Once again, President Trump’s critics have invoked racial invective in an effort to tarnish his image while ignoring similar comments from Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and 2020 presidential hopeful.
Less than a week ago, in a reply to Maryland’s Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who made disparaging comments about the living conditions of asylum-seekers on the southern border, Trump told Cummings to focus his attention on his home district. “Cummings’ 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 and filthy place. … No human being would want to live there,” Trump wrote.
The so-called mainstream media was apoplectic, falling all over themselves to call Trump and his comments racist as quickly as possible.
Let’s rewind to a Dec. 8, 2015, speech Sanders delivered in Baltimore: “The fact of the matter is that America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood [in west Baltimore] would not think you’re in a wealthy nation. You would think that you’re in a Third World country.”
The reaction from the same media? Crickets.
Facts Are Not Racist
Plain and simple. Trump and Sanders are correct in their assessment, both in 2015 and in 2019. Sadly, Charm City has been deteriorating steadily for decades.
Even former mayor Catherine Pugh (2016-19), during a walking tour in September 2018, condemned parts of her own city. “What the hell? We should just take all this sh-t down,” she said, regarding the dilapidated and boarded up buildings and row houses in east Baltimore. “You can smell the rats. Oh my G-d, you can smell the dead animals.”
While she was absolutely correct, nothing changed during her scandal-ridden administration, ending with her resignation in May of this year after she pushed a series of children’s books in exchange for city contracts. Were Pugh’s comments racist? What about the myriad reports by PBS, The Baltimore Sun, and the New York Times? All racist? No, none of them are.
Sanders’ visit to Baltimore came on the heels of the April 19, 2015, death of Freddie Gray, a west Baltimore resident who died from spinal cord injuries while in police custody. His death sparked a spate of violence, looting, and rioting in the city, which resulted in public schools shutting down, a Baltimore Orioles baseball game being closed to the public, and a home weekend series against the Rays being moved to their home in Tampa, Florida.
The Democratic Dynasty Hasn’t Helped
The Baltimore mayor at the time, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who assumed the mayor’s office following the resignation of Sheila Dixon after her conviction for embezzlement, handled the unrest in a most unprofessional manner, actually giving the thugs and miscreants open season to “destroy” their own neighborhoods.
“We also give those who wished to destroy, space to do that,” said Rawlings-Blake, who opted not to seek reelection in 2016. So, two of the last three Baltimore mayors resigned due to scandals, and the third surrendered the city to the dregs.
Frankly, the city has been slumping for decades under constant Democratic control — politicians who have continued to mishandle things the same way for decades, yet somehow have expected improvements. The last Republican mayor of Baltimore was Theodore McKeldin (1963-67), and the last time a Republican was elected to the City Council was 1939.
When one-party rule goes unchecked for decades, complacency, carelessness, and corruption set in. When people condemn President Trump for his remarks while giving a free pass to the politicians making similar comments on the other side of the aisle, they are simply looking for a scapegoat. Trump has been in office two and a half years — he is most certainly not responsible for the strife that has befallen Baltimore.
When I Taught in Baltimore, It Was Already Bad
I started visiting Charm City in the mid-1980s while I was in college at the University of Maryland, and I moved there in the late-1990s to take a teaching position at a middle school ranked the worst in the entire state of Maryland. In the one year I taught at this particular school, there were at least three student pregnancies. One rookie teacher went home to Missouri for Christmas break and never returned.
I had 40 students in a class, and there were not 40 seats or textbooks in the classroom. The so-called history textbook only went so far as to note Jimmy Carter as the most recent president. More than 90 percent of the students received “free” lunch, and there were no after-school activities. This scenario played out in most schools throughout the city, and this was nearly two decades before Freddie Gray and the ensuing riots.
Project Baltimore reported that in 13 of 39 city high schools, zero students were proficient in math. Zero. Let that sink in for a minute. In six more Baltimore high schools, only 1 percent tested proficient. In roughly half the schools, 3,804 students attempted the exam, with a mere 14 proficient in math. Not 14 percent, 14 actual students. It’s no wonder the poverty rate in Baltimore is 22 percent.
Incompetent so-called leaders and teachers’ unions have corrupted the public school system. They hide behind tenure while indoctrinating students instead of educating them, condemning the next generation to the consequences of the corrupt and broken system they created. It’s not all their fault, though: the children they teach have largely grown up in chaotic homes that do not value learning.
Families Are in Chaos, and So Are the Streets
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who spent more than 30 years as a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, reported that 65 percent of the children in Baltimore live within single-parent families, a trend that has been worsening for decades and is statistically worse in black communities compared to white, Hispanic, and Asian communities.
Sadly, Baltimore is not an anomaly. See also Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, and St. Louis, just to mention a few. Progress begins with education and within the home, preferably a two-parent home with married parents who, at the very least, graduated high school. Those factors give children a head start, said Carson, who added that pointing out these things, which should be obvious, gets you labeled with an “-ist” or a “-phobe.”
The murder rate in Baltimore is 56 per 100,000. Detroit is closest behind Baltimore, at 40 per 100,000. In 2015, 344 people were murdered in Baltimore — 318 in 2016, 342 in 2017, and 309 last year, with a projected number over 300 for the fifth year in a row. Baltimore is deadlier than Chicago and just under 40 miles away from Washington, D.C., but it may as well be 4,000 miles away for the lack of attention it gets.
The time is long overdue for people to roll up their sleeves, put aside their partisan bickering and name-calling, and face reality. The past 60 years have been a dismal failure, and calling people racist for pointing out the facts helps no one, least of all the vulnerable children.
Like Trump; dislike Trump. Either way, he was correct in what he said about Cummings’ district — specifically Baltimore. Cummings is too smart to disagree, but he has to play the same political game. People can stand in opposite corners, calling each other racists, but it will accomplish nothing. Meanwhile, cities such as Baltimore continue to fester and stink of urban rot, decay, and failing schools.
And, yes, I did actually put my money where my mouth is and ran for the Baltimore City Council in 1999 — beyond a fool’s errand. In a city, at the time, with 8 percent registered Republicans, needless to say, I did not win. Like the City of Baltimore, not every story has a happy ending.