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Baltimore Sun Commentary Piece on Hopkins Project: Where’s the Love?

I need to stop reading the Baltimore Sun. For the second time this week, I’ve been brought to the point of blogging by something that I read there.

This time, I’m looking at the “Hopkins project good for East Baltimore” commentary piece, written by a John Hopkins junior. Going in, I was honestly open-minded to hear her reasoning behind her stance. Sadly, I came out of it thoroughly frustrated with her all-too-common logic.

Let’s start at the beginning. You’ve all seen The Wire. You know that East Baltimore isn’t really the best place to live. But that doesn’t discount that people do still live there! My aunt, for example, has been there for at least 20 years, because I don’t remember her living anywhere else. My mom’s family has been there since she was a little girl. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who can trace their lineage back to a little rowhouse in East Baltimore with marble steps and a crappy backyard.

So statements like “However, I see no historical value in boarded up houses. I simply see decay” come off as flippant and ignorant. Not “ignorant” in a disrespectful way, but more in a “not really knowing something” kind of way.

Just because a student who I assume isn’t from the city doesn’t see the value, or a contractor, or a John Hopkins executive, or a building planner, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

The old saying goes that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I think that that’s pretty appropriate for this situation. To John Hopkins, their university and their facilities, East Baltimore is just one big eyesore that can be easily paved over to make way for whatever they feel they need. But, me, it’s where half of my church family goes to worship on Sundays. It’s where my family grew up and where some still live. It’s where I used to play. It’s where I used to volunteer. To others, it’s where they live now, or where their loved ones live.

I was particularly stunned by the author’s closing remark:

“These residents received almost four times the value of their homes and consequently should be able to afford an attached home elsewhere in Baltimore, where they could live among other people and not rotted wood.”

Yeah, and I spent four years in college and consequently should have a career in my chosen field, where I could work among other digital media fanatics and not homeless men. But things don’t work out like that in the real world. That’s just a really harsh way of putting the issue back on the victims, and that’s not fair.

I mean, let’s be realistic. Throwing these poor families out of their neighborhoods is causing them to have to flee to other areas where they don’t have access to the resources that they had in the city, which can lead to more crime.

Current neighbors feeling resentment is understandable. The writer is looking at this whole situation from the outlook of explorers bringing fire to the natives: “Look, we’re helping them and bringing a new way of life to these poor, ignorant, crime-ridden people.” And that’s never good.

Look. The idea of an urban science learning community is peachy keen, but why is it necessary to displace a whole other community to make it happen? Instead of looking at East Baltimore as a crime and drug infested rat’s nest that can be mowed over to bring about “the future”, why not look at why there are so many condemned houses, and take all that money and rebuild them. Or look at why there is so much crime, and address that.

Or maybe I’m missing something here.



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May 2010
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