Sunday, May 10, 2015

Baltimore: An Issue of Race or Class?


           
Sandtown-Winchester, Baltimore
           Media coverage of Baltimore has labeled the rioting in the city to the same familiar theme as in Ferguson: an all-out racial war. The media makes the two cities seem almost identical by showing footage of black protestors against a white police force. Many believe that because of this, the solution for Baltimore is the same as the actions taken after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson: creating a more racially diverse law enforcement.  However, this may not be the case because Baltimore is very different from Ferguson.
            Ferguson is a community that is 67 percent black, but before the Michael Brown shooting only had three black police officers in the community. In contrast, nearly half of Baltimore's police force is black, including its police commissioner. Taiwan Parker, a resident of Sandtown-Winchester (the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested and fatally injured), explained that "[Police] see us down here, they label us as drug dealers, we live in poverty." What Parker means is that tension in Baltimore does not stem from racial differences but class differences. In a city where 25% of the population is below the poverty line, Baltimore residents like Parker feel that they are automatically labeled as criminals by police because of their socioeconomic statuses.
             The majority of arrests in Baltimore are drug-related and as Parker mentioned, the poor residents of Baltimore have experienced a sense of downward classism from police in which they are all viewed as drug dealers and have their neighborhoods constantly patrolled. According to the Washington Times, Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, explained that "In poorer communities in Baltimore where crime rates are higher, officers tend to use extreme policing tactics against innocent minority residents in anticipation of potential crime being committed." These "anticipations of potential crime" in impoverished neighborhoods are the preconceptions of police officers due to classism and are what caused outcry in Baltimore. Although the media has chose to display the riots in Baltimore as a racial war, I believe the protesting in Baltimore had been sparked by class tensions.

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