Mount Vernon Shooting: Are All Victims Treated Equally?

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When Alex Ulrich was killed in a double shooting in Baltimore last week, the city sat up and took notice. A vigil at the Washington Monument drew hundreds of mourners who celebrated Ulrich’s life, denounced violence, and honored the shooting’s other victim, popular Mount Vernonite Larry Peterson (who was critically injured but is recovering).

All too clearly, the shooting highlights the fact that despite many positive trends, Baltimore remains a city with way too many drugs, guns, and violent incidents. But does it also point to a deeper, more insidious issue? In a city where hundreds are murdered every year, this shooting was different than most. Alex Ulrich was white, middle aged, and walking in a neighborhood that is generally considered safe. That’s why the reaction to his death has been so great — and that’s part of what’s wrong with our city, writes Baltimore City Paper’s new editor, Evan Serpick:

Week in, week out, peo­ple are killed—seven peo­ple were mur­dered in Bal­ti­more City in the week before Ulrich was killed. The sto­ries are given little cov­er­age in the local media—did you hear any­thing about those seven peo­ple killed last week? If I wasn’t edit­ing Mur­der Ink, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have. But when a white per­son is killed or is the vic­tim of a serious crime, as with the hap­less tourist whose beat­ing and rob­bery were captured on down­town secu­rity cam­eras ear­lier this year, it is front-page news, and the source of angst: Is our city safe? It’s hard not to trans­late the sub­text of that angst to, Is our city safe for white peo­ple? Because if the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion was con­cerned about whether or not the city was safe for black peo­ple, there would be a whole lot more vig­ils and angst.

So, what’s to be done? Serpick advocates a practical solution — greater police presence in dangerous neighborhoods where murders are common (Sandtown-Winchester), as opposed to ones where they’re rare (Mt. Vernon). But what about the lack of outrage — the absence of vigils, minimal media coverage, and lack of name recognition — on behalf of other victims? Ours remains city divided along all sorts of lines (race, class, education, etc.); it’s easy to identify only with people who fit in our own categories. When they die tragically, we think That could’ve been me! But just because someone who got killed doesn’t look like you doesn’t make their death any less tragic.

I understand that sometimes we have to walk through this city with our blinders on. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, or a strategy for getting through the day, or maybe it’s laziness. But I get what Serpick is saying — and it doesn’t make me feel good at all.



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10 COMMENTS

  1. The dividing line is drugs. Do you take drugs? Buy or sell them? Then the chance of violence jumps dramatically. If you’re not involved in the drug business, then you are not so much at risk.

    I lived in what is considered a dangerous neighborhood and saw the drug trade all around me, but never had any problems, because I wasn’t involved.

  2. Yes, drugs and guns and more guns. How many of the murders in Baltimore involved armed shooters and armed victims? How many of the murders took place in neighborhoods where crime with guns is just something you do? I would love to see many vigils for innocent victims.

  3. What do the first two comments have to do with this posting? The seven other seven victims deserved to die? The other seven victims were drug dealers and criminals? I am missing the connection. Please help. Thanks.

  4. “Ours remains city divided along all sorts of lines (race, class, education, etc.); it’s easy to identify only with people who fit in our own categories. When they die tragically, we think That could’ve been me! But just because someone who got killed doesn’t look like you doesn’t make their death any less tragic.”

    He was talking about the dividing line. The dividing line is not race or class or education, it’s drugs. Many of those who died during the past week probably had some connection with the drug trade. These two gentlemen did not. That’s why this story is different from many of the other murder stories in Baltimore.

  5. Hmmm — how do you know that the other victims were involved in drugs? Do you even know their names? If either of the victims of this shooting had ever smoked a joint, would that make their death less tragic?

    • Rachel… I didn’t say drugs, I said the drug TRADE. Buying or selling illegal drugs. Since I know Larry personally, I can assure you that he was neither buying or selling drugs.

  6. No assumptions should be made about any crime in Baltimore or any other city. The media should fully report on every single murder in our city so the citizens can know exactly what is going on in their backyard. This “article” has good insight to the problem, in my opinion. Written by Walter E. Williams and posted on Townhall.com on 5/23/2012:

    “Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.
    The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between the years 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home. It’s a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.

    A much larger issue is how might we interpret the deafening silence about the day-to-day murder in black communities compared with the national uproar over the killing of Trayvon Martin. Such a response by politicians, civil rights organizations and the mainstream news media could easily be interpreted as “blacks killing other blacks is of little concern, but it’s unacceptable for a white to kill a black person.”

    When will the media start reporting stories of what happens on a daily basis in our inner cities? When will they encourage as much outrage for a presumed to be drug dealer killing another presumed to be drug dealer? When are we, as a community, going to get off of our computers and stop posting our opinions in the comment section and do something? The politicians aren’t doing anything to help the 9 maybe 10 year old African American boys I see standing on the corner at President Street washing car windows until God knows when at night. Who are their role models? Why is it OK with their mothers for them to be on the street at that hour of the night? These kids are looking for structure and security and role models. They deserve all of those things. I believe their parents aren’t capable of giving it to them. So they become the newest members of the drug army. I think it is too late to fix the adults but I don’t think it is too late to show the kids there are people who care. But the people that care need to step out of their comfort zones and stand up for these kids. Those two boys are ,in all likelihood, the future statistics of Baltimore that won’t be reported about in the media!

  7. How quickly we forget the year-long vigil and national concern for the girl from North Carolina who was killed in Baltimore! She was black, interested n a future and her disappearance and were definitely and appropriately, NOT overlooked. The dividing line is not that the victims are from one race or class, it is that, from appearances at least, they are somehow “in the game.” Obviously, as Serpick notes, the average citizen will not troll through the police reports to see reported every death or serious injury. The average citizen’s perceptions are filtered by what is printed in the news. Usually, the news is pretty good at highlighting killings of people back or white, who are aberrations and not in the game. Therefore, the perception is that those who “die in the by-lines” were in the game, like boxers being punched vs a pedestrian being hit.

  8. I agree with anon e mouse – Every loss of life is tragic even the death of a drug addict, but mouse makes the point that some life choices put us at risk, and involvement in baltimore’s drug trade is a big one! It is notable to us when someone is a victim of violence in a tragic incidence of “wrong place/wrong time.”

  9. Rachel Monroe (the person who wrote this story) and Evan Serpick (the person whom the story quoted) are both members of the media. They can’t use this horrific crime to complain that “the media” doesn’t cover all murders when they themselves don’t cover the murders either! Yes, we take murders happening in our own backyard lightly and should value more the loss of life that occurs everyday. But the media CAN’T complain about something that THEY are responsible to cover (unless it is grounds for a good story!)!

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