How Do We Fix Baltimore?
Leave it to Kate Bladow to ask this question, one I’ve wrestled with for quite some time. I wish I had an answer. The first step is acknowledging Baltimore isn’t broken for everyone, as Dan Rodricks alludes in his column about Baltimore’s competing realities. Violent crime, drug addiction and poverty plague thousands. But thousands also enjoy the city’s waterfront, vibrant and growing arts scene and evolving business climate. We should then ask ourselves: Whom are we fixing Baltimore for?
If, for example, we invested the estimated $2.8bn required to renovate our public schools, whom are we fixing the schools for? The public school student body is roughly ninety percent African American and low income. In fixing our public schools, we’re working to alleviate problems experienced primarily by poor, black children.
Of course, the problems of poor, black children are generally not seen as problems for everyone. The social problems that make Baltimore an “urban hellhole” deserving of “Third World” status are easy to ignore or overlook if you live in Roland Park or Guilford. I realize this is a gross oversimplification, but how do you begin to fix a problem when so many are unaware of its severity or even its existence? And how do you convince people these are problems when they don’t believe they concern them?
Baltimore’s myriad problems are complex and deep-seated. Fixing them requires citizen activism, an open discourse on race and greater political imagination. And more. But I think we need to first move people to understand what the problems are, whom the problems affect and how the problems hurt the city overall.