In a diverse state like Maryland, sometimes people walk on eggshells when the conversation turns to race. And then there’s Delegate Pat McDonough, a Republican from Baltimore County, who may have upset the apple cart with a release sent out today announcing an upcoming press conference Friday.
In the news release, titled ‘Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays,’ McDonough recounts a number of recent incidents where “innocent tourists and others” were attacked and beaten, including one where the video went viral on YouTube. These attacks seriously tarnish Baltimore’s image, says McDonough.
But the most interesting portion was the closing paragraphs, which read:
“The image of Baltimore is suffering; perhaps beyond recognition. The revenue generated by Baltimore’s magnificent harbor is being challenged and harmed. Decent folks, who work in the harbor area, live there, or just visit, should not be subjected to this type of reckless brutality.
There are even reports that some of these assaults may be racial in nature. This is not a time to cover up or abandon the good people in order to protect a false image of a city in chaos.
Finally, I would request that the Governor not only render assistance from the Maryland State Police, but declare the harbor area as a ‘no travel zone’ until the Mayor can guarantee the safety of our fellow citizens.”
McDonough asks that Governor Martin O’Malley authorize the assistance of the Maryland State Police for the Baltimore City Police. While this step could help, there is no law enforcement agency out there which can guarantee our safety; remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away.
So if O’Malley took McDonough’s advice and closed down Baltimore Harbor, one could only imagine the black eye the city would receive in the national media; a sort of real-life dramatization of the fictional Baltimore-based series “The Wire.” Obviously it’s not a solution he will pursue, nor is it likely that Governor O’Malley – a former mayor of Baltimore himself – will get the Maryland State Police involved in the matter, either.
Are some of the attacks racially motivated? In this era of “justice for Trayvon” I would suspect some of these are. But that’s not a new problem, either in Maryland or in the country at large.
Incidents like those recorded on the YouTube video don’t just happen organically, though. They are the culmination of a number of factors, with the most important one being the lack of a moral compass. Skin color doesn’t matter in any case because right is right and wrong is wrong – beating and robbing a hapless pedestrian is simply wrong, regardless of whether the collection of culprits had their feelings hurt by an incident hundreds of miles away that they had no control over.
While he didn’t do it in the most artful, tactful, or politically correct way, Delegate McDonough makes one valid point. There is an image of Baltimore in many peoples’ minds as a city to avoid because of the crime and violence, and it’s true the number of murders has declined. But the murder rate is still extremely high and that simple fact gives Baltimore its negative connotation.
But where McDonough falls short is believing that what would essentially function as a police state within the city of Baltimore would help. We’re already staring down at a scary and slippery slope as it is, and making an important part of Baltimore off-limits may encourage restricting access to other areas as well.
If we really need protection, perhaps the best thing Baltimore and Maryland can do is make it easier to defend ourselves. I’m not holding my breath that Governor O’Malley or our General Assembly will act on that anytime soon.