BALTIMORE – Believe me, West Baltimore doesn’t need Donald Trump’s poisonous insults to know it has problems.
This president wants to punish Rep. Elijah Cummings for daring to criticize him, and so he slanders an entire congressional district. He says “no human being” would want to live here. He calls it “rat and rodent-infested.”
Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019
….As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019
Baltimore’s numbers are the worst in the United States on Crime and the Economy. Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail. The money was stolen or wasted. Ask Elijah Cummings where it went. He should investigate himself with his Oversight Committee!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2019
This is classic Donald Trump, a bully who can’t see a belt without hitting below it.
Memo to Trump: There’s not a large American city that doesn’t have problems like Baltimore’s – especially in a time of the largest gaps in history between the super-rich and the rest of us.
Has no one ever told this pampered rich-boy president, who’s never known a hungry day in his life, that it’s the job of leaders to look at troubled areas – places where children go to bed hungry because parents can’t find steady work – and say to them, “I want to help you,” instead of stigmatizing them?
Can anyone out there ever recall an American president belittling one of his own cities, even in the midst of the angriest political battles?
Only Trump, the country’s unofficial father figure who libels parts of his national extended family – and, most consistently, that part of the family with dark skin.
Do we need another accounting of Trump’s early real estate racial violations or his phony Obama birtherism? Do we need a reminder of Charlottesville, or Mexican rapists, or his Muslim slanders, or his “go home” remarks to four congressional Democrats, all women of color?
His shameful remarks about Rep. Cummings and West Baltimore – what Trump really means is black West Baltimore – are just part of an undeniable pattern.
The fact is, Cummings’ congressional district is slightly more than half white and has large suburban areas doing quite well. But Trump wasn’t talking about those areas.
He was talking about the West Baltimore where Freddie Grey died four years ago and set off days of street disturbances. He was talking about black people in Baltimore whose poverty rate is more than double whites’.
You want a picture of West Baltimore, Mr. President? Here’s one, taken four years ago in the aftermath of Freddie Gray. It hasn’t changed much since then. It’s a picture where the median household income is $29,000 – compared with $73,000 across the state of Maryland.
It’s a picture where almost 90 percent of all the West Baltimore public school children qualify for free lunches.
You want a closer picture, Mr. President? Across Maryland, in 2016, the median value of a home was $293,000. Across the city of Baltimore, it was $158,000.
Now let’s look a little closer. Let’s take a little stroll along Mount Street, directly across from the Western District police station. You may remember this, Mr. President, because cable news anchors stood on this block during the Freddie Gray riots. It was considered slightly safer than venturing onto nearby Pennsylvania Avenue, where people were setting fires.
On this Mount Street when I took a little stroll two years ago, there was one row house that had just gone on sale – for $26,000. It looked overpriced.
A row house one block away went for $10,000. Still overpriced. A few blocks away, a hand-painted sign on a row house read: For Sale: $500 Down.
And people live inside these little row houses, where winters are sufficiently heated mainly by turning on the kitchen’s oven burners all night long, and lead paint flakes seep into a child’s neurological system the way it happened to Freddie Grey in his youth.
On the 1000 block of Mount Street the last time I was there, of 23 row houses on the block, 9 were abandoned, boarded-over, decaying wrecks. Each one silently declares a neighborhood unlivable.
Whatever happened to the president who promised billions would be spent on infrastructure, which includes the restoration of roads and bridges – and dilapidated houses?
Such abandoned houses as Mount Street’s are havens for drug addicts, a sickness born out of West Baltimore despair, and these addicts leave mounds of trash which linger in every ravaged room, and each room becomes a breeding ground for vermin.
This president would sooner turn such conditions into a political weapon than think about the government indifference – from both parties, and all levels of government, one generation after another – that brought us to this point.
At least every other president had enough grace not to bully and insult and mock those already having a rough go of it. But whoever imagined such a graceless person in the White House, pretending to care about all of the American people, and not just some?
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of several books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.