All of a sudden, people everywhere have opinions about Baltimore–including the New York Times, which published a scathing Sunday editorial about the city’s problems that really didn’t pull any punches.
Taking as its starting point both the recent riots in the city and the newly-released Harvard study that listed Baltimore as one of the worst cities in the country for income mobility, particularly for young, poor men, the editorial condemns “the century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers.” It notes that the officially enforced “quarantine” that kept black residents away from better homes, schools, and jobs was “particularly virulent” in our city:
The segregationist effort in Baltimore gained momentum in 1910, shortly after a Yale-educated black lawyer bought a house in the well-heeled Mount Royal section of the city. The uproar among whites led to an ordinance that partitioned the city into black blocks and white blocks: No black person could occupy a home on a block where more than half the people were white; no white person could move into a block where more than half the residents were black. In 1910, The New York Times described this as “the most pronounced ‘Jim Crow’ measure on record.”
Certain “racist covenants” kept black Baltimoreans (as well as their counterparts in cities like Chicago) from buying homes, essentially establishing a system of “financial apartheid.” (The story is told in fuller detail in Antero Pietila’s 2010 book Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City.)
The provocative editorial has garnered 500+ comments so far, many of them reflecting more of the bigotry that the editorial decries. If you need a chaser after all that negativity, check out some of the amazing work that’s being done to combat Baltimore’s racist history, including Baltimore Slumlord Watch, the housing advocacy being done by the Baltimore Community Law Center, and the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program.
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