Liberal and black political power: It's Kismet - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Liberal and black political power: It’s Kismet

Stony is a kid I coached in hockey for several years on the east side of Baltimore.

A quiet young leader of his tribe, his nickname connotes his unusual ability to get things done when the odds seemed against his team, regardless of how often he disobeyed his coaches.  He’s 19 years old and has a sealed juvenile record including a murder plea and other gun charges.

He first dealt drugs when he was 12, saving a little for his heroin addicted mother, ran packing a weapon with a gang by age 14, and had a child with his baby momma at 17 before being picked up as a juvenile on the murder and attempted murder charges in 2010.

When the District  Court judge Gerald Sher  waived his case back to juvenile court, he told Stony bluntly,”this is your one chance.”

After spending upward of 16 months in jail, he was free for six months before violating terms of his probation. “Dirty urine,” I was told.  As a result, he will be incarcerated in the city jail for at least the next 8 months.  Because of the legal protections afforded juveniles, Stony is a name I chose and not the young man’s real name.

An all too typical Baltimore story if you’re young, male and black, right?  Quite.  Except the devil may not be in the color so much as in the details.

Stony spoke up for himself at the hearing that would decide where his murder charge would be adjudicated.  In a rare moment, this young man of few words, shackled hand and foot, spoke emotionally to tell the judge “his boy wouldn’t have no use for him if he were in jail for 15 years.”

Stony’s use of a double negative seemed to sway the judge in ways his defense lawyer couldn’t.  The words came to him honestly and, the fact is, he’s probably right.  Nothing can replace a father.  And yet again, he sits in jail, having been “violated” by the court system, a term used by those who have often acrimonious and repeated dealings with the legal system. As if someone else had committed his dirty urine to his probation officer, not he.  As if he did not undertake to realize what the judge had done in his favor and that of his son.  And herein lies the issue we have.

Baltimore is a city of Democrats and few immigrants – of one third white, largely liberal voters and a two thirds black political and popular majority which is not as liberal.  In the election of 2008, Baltimore voted 87 percent for Barack Obama and its Congressional representatives, all Democrats, garnered between 80 percent and 95 percent of the popular vote.

Where one group is less bent on faith in the Lord, the other holds true to the faith which brought them out of slavery.   As well, Baltimore has been led by black mayors for 18 of the last 24 years whose political power in Maryland is second only to that of the governor in Annapolis.  So, as a liberal, I should be happy but I’m not.  Not when I think of Stony, his child, his baby momma and the kid he killed.

These two groups, white and black, in particular the leaders, represent a diminishing majority of this nation yet, in this town, they are still arguing about how to get along.  This is where a kid like Stony, whose mother is a 20-year addict and whose father has rarely been around, gets lost.

photos are of the cage used when prisoners are led out of the courthouse

This is the cage where prisoners are led out of the courthouse in Baltimore. (All photos by Robert Mara)

Where this nation is fast becoming Asian and Spanish, African and Muslim with a smattering of Europeans coming in, Baltimore is still trying to figure out how the two groups who have been here the longest are going to share power for the supposed betterment of the people.

Where one group archaically holds to “white man’s burden,” the other group keeps precious the belief that no matter what, this nation will never accept black people, even when they are in positions of power.  In this disconnect from reality is not only where Stony is lost, but also his victim.  Forgotten.  Another statistic for another academic or politician to blame another group for.

The exodus out of Baltimore began in earnest after World War II and continues to this day though most of those now leaving are black.  Even if Baltimore whites were du jour more bigoted, blacks are leaving for many of the same reasons whites left in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s – they have earned enough to leave the still-poor city and that it’s still too dangerous here to raise a family.

Today’s Baltimore belies the recent trend of the past 20 years that have shown the re-emergence of cities in the U.S. and the rising property values in such cities.  In those cities, their leaders took the rule of law with every city agency to the streets, using those who abide the law as the most obvious example of how to behave and to succeed.

As a result, in the toughest neighborhoods in those cities, the streets are safer and the schools are better.   Not in Baltimore.  Here, we’re still losing population.  Here, it’s still the 1970s – it’s dirty streets, cheap or abandoned houses, gated front doors and city leaders wringing their hands dealing with a civilian complaint load to operators somewhere in the neighborhood of a million calls last year.  That is more than 1.3 complaints per person in a city of roughly 620,000.

This should be another sign to the city’s leaders yet again, with this soft, blind agreement between black and white leaders, is where the hope for Stony’s son gets lost.  And who is left? The baby momma, coming of age alone and having to contend with earning an income, keeping a child fed and a roof for both while daddy sits in jail.  A story we already know too well.

This city takes in 50 percent more in public money than it generates yet wants to build another prison for juvenile offenders.  What hubris!  Are these the jobs this city wants to create?  Baltimore, led by Democrats, is a magnified version of the hopeful GOP landscape where the rich and powerful are few and have most of the earnings while the poor remain poor and in squalor or in jail.

In short, Baltimore is a city in a wheelchair, begging for change but unable to look inward to bring out and demand the best in kids and families.

The solution to this political wimpery is simple.  We don’t owe the past a damned thing except to say thanks for the mistakes.  Nor can we live with the existential heartache of our ancestors who are the color of the enslavers or the enslaved.  To do so is to ignore the pain of today.  The pain of ignorance, indifference, selfishness and fear-the world that Stony comes from and a world I don’t want for his son.

We are the majority and we need to acknowledge this to each other, to those in power and to those who don’t abide the law.  We are majority black and we are white and we are the law abiding citizens of the City of Baltimore.  We come first as we are the example of how things work.

We are the majority who clean not only our front steps but those of our neighbor.  We get our kids, our grandkids and our neighbors kids to school everyday and home safe afterward.  We work, pay our taxes, we vote and we don’t let our kids ride illegal dirt bikes or deal drugs.  We walk the streets at night in teams to keep them safe and we hope that the world we create for our kids is one they can live in.

We are the majority.


About the author

Robert Emmet Mara

Robert Emmet Mara has been in Baltimore since 2006. A native New Yorker, Robert came to Baltimore to do three things: work with kids, renovate houses and write a second book of fiction. Since his arrival, he has managed to do all three and more. He has sought better oversight for his still blighted Harwood neighborhood from the city and has been asked to speak to various community association leaders on the subject of city agency relations. Contact the author.

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