children without fathers in the home. Systematically broken and still breaking, Baltimore’s bloody streets didn’t begin with black on black crime. It began with oppression and systematic division. It began with Baltimore slave owners brainwashing children to hate their own skin. It began with the rise of capitalism. Free enterprise, the freedom to care only for my own personal financial well-being, despite how it may affect civilization.
The effects are seen in Baltimore’s crime statistics.
12 bank robberies
364 street robberies
445 aggravated assaults
571 auto thefts
Is this an example of the haves’ versus the have nots? While Baltimore is surrounded by some of the wealthiest counties in America, and while Maryland is deemed as having one of the best school systems in the country, Baltimore seems to have been left behind. According to Project Baltimore, Baltimore City’s school system gets a significant amount of financial aid from both state and federal governments. But instead of the funding going to the schools, it appears to be going into the pockets of administrators. Baltimore City administrators are among the highest paid in the state, trumping Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and Anne Arundel County. They also get paid more than many other major cities. So, while Baltimore city school principals, vice principals, and superintendents walk away with extra spending cash, Baltimore’s children are forced into aged and overcrowded school buildings, with no heat or air conditioning. Teachers don’t create their own curriculum. Instead, the curriculum is handed down from headquarters, giving education a one size fits all approach. Children requiring special education are left to fall behind their peers in the classroom, as the schools do not staff enough properly trained special-needs teachers. Some parents feel afraid to ask for help on behalf of their learning-disabled children; fearing they will end up in a “pipeline to prison” scenario. A circumstance that happens far too often to young black males in large cities like Baltimore. Some researchers suggest that as many as 70% of males who have emotional disabilities, such as bipolar disorder or learning conditions, such as dyslexia, end up getting arrested before they even finish school. When the education system fails these youngsters, they can end up spending years in jail, after which, they come out more damaged than before.
What’s worse, Baltimore’s city schools are segregated into zones. These zones dictate where children can attend schools, based on where they live. So, as you may imagine, the better schools are in the better neighborhoods. The poorer schools are in the more impoverished neighborhoods. This type of structure prevents competition between schools, so teachers and administrators don’t have to focus on improving their activities, education, or facilities, because they know they will automatically receive most of the children in their vicinity. Unless parents can afford private school or are lucky enough to have their child selected to attend a good charter school, they are essentially stuck sending their child to their neighborhood zone school. If you happen to live in a neighborhood with a great zone school, good for you. But most of these schools tend to exhibit all the problems we’ve discussed previously, and children are not receiving the education or the encouragement they deserve.
Another area of concern to Baltimore residents are the biased standardized testing, which occur all over the country. But they are particularly damaging for our inner-city youth. How can you give the same tests to all children across the state, when all children are not receiving the same level of education? What’s more, many minorities living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, don’t have access to the same cultural experiences as their wealthier counterparts. In addition, it has been well documented that as Black and Latino students begin to do well on the tests, the test is then changed. In some areas, they have a rate of expectancy, based on the scores they expect for certain children. It has been shown that the expectancy rate for Black and Latino students is far less than for White and Asian students. This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it’s not because minority students aren’t intelligent, they simply are not receiving the same resources as other children. There are schools that don’t even have proper funding in their budget for yearly field trips. Because of this lack of equality, the knowledge that a child needs to succeed in this world is drastically reduced. If you take away a person’s knowledge, you take away their power.
But a man will only remain powerless for so long, and then he may decide to take the power by force. And that contributes to crime and gang violence. With no real education, what type of jobs can we expect them to receive? If we have not instilled them with the belief that they are powerful and made to do great things, how can we expect them to be great?
Some would say this is a form of new age systematic slavery. Keep them from receiving a proper education, which will increase the likelihood of them feeding the private prison system, and in turn, corporations line their pockets with blood money made from unfulfilled human life.
The city is failing its disadvantaged sons and daughters. Scandal within the school system and the justice system is perverse and out of control. As a Baltimorean, I am saddened to watch a city I once loved, turn into a hotbed of calamity and misfortune. Suffering that originated in the 1800’s and has never quite been resolved.
There are so many layers to this beast, it’s hard to know where to start. But improving the educational system seems like the right place. “With knowledge comes power”. With a real chance at education, and exposure to life outside of the concrete jungle, our youth could turn this city around. Let’s rid Baltimore of zone schools, and bias standardized testing. Let’s start using state and federal dollars to help kids with disabilities and improve school buildings in inner city schools.
Sweet Baltimore, get your shit together. Otherwise, I’m moving to Florida. I’d rather deal with hurricanes than armed robbery.
Until Next time,