How Baltimore became Baltimore
April 30, 2015 7:59 AM   Subscribe

The Washington Post sheds some much needed, highly relevant historical context on "[t]he long, painful and repetitive history of how Baltimore became Baltimore".

"And the really terrible irony — which brings us back to Baltimore today — is that each of these shocks further diminished the capacity of low-income urban black communities to recover from the one that came next. It's an irony, a fundamental urban inequality, created over the years by active decisions and government policies that have undermined the same people and sapped them of their ability to rebuild, that have again and again dismantled the same communities, each time making them socially, economically, and politically weaker."
posted by ourt (32 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Marshall Project published an interview with David Simon yesterday which sheds light on how the police in Baltimore have become so dysfunctional.
posted by photoslob at 8:06 AM on April 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, anybody who doesn't "get" Baltimore and its brave protestors should be mandated to take a sixty hour course entitled "The Wire."
posted by pwally at 8:08 AM on April 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Further back in history, it should not be forgotten that although Maryland on the Union side, it was a slave-holding state until 1864. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not apply to it, only the Confederate states. It wouldn't be until Maryland's own state constitutional convention the next year that it formally abolished slavery. Baltimore is just one part of the state's racial legacy.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:15 AM on April 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. Anyone who wants to talk about the protests and the Gray case specifically should go over to the Freddie Gray protests thread. This post is about redlining and history. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


"That was a colossal fail," Johns Hopkins sociologist Stefanie DeLuca says of the language public officials have been using this week. "I thought the governor calling Baltimore a 'state of emergency' was a colossal fail..."

Loltimore! Fail!
posted by johnnydummkopf at 8:20 AM on April 30, 2015


Previously on the blue: The Ghetto is Public Policy.
posted by rtha at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


And really, as the article mentions, this isn't just how Baltimore became Baltimore, but how so many cities around the country became what they are today. Redlining, land covenants, sundown neighborhoods, the school to prison pipeline, failure to provide public services, etc. They've all contributed and continue to contribute to problems today.
posted by kmz at 8:27 AM on April 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


Billmon is on fire about this today.
Inner cities have become living, breathing refutations of lies of American Exceptionaliam -- embarrassing reminders of all that history. The cities have to be ignored -- or, if they can't be ignored, rationalized as failures of "black culture" or the "welfare state." Because the historical truth is taboo, profane, heretical. Dangerous. So instead of an "Invisible Man" we have entire urban communities that are ordered to make themselves invisible. To be silent.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:56 AM on April 30, 2015 [19 favorites]


"Sheeeeeit!"
posted by Fizz at 9:25 AM on April 30, 2015


hey, has anyone in this thread seen the wire
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:31 AM on April 30, 2015 [12 favorites]




hey, has anyone in this thread seen the wire

Yes. I attribute my deep understanding of social conditions in Baltimore, which is far more nuanced than that of other upper-middle class white liberals, to my having seen The Wire.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:41 AM on April 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


cool. just wondering
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:44 AM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation

My Baltimore Riots
The Baltimore riots in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death have been a social action, perpetrated by hundreds of people in various locations around the city. And so, as with war, in order to understand why and how these riots happened, we also have to start asking questions not about individual motives and actions, but about how society works.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:26 AM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've recommended it before on the Blue, but Kruse's White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism is an excellent case study in how, after the end of legal segregation, racist values, tactics, and groups all served to perpetuate de facto segregation.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:50 AM on April 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Possibly threadjumping. I read a comment that redlining was invented in Baltimore. How true is this, and what time period are they talking about? Are we talking about the National Housing Act of 1934 and FHA? I do know that the Sweet trials had occurred a decade before that, and that many cities had racial neighborhood agreements from the 19th century.
posted by halifix at 11:01 AM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everything in that article - aside from having a black mayor and police chief* - applies to Milwaukee and has made us the most segregated metro area in the country. Wisconsin incarcerates more black men per capita - by far - than any other state. Yes! Including Southern states! It's just appalling what we've done to entire communities. I honestly don't know why we haven't had more protests. I guess people are too beaten down, literally and figuratively.

*Our county sheriff is black but he's a Republican nutjob popular with the NRA who has referred to non-violent protesters as thugs, etc. Like, do you not understand that you wouldn't even be able to have that job without the non-violent protests that happened in the 60s?
posted by desjardins at 11:05 AM on April 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Panjandrum I read a comment that redlining was invented in Baltimore. How true is this, and what time period are they talking about?

I don't think redlining started in Baltimore any earlier than anywhere else; after all, it was specifically associated with the New Deal housing programs. But it was exacerbated by the concentration of African Americans in small land areas that were easily redlined. Baltimore had race-based zoning from 1911 until it was ruled unconstitutional in 1917 and then the race-based covenants started the following year and lasted until the late '60s.

Here's a thing on the zoning:

Baltimore Tries Drastic Plan Of Race Segregation
posted by GodricVT at 12:48 PM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]




related: Ferguson's Fortune 500 Company - "Why the Missouri city—despite hosting a multinational corporation—relied on municipal fees and fines to extract revenue from its poorest residents"
The final twist in the story is an extraordinary one. Under the Hancock Amendment, municipalities can raise their sales tax without a local referendum in order to pay for the retirement of TIF bonds. And according to the Ferguson city budget, sales taxes account for the largest share of the city’s revenues. Next come municipal court fines. And after that franchise taxes—taxes on telecommunications, natural gas, and electricity usage. Only after that comes revenue from property taxes.

This means Ferguson extracts more revenue from African American renters seeking to heat their homes in the winter, light them after dark, and talk on their cell phones than it does from those who own the homes themselves. Taken together, these regressive taxes account for almost 60 percent of the city’s revenue. In contrast, property taxes—which are, at least in theory, progressive taxes—account for just under 12 percent. The vast wealth of the city, scarcely taxed at all, is locked up in property that African Americans were prevented from buying for most of its history.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:27 PM on April 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, anybody who doesn't "get" Baltimore and its brave protestors should be mandated to take a sixty hour course entitled "The Wire."

I really like the Wire, but the biggest problem is that everyone who has seen it, thinks it's about Baltimore and it's really not. It borrows a lot of local color, but it's really about US society in general, that's the point.

A TV show about Baltimore would be a lot grimmer.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:30 PM on April 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


but the biggest problem is that everyone who has seen it, thinks it's about Baltimore and it's really not

I'm not everyone, and indeed, don't know everyone, but everyone I know, including myself, do not even remotely think, nor have ever thought it's exclusively about Baltimore, in terms of the things that happen and why they happen. Is there a source for everyone thinking otherwise?
posted by juiceCake at 2:34 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


it looks like we're getting closer to everyone understanding that we're talking about much more than Baltimore:
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America. There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.”

- Hillary Clinton
via Charles Blow in "Violence in Baltimore" [NYT]
posted by Little Dawn at 6:57 PM on April 30, 2015


I read a comment that redlining was invented in Baltimore. How true is this, and what time period are they talking about?

I don't know if Baltimore was an early adopter of redlining practices; this was, after all, a policy implemented on the federal level. Kruse makes the point that redlining was formalized in 1933 with the Home Owners Loan Commission, a New Deal program, but that it was the adoption of those racial standards by the Federal Housing Commission and the Veteran's Administration (a big chunk of the GI Bill was helping with home loans) in 1944 that amplified the practice. Combine this with the explicitly racist policy of the National Association of Real Estate Boards (which excluded Blacks) of not "introducing to a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individual whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in the neighborhood," and you get a collusion of governmental and industry policy in the implementation of segregation.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:46 AM on May 1, 2015


This really struck me: "...we don't acknowledge that the problems we attribute to poor neighborhoods reflect generations of decisions made by people who have never lived there."
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2015


Foreign Lives Matter
posted by infini at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2015


This means Ferguson extracts more revenue from African American renters seeking to heat their homes in the winter, light them after dark, and talk on their cell phones than it does from those who own the homes themselves. Taken together, these regressive taxes account for almost 60 percent of the city’s revenue. In contrast, property taxes—which are, at least in theory, progressive taxes—account for just under 12 percent. The vast wealth of the city, scarcely taxed at all, is locked up in property that African Americans were prevented from buying for most of its history.

This is true, but it is also a very narrow view of the issue. Say the revenue was inverted and property taxes made up the largest share-rent would also rise to cover this, ultimately coming out of the same pockets, and property taxes are NOT progressive. The 5000 dollar bill on that new shiny home for someone who makes 150k (1/30th) a year is way, way less than the 1250 bill on that post war two bedroom for someone making 25k (1/20 and no slack in that budget) a year (numbers obviously pulled out of the air). They are flat taxes.

Revenues to run a government HAVE to come from somewhere and due to local/state laws (FI Oregon has NO sales tax and curtailed property taxes-but high income taxes and very high Development Charges and ROW fees) and historical reasons they ratio of revenue streams is a real hodge podge across the nation.

I will say having fines form a meaningful revenue stream is obviously a red flag for poor governance and likely to introduce perverse incentives.
posted by bartonlong at 12:44 PM on May 1, 2015


Chiming in about the earliest origins of redlining: Seattle had racially restrictive covenants/deeds created by housing developers as early as the 1910s and late as the 1960s. Seems like it was a generally accepted practice nationwide.

On a personal note, my parents lived just south of Union, near Seattle University in the '80s. After several break-ins, they tried to get renters insurance. The rep at that office took them to a map on the back wall and said "You see this red line? We don't insure anything south of there." This of course, was the historically black part of town.
posted by cult_url_bias at 1:49 PM on May 1, 2015


via Smithsonian.com:
When Oregon was admitted to the United States in 1859, it was the only state whose state constitution explicitly forbade black people from living, working or owning property within its borders. Until 1926, it was illegal for black people to even move into the state. Its lack of diversity fed a vicious cycle: whites looking to escape the South after the end of the Civil War flocked to Oregon, which billed itself as a sort of pristine utopia, where land was plentiful and diversity was scarce.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:46 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]








« Older This is just cover up after Hamburg got caught...   |   Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments