Some or All Fears: “Breaking My Heart” post sparks debate
Yesterday, Tracey Halvorsen published a post on medium.com called “Baltimore City, You’re Breaking My Heart: This is why people leave.” In it, she talks about her struggles living in Baltimore, in which she reels off a litany of things she’s “tired of,” mostly the crimes and perils of city life, for example: “I’m tired of answering the question, ‘Is Baltimore really like The Wire?’ Answer: ‘Yeah it’s a complete shit-hole war zone depending on what street you turn down’.”
She describes what she loves about Baltimore and concludes by weighing the “Likes” and “Don’t Likes” of living in Baltimore City: “Being afraid you will be robbed, attacked or murdered where you live will be in the ‘Don’t Like’ list, but it really shouldn’t be in a list at all.”
The post provoked a flurry of comments on the site (all of which have been removed) and many more on Facebook and other outlets.
Deana Haggag, director of The Contemporary, posted her response on Facebook this morning, prompting its own flurry of comments:
Tracey, I am so sorry that you are so ‘tired’ of living around so many drug addicts, murderers, and amidst so much crime. I really truly am. I understand that you ‘don’t have to live here’ but want to stay. I am tempted to suggest that you, in fact, leave because, you see, you have this thing called ‘privilege’ and it gives you the ability to leave the ‘shit-hole war zone’ of which you speak.
But, alas, my temptations have seldom served me well so instead I will suggest that you consider the extreme racial and economic divides that have made it so that many of these ‘drug addicts’ and ‘murderers’ cannot leave and must continue to wreak havoc on your ‘walks in Patterson Park.’ I also want to encourage you to flex your privilege in a manner that is constructive and doesn’t rest solely on oversimplified, pedestrian solutions like ‘more police, less crime.’ Just give it a go– who knows, you may even resolve some of your own ‘tire’ in the process! Thanks in advance!
This afternoon, Lawrence Lanahan, who produced the award-winning WYPR series on race in Baltimore, “The Lines Between Us,” posted his own thoughtful response, “Whose Heart is Baltimore Breaking, Really?” In it, he suggests, “Crime is not the ‘elephant in the room.’ It’s all anyone talks about here. The elephant in the room is inequality.”
Baltimore Bike Party founder Tim Barnett, posted his response on medium.com: Baltimore City: You’re Not Breaking My Heart. I’m not leaving.
The debate has been going on at City Paper all day too, and a few staffers had responses of their own:
Edward Ericson, Jr., staff writer
Part of what I wonder is, should we respect people’s fear? Is all fear automatically racist? And if it isn’t, then can we talk about the problem in all its facets without devolving into another pointless twitter fight about who is racist, who wants to gentrify, and all that tired rot?
I was thinking about the way progressives, and progressive men especially, are expected to respond to women’s fears about walking alone at night, “rape culture,” and the like. Everyone agrees it’s a real thing, and the fear is justified. Yeah?
But if a white woman expresses fear about non-sexual crime–including a recent one which took another white woman’s life–then suddenly there’s this uneasiness because it might be racist.
She says not one word about the racial identity of the perpetrators. But everyone knows they are Black. And so progressive people of good will automatically shift to a discussion of “privilege.”
I’m OK with that, to a point. But not without unpacking how much privilege is on display here.
I would like to know: is it really a privilege, in a First World country, to expect not to be attacked with a brick on the street? Is it really privilege that demands one’s teeth not all be knocked out for no fucking reason at all?
Also: does a person who probably paid $450,000 in 2006 for a house near Patterson park–a house that today is worth maybe $250,000–and who pays, say $500 a month just in city taxes–have the right to complain? Or is such an economic situation too much privilege?
I’m as in-favor of coherent arguments as the next professional writer. But I also understand that frightened people–and others too–don’t always make every point as sharp and clear as we’d like.
The dividing line in this town right now appears to fall between the Have Nots, and the Have Not Much Mores. That second group is tarred with the gentrification brush because they like Peter’s Inn. I think that’s a bad thing.
Baynard Woods, senior editor
We can understand people being scared, angered, and outraged by the city’s crime. It is not with light hearts that we document every murder that happens in the city, every week. Upon reading this article, we asked ourselves, should we respect Halvorsen’s fear?
Fear is like any other idea or emotion, so the question becomes: should we respect people’s ideas? When they are coherent and well expressed. But should we respect them just because they exist? I don’t think so. In this case, there is clearly some truth there. There is crime in the city and people can be afraid of it and are likely justified in their fear. But part of making an idea or emotion worth respecting is a certain level of self-awareness. As Deana Haggag noted on Facebook, Halvorsen’s is tremendously blind to its own privilege and assumptions. That’s where, I think, the us v. them that riddles her piece comes from. A Chief Visionary Officer (her title at Fastfoward) doesn’t look at the role that she or her privilege plays in the problem.
So, we can respect fear, but not idiotic solutions to fear. Arresting everyone is not the solution. “All I know is when there are more police, there is less crime. When people get arrested for littering or loitering or being publicly intoxicated, they go do that shit somewhere else.”
J.M. Giordano, web editor
The only people who “feel like prey” are the ones that act like prey. I live on the border of the Barclay neighborhood, I know my neighbors, I keep a mind’s eye photo of people who pass through and I look people in the eye when I see them on the street. I look out both ways when I get out of the car at 3 a.m., an hour which is dangerous in any city. I make little sacrifices like not talking on my cell phone while walking late at night or swinging my laptop bag thought an alley near Hopkins as I come home from class at 2 a.m.. Am I blaming the victim? No. I’m asking potential victims to be more aware of their surroundings. Could you get mugged in a city? Yes. I’ve had friends beaten in Brooklyn, New York and robbed at knife point in London and Prague.
As a resident of Harwood/Charles Village it sounds to me that Tracy has a beef with city living. We’re not as prosperous as say San Fran, Portland, or Austin. We live in a relatively big, formerly manufacturing East Coast city where, gasp, people get mugged and robbed. My issue with this piece is not the whiff of “white privilege” odor it gives off, but her seeming lack of effort to get involved and offering alternatives. The best way for a city resident to cure the city’s ills to get involved with the local voting process, attend neighborhood meetings, and keep a watchful eye on their neighborhoods. We’ve had record low turnout for the mayoral elections in the past (source). As an active voter having lived in both Fed Hill and Charles Village, I can tell you that the more affluent (dog whistle for “white”) voters in those neighborhoods largely ignore the local elections. I wrote about the problem here. Is there a crime problem in Baltimore? Yes. Could the mayor be more hands on instead of going to bike party every month? Sure. Can locals choose their leaders? Yep. Its the most American way to fix your city’s problems. Choose the voting finger instead of the trigger finger.