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    US President Donald Trump’s comments about Baltimore, Maryland, reflect a one-sided view of the city that ignores its successes, and his lack of interest in addressing the city’s problems show that he’s only interested in using Baltimoreans as a weapon for partisan sniping, a community organizer told Sputnik.

    Over the weekend, Trump let loose a slew of attacks against both Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), whose district includes much of Baltimore, and the city itself, which he called a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” saying it was Cummings’ fault for focusing on other issues instead of addressing those in his district.

    ​The president’s attacks continued through the weekend.

    Sputnik reported that Trump’s comments came after Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, blasted Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan for the conditions in concentration camps run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for housing migrants near the US-Mexico border.

    "What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can't take a shower? Come on man,” Cummings asked McAleenan during a Friday hearing, after the secretary said the agency was doing its best to handle the humanitarian crisis at the border.

    Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary spoke with Joshua Harris, founder of Hollins Creative Placemaking, a nonprofit that aims to “restore, revitalize, and rehabilitate communities, through urban art, agriculture, structural and economic development,” about the goal of Trump’s comments, what is being done in Baltimore and what must still be done to help the city recover from decades of deindustrialization and purposeful financial neglect by state and national governments.

    “Another off-the-wall statement by our president that, quite frankly, is a distraction and something that takes away from actually having real, tangible discussions about what we need to do to improve not just our city and state but our country, and it’s really unfortunate that our president has an inability to have disagreement with individuals and not be able to have discussions as to what we can do to work collectively to actually move our country forward.”

    “The comments specifically were very racist, not to mention the fact that he failed to acknowledge the fact that someone close to him, Jared Kushner, owns several apartment buildings and several properties in Baltimore city that are, actually, mice-, rat- and rodent-infested, and there have been several complaints about them, and that he also owns property in Baltimore city.”

    “So, if we were going to have a real conversation about it, I think that, one, the president needs to acknowledge that he has this tendency to target … people of color specifically, to speak at them as if they are not worthy and do not belong. We’ve seen it time and time again, and this is yet another example of that.”

    Harris told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon that the purpose of Trump’s comments was “to discourage people from going out and participating in [the 2020 election], to say, ‘Yeah, I’m bad, but these folks haven’t done anything for you, either,’ which is very evident, and it’s unfortunate that when he makes these absurd statements, that they get so much press and garner so much attention, because then what that does is that ends up reaching people who may … be low-propensity voters, who may not consistently vote, and may not be as educated on the issues to really understand the context that is missing from those comments, and may even discourage them from” voting, he said, noting that in the 2020 election, “voter participation is going to be huge.”

    “I think that the focus should be for those who are informed to really provide context and educate people on why their participation in the [election] process is extremely important, whether we’re talking about turning out to the polls or we’re talking about the census, to ensure that black and brown communities are 100% counted in this 2020 census, so that we know the importance of what that looks like when it comes to redistricting and restructuring the representation of Americans all across the country.”

    Harris said that while the national image of Baltimore is very much caricatured and one-sided, especially after the 2015 uprising that followed the death of Baltimore man Freddie Gray at the hands of city police, a new effort by institutions like Visit Baltimore aims to popularize and “tell the stories of the positive and great things that are happening.”

    One of the stories Harris mentioned was that of featherweight world champion boxer Gervonta Davis, who the Baltimore Sun reported on Saturday was “bringing championship boxing back to Baltimore” when he defended the title against challenger Ricardo Núñez at the city’s Royal Farms Arena that night. It was the first time since 1970 that Baltimore had hosted a world championship fight.

    Harris also said it was important to highlight not just the tough times that fell on Baltimore as its famed heavy industries, like the huge Bethlehem Steel works and shipyards that once operated out of Sparrows Point, departed “overnight,” taking tens of thousands of jobs with them, but also how “we have been in a rebuilding process and a rebuilding phase since then. So there are definitely lots of issues that we face as a city, but it’s an amazing city that has a lot to offer,” including four nationally recognized community schools, efforts to increase attendance and participation rates of students in schools, the city’s burgeoning small business sector, and the continued success of the Inner Harbor.

    “Baltimore city schools have been underfunded by $2 billion over the last 15 to 20 years,” as have been the city’s two historic black colleges and universities because of how Maryland allocates education funding, Harris noted. “What does that look like in producing outcomes, providing opportunities for students of color and people of color in a city like Baltimore? These are things that have been intentional.”

    “So really understanding that it’s not just that there are people of color in leadership who have been irresponsible - there have of course been missteps and decisions that have not been the most effectively made by political leadership in a city like Baltimore, but there’s also been intentional divestment and underfunding, or cutting of resources, externally to cities of color specifically,” Harris told Sputnik. He noted a similar process behind the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a city that is 56.6% black - only slightly less than Baltimore’s 63.7% black population.

    “So understanding how cities of color, particularly blue-collar towns that have lost working class jobs, how they have been divested in systematically,” Harris said, noting that “we have not had that conversation about the greater impacts of that right now.”

    Harris said he was working on a two-year task force that aimed to pinpoint “racism’s impact on the state of Maryland as a whole, across policies, whether it’s education, whether it be economically, but what have people of color missed out on … because of racism specifically as it relates to policy decisions that have been made in the state of Maryland?”

    “If Trump really cared about Baltimore city, he would be asking questions about what do we need to do, what resources, federally, could we offer improve a city like Baltimore city that is 45 minutes away from our nation’s capital, that is an international port city and just an hour and a half from Philadelphia? How can we ensure that cities like Baltimore are thriving? How can we ensure that young people graduating college there have job opportunities and can go into and can stay in the city? Those are the questions that President Trump would be asking if he truly cared about” Baltimore, Harris said, noting that these are not challenges limited to the city. “That’s what we are focused on: developing solutions.”

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Racism, investment, recovery, deindustrialization, attacks, Donald Trump, Elijah Cummings, By Any Means Necessary, Baltimore
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