National

How Racism Doomed Baltimore

A woman walks past blighted row houses in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A woman walks past blighted row houses in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

BALTIMORE (The New York Times) — The Baltimore riots threw a spotlight on the poverty and isolation of the African-American community where the unrest began last month. The problems were underscored on Friday when the Justice Department, in response to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s request, started an investigation of the Police Department, which has an egregious history of brutality and misconduct.

Other cities are plagued by the same difficulties, but they have proved especially intractable in Baltimore. A new study from Harvard offers evidence that Baltimore is perhaps the worst large city in the country when measured by a child’s chances of escaping poverty.

The city’s racially segregated, deeply poor neighborhoods cast an especially long shadow over the lives of low-income boys. For example, those who grew up in recent decades in Baltimore earn 28 percent less at age 26 than otherwise similar kids who grew up in an average county in the United States.

As shocking as they are, these facts make perfect sense in the context of the century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children. This happened in cities all over the country, but the segregationist impulse in Maryland generally was particularly virulent and well-documented in Baltimore, which is now 63 percent black.

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