"I was so sad, what we did to her, especially when I seen her face"
January 5, 2018 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Two boys violently carjacked an 80-year-old Baltimore City Councilwoman. Now, with the help of UEmpower of Maryland, she's their advocate.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (13 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Ms. Spector is an absolute goddamn hero.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:23 PM on January 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

So great! More like this!
posted by Glinn at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2018

Ah, this is why Friday afternoons are Mefi time. <3
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 3:36 PM on January 5, 2018

And whatever you do - don't read the comments. blah.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:37 PM on January 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Nice to read a hopeful, positive news article.
posted by shoesietart at 3:45 PM on January 5, 2018

Just wanted to chime in as a former youth mentor that kids massively benefit from kind and non-judgmental adults in their lives. I was in a program that was an hour a week during school hours.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:02 PM on January 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

That was uplifting. Uempower sounds great, too,
posted by greermahoney at 8:00 PM on January 5, 2018

Thanks for posting!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:08 PM on January 5, 2018

Along with the quotes already mentioned, this really made me smile:

“They’re our children,” she said. “They walk where we walk. If they're going to do bad, they're going to be doing bad where we are. I’m going to spend my next 40 years fixing the juvenile justice system.”

This woman is 80. She is confidently expecting to live to be 120 and spent all of that time working to make the world a better place. What a great person.
posted by nonasuch at 7:14 AM on January 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

I hate to bring up The Wire simply because Baltimore and all, but the fourth season is my favorite and thus the fifth is the most heartbreaking to me (I mostly ignore the news storyline). Couple that with this article and I'm just a big old mess over here. What a lovely woman and what great kids that they're all making a commitment to do better with what they can.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:03 AM on January 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

A bit more context might be useful here. Wherever black teenage boys go in public, they often get treated with suspicion and fear, but during 2017 Baltimore's fears about teenage violence were whipped into a moral panic.

I should be clear - teenage violence is actually a huge problem in the city. Most random assaults and carjackings and whatnot are committed by small groups of teenagers, as in the article. I live in central Baltimore and have been robbed at gunpoint and attacked on the street by groups of teens. During a thirty day period in September and October, there were forty reported random assaults involving teen groups. On Halloween ten teenagers wandered around a popular nightlife district late at night beating people with metal bats. Teen violence has always been an issue, but last year was particularly bad.

The result has been a lot of local clamor about the youth justice system. On the one hand, everyone knows that incarcerating troubled youth is pretty much a guarantee that they'll never grow out of their problems. On the other hand, the current situation has a major impact on quality of life and there's no clear and immediate "solution" except harsher punishment. Of course, teens everywhere lack empathy and judgment and are less responsive to the threat of punishment than adults, and the constant threat of violence and other issues that kids face in Baltimore's rough neighborhoods builds traumatized kids who act out violently. However, the police chief, the mayor, and the governor all have blamed the city's judges for giving lenient sentences to juvenile repeat offenders. There's been an alarming groundswell of support for jailing kids.

So what Spector is doing isn't just touching because it's so decent and empathetic, but also because coming forward in public to discuss mentoring these two teens is a response to the many loud people in Baltimore who want to be able to blame the city's damaged kids for the problems that they cause without taking responsibility for reforming the broken social system that caused the damage. She's hardly the only one doing this kind of thing - there's a fantastic organization called Thread that I'm sure many Mefites would find inspiring - but she's a well-known figure who was on the city council for forty years, so hopefully her public sway will help shift the local conversation about how to address teen violence toward community justice.
posted by vathek at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2018 [25 favorites]

Thanks for the context. Here in Milwaukee, we have a carjacking/joyriding epidemic that is almost exclusively teenagers. It doesn't often result in violence but many kids are injured or killed when they speed and run into trees. (The police do not chase on city streets.) Occasionally they steal a car with a baby in it. (The kidnapping is by accident.)

Anyway, there are many diversion programs here like Uempower but it seems like for some segment of kids, this is their Trendy Fun Hobby. They probably figure they're going to end up in jail at some point - Wisconsin has the highest rate of Black male incarceration in the country, almost double the national average - so why not have some fun in the meantime? (Another piece of this is that it's common for people to heat up their cars in the winter with the doors unlocked.)

There are certainly no easy answers but I commend this woman for showing empathy rather than anger.
posted by AFABulous at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

The fact that it's (in some sense) a teenage hobby is part of the reason it's such a tough problem to deal with. In college, a friend of mine who grew up in a rough neighborhood on the west coast told me about how he had participated in several gunpoint robberies. He was a soft-spoken, gentle guy with no real anger issues who did well enough in school to go to a top state university and who now works a white collar job. He was poor and his friends were poor, but the robberies had more to do with thrillseeking than material desperation. His friends who instigated the robberies were serially violent people who eventually ended up incarcerated, but he had a little more sense, a little more support, a little more luck, and a little less anger than his friends. If he had been caught, his life undoubtedly would be different today and the world would probably be a little worse today. My world would certainly be a little smaller. Even if he went into a diversion program, I'm sure he wouldn't have ended up at the same university, and his path out of poverty and into the middle class would have been that much more difficult.

And after all, he didn't need to be diverted. He needed to grow up and he needed to get out of his neighborhood. It wasn't something essential about him that was the problem, but his social context and his immaturity. If he had a better support system and wasn't so thoroughly immersed in a social context where violence was normalized, he would never have robbed anyone in the first place.

I sometimes wonder what happened to the five kids that put a gun to my head and got away with it. Whether they grew out of it. Whether they're still running the streets. Whether they're in jail. Whether they're dead. Whether they ever think about the night they robbed me, which traumatized me so badly for a year afterward that I almost left the city. Whether they made it to a dorm somewhere and shocked their white suburban friends by telling them about robbing people for the thrill of it. "That's just life in Baltimore, yo."
posted by vathek at 12:10 PM on January 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

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