Baltimore the beautiful city

Posted July 8, 2015 on 3:09 pm | In the category Human Rights, Racism, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Has anyone ever produced more nostalgically beautiful music about the United States than the ultra-Canadian McGarrigle Sisters and their talented offspring Rufus and Martha Wainwright, especially in their communal album “The McGarrigle Hour”?  If you don’t know what we mean, get yourself a copy of this splendid  cd, listen to cut 17, “Talk to me of Mendocino”, the almost heartbreaking  love song written by Anna McGarrigle to a California that will soon no longer exist, and  move on  to cut number 18, “Baltimore the Beautiful City”, listed as a traditional song that they sang as buskers in US cities.This song was of course not written about the fires that ravaged Baltimore, the northernmost of southern cities, in the spring, but it captures the essence of the emotional drain that followed in its wake and no doubt found resonance in the nightmare that followed in Charleston, South Carolina.

Strong Men in anguish prayed

calling out to the heavens for rain

while the fire in ruins laid

Baltimore their beautiful city.

Between March 23rd and June 30, 2015 there were 100 homicides in Baltimore.  The excellent and historic Baltimore newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, recently published the basic facts about these 100 homicides: name of victim, place of residence, age, gender and race.    Three of the victims were white, one Asian, and 7 female, all the rest were black males. and almost all of them were under 35.  No doubt each one of these cases has a backstory worth hearing, but one thing is very clear:  It is dangerous to be a young black man in Baltimore, and there is every reason to feel that you have very few prospects of an improved life through hard work or better education if you were born into this syndrome.  There are of course exceptions, but such exceptions tend to move out into the safer areas of town or out of town, which is also where the white population has been drifting for years.  The city centre is simply too dangerous and if you can afford to leave it, you do leave.  There is no information given on this list about the perpetrators of the homicides, but it is certainly not the case that the police force, which has  been too easily identified as the cause rather than the solution of Baltimore’s racial problems, (by most estimates about half of the police officers in Baltimore are black)  was involved with  many, or even any, of these homicides.  Any serious improvement in this situation can only occur when the basic problem of  an understandable feeling of hopelessness in young black males is met by a willingness in the population as a whole to deal with the underlying problems for it.  Baltimore, the beautiful city, still has some of that southern grace at its northernmost outpost, but also much of  an understood racial division that too often is a destructive part of it.  The solution has to start in finding a way out of  this social structure.




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  1. my memories of Baltimore include Earl Weaver at Memorial Stadium sneaking a smoke before storming out to berate Jim Palmer, a Sunday afternoon game at Camden Yards with a Baltimore expat and her semi Canadian husband, a crazy barmaid at the Cats Eye in Fells Point, eating Bertha’s mussels, and listening to Nina Simone describe Baltimore better than anyone else and seeing The Wire capture the city in all of its unpleasant so io political grit. Great city with horrible history of police brutality, invisible people ignored and side tracked.

    Comment by Gunner — July 10, 2015 #

  2. Maryland was a border state, not a southern, during the Civil War with divided loyalties. Baltimore is a seaport, the closest to the mid-west before the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the 1959, and had became a heavy manufacturing center by the end of the 19th century. Baltimore’s seaport and manufacturing facilities, such as Bethlehem Steel, were entry points for employment and upward mobility to middle class status for many, particularly African-Americans. Those employment opportunities disappeared with automation replacing the stevedores in the seaport and the exporting of heavy manufacturing to off shore locations, accelerated by free trade, cutting off economic opportunities for those such as in Sandtown, where Freddy Grey lived.

    The Baltimore metropolitan area has a substantial, well educated and skilled African-American middle class, but like its white counterpart, most have left the city for surrounding, suburban counties with less crime & taxes, better schools, etc. The African-American middle and upper class in the city dominant its municipal government and are a force in state politics. The mayor and the majority of the City Council and municipal bureaucracy are African-Americans. Until his recent removal by the mayor, the Police Commissioner was African-American for failure to control the crime spike since the riots. The problems in Sandtown, thus, would appear to be issues of class, not race, although some would counter with claims of institutional racism, what ever that is.

    The politicians and society have given the under-resourced police a near impossible task of responding to the problems in areas such as Sandtown-Winchester in west Baltimore, which has been known for many years as the Wild West. I am no fan of authority but it seems to me that the politicians have made the police the scapegoat to save their own necks and cover up theirs and society’s failures. Since the riots, homicides and shootings have spiked from a relatively low level to their previous highs, virtually all are African-Americans killing and shooting African-Americans in these areas, while urban myth has racially motivated police beating and killing innocent people in mass. Many of the killing and shootings are gangs making war against one another. Also, there is an abundance of guns among the populace exercising their Second Amendment rights.

    The convicted members of the Black Gorilla Gang incarcerated in the state penitentiary in the City operated it from the inside as if it were their private fiefdom. Once the scandal broke, prison guards and other prison personnel were indicted and tried and convicted in federal court for being on the take. Several female guards had children by the incarcerated gang members.

    If Black lives mattered, where were the politicians and community members when little children were shot to death in cross fires while sitting on their front steeps, not once but on several occasions. If Black lives mattered, where were the politicians and community members when a young African-American man with a promising future was killed when used as a human shield during a gang shoot-out at a bus stop two blocks from his work place at the University of Maryland Hospital in downtown Baltimore where he waited for a bus home on his way home from work at 1 a.m.? While “black lives matter” is a catchy expression directed at the police, it is directed at the scape goats for society’s failure.

    The Raven

    Comment by The Raven — July 27, 2015 #

  3. Here is the sad follow-up to the violent events that rocked Baltimore city and the country earlier this summer, and left people hoping that the tide of violence would surely now turn.
    On the contrary. Baltimore had 189 homicides through July 2015 compared to 119 murders by the end of July, 2014 There were 45 murders in July alone. What to do? What to do?

    Comment by The Raven's Echo — August 5, 2015 #

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