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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Baltimore: It's Not About Race

(Freddie Gray)
Steve Inskeep, host of Morning Edition on National Public Radio, went down to the streets of Baltimore where rioters took over the city after Freddie Gray’s funeral. Gray, who was a 25-year-old Black American man, died from a spinal injury after being taken into police custody. 

Some activists, social media audience and news outlets placed Gray’s death and the Baltimore riots into the same category as Eric Garner of Staten Island, N.Y, and the uprising in Ferguson, Mo., where protesters rioted for the death of Michael Brown. Observers grouped Gray’s death into a series of Black men dying by the hand of law enforcement. Unfortunately, they didn't get the story quite right.

Related Story: The Enigma and Allure in Baltimore
(Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Mayor of Baltimore, Md
As Inskeep set up the scene for his story of what lead up to the riots in Baltimore, I expected him to include the events of police killing unarmed Black men in America. Instead I learned that the majority of the police force in Baltimore are Black, the mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, is also Black.  So how is what’s taking place in Baltimore a race issue? 

While in Baltimore, Inskeep interviewed some of the people who lived and worked there. They are the ones who enlightened Inskeep and NPR listeners that the death of Gray and the riots has nothing to do with race but everything to do with social class. Now there’s an informative twist.

Baltimore, which has a high population of Black Americans, has a class issue not a race issue. What does this mean exactly? There are families living below the poverty level, which is caused by the high unemployment rate within their demographic. There are also drug addicts who are being supplied with narcotics by the drug dealers living in Baltimore. There are a number of other factors that has the Black community of Baltimore teetering on the fence of despair…just pick one and I’m sure it’s on the list.

But Baltimore is not alone. Every state, every city, every town has a neighborhood that has a class problem and not necessarily a race problem. Which leaves me with the following questions:

  • What are we doing to clean up our act in our under served communities? 
  • Are we going to continue to ignore them? Or be afraid to walk down their streets?
  • Are we going to continue to assume that those underserved blocks only have drug dealers and hoodlums living there and tell everyone to avoid them?
  • Or are we going to get out of our comfort zone and branch out to find out what they need, who they are and take action to tell their story…just like Inskeep did in Baltimore?  

Before you answer, I highly encourage you to take a listen to Steve Inskeep’s story, which I've included below. And then I encourage you to leave your comments or email your views to

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