This week’s new addition to The Modern Guide to Racist Language is “rat infested.”
When President Trump declared his intent to secure the border of the United States, he was labeled a racist. When Maxine Waters, a California congresswoman, called for the impeachment of Mr. Trump less than 24 hours after he was elected, Mr. Trump hit back calling her a “low IQ person.” She claimed he was racist because of his response to her outburst.
Most recently when exchanging insults with Baltimore area Rep. Elijah Cummings, Mr. Trump tweeted that the congressman should focus more on taking care of his own district because Baltimore is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Further insults followed, as did screams of racism.
CNN anchor Victor Blackwell was born in Baltimore. This past Saturday he declared that lots of people would like to live in Baltimore, neglecting to mention he moved away from the high crime city, and that clearly Trump’s insult was racist. “Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times. He’s insulted thousands of people, many different types of people. But when he tweets about infestation, it’s about black and brown people”
Actually, the comments about rat and rodent infestation were about exactly that and Mr. Trump isn’t the first to raise the issue. Hometown paper The Baltimore Sun published a full article a couple of years back reporting on a documentary on rats in the city. The film “Rat City” focused solely on rodents in Charm City. It was 80 minutes long. How someone translates rats to mean black and brown people makes no more sense than perceiving the Betsy Ross American flag as being a racist symbol.
When those who find Mr. Trump to be brash, rude and crude scream “racist” at every word he utters, they only dilute their own efforts. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. He said it so often when it wasn’t true that no one believed him when the wolf actually appeared. Likewise the anti-Trumpers perpetually crying “Racist!” results in a serious credibility gap. When someone really does express racism, these messengers will no longer be paid any attention.
Lost in the racism debate seems to be the truth. Baltimore is a bad place. High crime. Corruption at the highest levels. High poverty rate. An embarrassing penchant for enabling criminal activity. Pointing out the truth isn’t racist. It’s simply the truth.
Two years ago, one Baltimore city school, Northwood Appold Community Academy II, was found to have zero students proficient in math or English. Zero. None. Zip. Not a single student met the minimum standard. Oddly, the same school had the highest graduation rate in the area. As it turned out not only were the teachers not teaching, but the administration was changing grades so students could graduate and they could all keep their jobs. Not a single student being able to read or do basic math is bad. Not racist, just bad.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was recently forced to resign under a cloud of corruption. It seems she sold her self-published children’s books to companies seeking business with Baltimore. Those who bought her books were rewarded with big money contracts. Corruption. Not racist, just bad.
You may remember the mayor who preceded Miss Pugh. She served during the 2015 Baltimore riots and famously endorsed the destruction of both public and private property by angry, violent mobs. At a press conference she said, “We gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
Destroy they did. Crowds threw flaming trash cans at police. Roving packs smashed windows in local businesses, looting many of those businesses and setting some on fire. Mobs burned and destroyed private vehicles and police cars. The mayor gave police direction to let the crowds continue to destroy. These violent and destructive actions weren’t racist, just bad.
Baltimore has the highest crime rate for any city of its size (500,000 and above). The city is on track for 340 murders in 2019. There were six murders between last Friday and Monday alone. Thirty-eight murders in Baltimore in the month of July so far. There were 80 shootings in July and 437 in 2019 so far.
The city is on pace again this year for 56 murders per 100,000 residents, which is not only a higher rate than Chicago and Detroit, it’s even higher than El Salvador and Honduras. That scary crime rate isn’t racist, just bad.
That same crime rate may explain why the poverty rate in Baltimore (23.1 percent) is nearly double the national poverty rate (12.3 poverty). The poverty rate isn’t racist, just bad.
In 2018, USA Today declared Baltimore “the nation’s most dangerous city.” At the time no one complained that USA Today was racist.
Bottom line is Baltimore is a troubled place. One would hope the local Baltimore media would want to see their own city improve and excel, but rather than acknowledge the president’s feud with Rep. Cummings makes some valid points, The Baltimore Sun editorial team instead invoked a school playground retort, “Better to have vermin in your neighborhood than to be one.”
As is often the case, Mr. Trump’s tweets and public comments have ruffled feathers, but there is more than a kernel of truth in them. If anyone is doing the people of Baltimore, Maryland, a disservice it is their own local, state and federal representatives who continue to except sub-par conditions, high crime and poor schools. Pointing a finger at Mr. Trump is simply a smoke screen designed to cover their own short-comings.