There Are Not “Two Baltimores”

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Photovia 3sonsproductions/Flickr
Photovia 3sonsproductions/Flickr

This spring, when the national media turned its spotlight on Baltimore, a lot of people were repeating the truism that there are “two Baltimores.”

It’s true that the city suffers from shocking inequality across dozens of metrics, from employment to health outcomes. There are social and cultural schisms within the city. The Baltimore Sun’s amazing infographic about last year’s record number of homicides illustrates another side of this disparity: 93 percent of those who were killed were black. And 93 percent were male.

But Adam Marton, the Sun’s director of interactive design (and the man who created that infographic) also provides an interesting example of how those of us who live in the city are all interconnected, even as we may also be separated by gulfs of privilege. On his personal Facebook page, Marton shared the story of a time that his life intersected with one of the men who was one of last year’s homicide victims, a 28-year-old man named Thelonious Monk:

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The Huffington Post described this story as revealing the chasm between white and black Baltimore. You could see it that way; you could also see it as a reminder that we all live in the same city, and that even if we are fortunate enough to not have to think about poverty and violence on a daily basis, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t touch us — and our neighbors, and our fellow city residents. Compassion is the first step, but it can’t stop there.

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  1. While that may be an idealist look, the reality is that blacks and whites in our city live vastly different lives. How do we reconcile that? Compassion is great but it doesn’t move mountains. And this city better move some mountains before the rocks do more than tumble into the streets……

  2. I’m all for compassion, but does this do justice to all the people who choose to make the right decisions despite their circumstances? Most people living without means do not turn to crime to resolve their problems. Stealing, looting, and violence is never ok no matter what your circumstances. What if that car Thelonious Monk stole belonged to a single mom working 3 jobs trying to make ends meet? That would have been catastrophic for her. Compassion does not mean that we should just look with pity upon these folks and let them continue on like this. This type of thinking exacerbates our city’s problems and does a disservice to our socio-economically challenged communities. I am sorry that Monk’s life was so tragic. It truly is sad. However, Mr. Monk made choices every day. He chose a life of crime for years and years. I find it hard to believe that he “never had a chance”. Unless the juvenile system is 100% completely corrupt and inept, it’s more logical to assume that somewhere along the line he was offered help by someone – maybe while he was in detention, or by a girlfriend, a teacher, a city worker, a friend. Did he chose to take that help along the way? Those were chances that he more likely had but refused. Maybe as you suggested, he stole your car so he could finally turn his life around. We will never know for sure. In the end, to help our challenged communities, we need to stop the race baiting of our national media, stop condescending these people, and we need to stop looking to the past for whose to blame. Instead, we need to build upon what we have done so far in this great nation and move forward. The focus should be programs that work, policies that are fair, laws that support equality, community building, education…there is so much to do!

  3. I was a nurse in the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room, 1966-1968. There were lots of stabbings, but I never saw a patient with a gunshot wound.

  4. Kate: How easy it must be to make the prejudicial statements that you make. What makes you “logically” conclude that this young man refused help? You know nothing about him but assume you know how he thought and made choices. Those of us who grew up with all the choices available need to join the author in his compassion.

    Betsy: Compassion may not move mountains by one person, but if we all join, it will. Not to mention the fact that one person’s compassion to one other is a mountain moved for that individual.

  5. While the interconnectedness of all Baltimore residents is undeniable, what is meant by the expression “two Baltimores” is much deeper than this short, oversimplified article suggests.

  6. This article is crass and thoughtless: to imply from one story, in the face of evidence from imprisonment rates, dropout rates, unemployment statistics and just a ten minute drive from Canton to McElderry Park or Ashburton to Sandtown, that there is no economic divide is self serving wishful thinking

    • I think you missed the point. Marton’s article was precisely about our inter-connectedness in spite of economic divides and opportunities. And it was anything BUT crass.

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