Monday, January 7, 2013

Thinking about Humanity in Baltimore

Just a short thought.  Tonight on The Marc Steiner Show co-hosts Marc Steiner and Anthony McCarthy were discussing homicides in Baltimore City.  I missed the show recently when Marc read the names of all 217 people who were homicide victims in Baltimore City last year.  They commented on how important it was to get the names out as each one was a life lost--even if the person had a criminal record and died in gang violence.  Each person was human.  And saying "it's just gang violence" sort of dehumanizes the individuals involved.

That got me thinking.  When I speak with people who might move to Baltimore, I describe it as a basically safe city--if you avoid the drug trade and know what neighborhoods to stay out of.  I tell people that the whole city is not like The Wire.  I make such comments off-handedly.

What struck me is the following.  It is good to encourage people to move to Baltimore.  And I do think Baltimore is generally a safe city for most of the residents and most visitors.  What I realized though is that when I "write off" neighborhoods with off-handed comments about just avoiding them to be safe, it ignores something important.  It dehumanizes the people of those neighborhoods.  Avoiding the fact that there is a problem does not help to solve the problem.  And while there may not be much that I, as an individual, necessarily can do to solving the problem, writing it off is definitely not the right answer.

In the future, I'll still tell people the city is relatively safe.  However, I'll tell people that being safe involves having some street smarts.  And, I'll admit that there are areas of the city that are less safe.  But I won't say, "But you can just ignore that."  Instead, since most people I talk to about moving to the city are thinking about moving here to study or teach a a university, if I finish with anything, I'll try to finish with, "I hope you can come here and help be part of the solution."  

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