The young man sways with every step. When an elderly lady walks towards him on the street, he takes the opportunity and asks her for a favor. With half-open eyes he holds out his lighter to her – would she light his cigarillo for him? The older lady does him a favor, then the two of them part ways again.
The encounter between the young man, who is obviously under the influence of drugs, and the helpful old lady – both African American – takes place on Christian Street (see article picture) in Baltimore, in the east of the USA in the state of Maryland. M&T Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens play football, is less than a ten-minute drive away – but Christian Street might as well be in another world. Houses with bars or solid wooden panels in front of the door and windows line the street. Not all of them still have window panes, and one homeowner has sprayed “Don’t go in, don’t hang around” on the wooden panel in front of his basement window. The patrol officer who parks at the end of the street is probably not always there.
MP Elijah Cummings defended Baltimore after Trump’s attacks
That’s one side of the city that President Donald Trump targeted in his recent Twitter tirade. At the weekend, the US president described Baltimore, which is largely inhabited by African Americans, as a “disgusting, rat and rodent hole” where “no human being wants to live”. Trump also has one culprit for this situation ready: The Afro-American MP Elijah Cummings, who sits in Congress for Baltimore.
Critics found clear words about the President’s statement. “Better to have a couple of rats than to be one,” wrote the Baltimore Sun newspaper in a comment. Civil rights activist and Pastor Al Sharpton said at a press conference in Baltimore on Monday that Trump’s words were “bigoted and racist”. The president shows “particular malice towards blacks”.
Very popular with tourists: the Inner Harbor (archive image)
City of contrasts
But the city also has completely different sides, stresses Jonathan Callaway Peak. The social worker was born in Baltimore, grew up in Atlanta and has lived in the city of his birth for five years. “There are 200 unique neighborhoods here,” says Callaway Peak. “I love so much about Baltimore – the food, the history, the architecture.” Criminologist Jeffrey I. Ross of the University of Baltimore has to add to the list of virtues, among others, the alternative arts scene, the Inner Harbor popular with tourists and the passionate loyalty of the city to its teams, the Ravens and the baseball team of the Baltimore Orioles.
That doesn’t minimize the city’s problems. According to the Baltimore Sun, 39 murders were reported in the city area in July alone. One of the murder victims was Scott Franklin, 32, who was shot on July 24th on Christian Street and died on the scene. Three other victims were younger than 18 years. The city has one of the highest crime rates in the United States.
“We have a new police chief almost every year,” says Ross. That way, of course, you don’t get the problems with crime and drugs under control. The situation goes back, among other things, to the high unemployment. Many jobs have collapsed in the cargo port, explains the scientist. Anyone who is even briefly in Baltimore will realize that the city’s problems did not arise overnight and cannot be solved overnight either. But: “A lot of hard-working people try to take on the challenge,” says Ross. “And Rep. Cummings is one of them.”
“Chaos on your own doorstep”
Cummings is one of the loudest critics of Donald Trump and therefore a thorn in the side of the president. Many observers see Trump’s sweeping attack on Baltimore as a political attack on the congressman. “We have problems in areas like security, unemployment and education, but so do many other cities,” and Trump does not criticize them, says City Councilor Leon F. Pinkett, III. “Cummings ranks in the House of Representatives as chairman of the oversight committee [mächtiges Kontroll- und Ermittlungsgremium, die Red.] just a particularly good job. “
Alderman Leon F. Pinkett, III. calls for solutions from Trump
But Cummings also has its critics in Baltimore. Stewart Jones is sitting in his wheelchair in front of the city hall in the humid heat and venting his anger: “Trump is right!” calls the resident. “Cummings criticizes the chaos at the border, but there is chaos on his own doorstep.”
Above all, those who are angry about Trump’s tweets against Baltimore complain that the president only grumbles without proposing a solution. “If he were a real statesman, he would offer constructive ideas that help solve our obvious problems,” says Callaway Peak. And councilor Pinkett says the president can’t put all the blame on others. “As far as I remember, Baltimore is still in America,” he says. “This means that the city is also in President Trump’s area of responsibility.”