Monday, July 21, 2008

Death Marches on in Baltimore City

On any given night, most likely someone will be murdered in the City of Baltimore. Each year, surveys are posted listing the most deadly cities in the United States. Each year, Baltimore is near the top of the list. This problem is nothing new. It goes back several decades now. How easy it is to call it "urban violence" like it's something that happens in a far distant place. However, when we think of the national landmarks of Baltimore, some of the most famous are just footsteps away from the most deadly street corners in the city. Pimlico race track is known for the Preakness Stakes each May, yet a short distance from the race track's southwestern corner is one of the most troubled areas in all of Baltimore. Johns Hopkins Hospital is known around the world as an innovator in healing, yet just blocks away from this magnificent giver of life are some of the most morbid street corners in town.

Right Minded Fellow has heard it all before. There are plenty of explanations of the problem. Some point to the failure of Baltimore City Schools turning lose an unskilled, unemployable population of young black men ill-equipped to face society. Many would argue it's the drug gangs. Bands of criminals run the streets savagely murdering anyone who stands in their way. Some slick reporter from channel 13 will almost surely stick a microphone in the typical person on the street's face to a a response of something like, "Oh, hon, we have all these guns going around killing people." Sadly many are aware of the breakdown of the black family and that boys are being raised in fatherless homes. Of course, others blame it on white racism. Somehow those white fat cats living out in the county are responsible. What's interesting about all these explanations is that it's always someone else who is to blame. Nobody is stepping forward and taking responsibility. Law enforcement is seldom effective in bad neighborhoods. There's only so much a civilian police force can do in a polite society. Still, the problem persists. The blame game can be played forever without saving a single life. Each murder is first and foremost the responsibility of the person who takes another person's life. There are so many enablers, apologists, incompentents, and ineffective city officials, it's difficult to know where to turn next, but every factor must be dealt with assetively immediately. No one will have solutions for the overall homicide epidemic in the city right away, but one by one, each explosive situation can be identified and diffused.

The 2007 murder stats break down as follows: Black females - 15; Black males - 251 ; Hispanic females - 2; Hispanic males - 2; Asian females and other - 0; Asian males and other - 2; White females - 4; White males - 8; Unknown or undisclosed females - 0; Unknown or undisclosed males - 7; In other words, a black male is six times more likely to get murdered than the entire population of other categories combined!

As of 7/19/08, 114 people have been murdered in Baltimore. At the current pace, Baltimore could see perhaps as many as 80 fewer homicides mindful that the city is just getting into the peak of the long hot summer nights when the number of murders typically rises. Though any reduction in the loss of life is a blessing, Baltimore will still see well over two hundred murders. More days than not, someone will die on Baltimore city streets. Most of them young black men. One murder is one too many. Every year there are more speeches, more blue ribbon committees, more task forces, and more money being spent. Who wouldn't love to attribute the notable lower tally to some specific actions that have been effective? Obviously, it's way to soon to tell. Only if improvement continues for a span of several years can we determine what efforts were successful in turning this horrendous problem around. For right now, there is only one cause that can be given with assurance, LUCK.

Is our city content to just write off one segment of the population. On any given night, chances are better than not a black man will be murdered. Why?

If were not part of the solution, we're part of the problem. If you live in Maryland and pay taxes, it's your responsibility as a taxpayer to oversee where and on what our lawmakers are spending our money. Plenty of money goes to Baltimore City for many purposes including law enforcement and community support. The Thornton commission helped provide Baltimore City Schools a measure of parity in finances to the wealthier suburban county.

Every citizen of Maryland has some roll to play in solving this problem. Awareness and concern are a start, but nothing short of action on all levels will succeed. That we keep hearing the same old causes and see the same old solutions constantly failing show clearly the real conversation hasn't started yet.

May this humble submission by one voice to say let's get started NOW!

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