Tag Archives: Crime

I am the Activist who took the “Heartwarming” Picture of the Soldier and Little Girl in Baltimore

I’m the girl that took the picture of the soldier and child in Baltimore that went viral. I meant to capture a sad moment, one of wasted resources and failure. Who knew that so many people think all of our race and economic problems could be solved if someone would just think to smile at a child?

The accusations of being a pot stirrer, a know-nothing liberal, and race-baiter have been coming at me almost faster than I can read them. Good. Keep it coming. You wouldn’t hate me if I didn’t make you uncomfortable. Keep telling me to forget the misery and to just see the happiness; keep criticizing me for bringing it up. Keep talking about it, because that is the first step. But let’s keep it real when we talk about it.

How can you look at a picture from Baltimore that could easily be from Afghanistan and think it shows a promising future? The problems leading up to this picture continue to be swept under the rug while people mindlessly smile over a picture of a child. How about we focus on the fact that 86% of public school students in Baltimore get free/reduced lunch? How about we focus on the predatory payday loan and checks cashed establishments that people in this neighborhood are subjected to, continuing the cycle of poverty they are in? How about we focus on the fact that I took this picture on Fulton Ave about a month ago, and it’s pretty average for much of Baltimore:

fulton

I don’t find my picture to be tragic because I hate the military or because I hate guns. It seems to me that 30 seconds of critical thinking would clarify that. I find it to be tragic because we don’t give a damn about these communities until the destruction threatens the rest of us. If this was a picture of a child on a field trip to the Pentagon, I’d see how it’s cute. Adorable, even. But that isn’t what this is. This is a community being told they are too vile and worthless for anyone to give a damn about them until they start to burn things down — and even then, people only care long enough to be keyboard activists with uninformed opinions.

Baltimore has a lot of problems, but being a city full of people that want to loot and riot isn’t one of them. I think it’s pretty clear why there was a riot — what did the police expect when they loaded up with riot gear, turned off public transit, didn’t allow children to leave, and instigated pissed off kids whose frontal lobes aren’t fully developed? Yet here we are, painting Baltimore as a city of lawlessness. If we’re going to talk about lawlessness in Baltimore, let’s talk about the millions of dollars used to settle and hide cases of police brutality.

I have watched news anchors and the internet in general wonder why people felt the need to burn the businesses in the community, consequently limiting their own options of where to shop. Over my week in Baltimore, I listened to and talked to a lot of people, from those who were pro-riot to those who were pro-peace. The impression that I got wasn’t that all people necessarily hate all businesses that aren’t black owned — it’s that they hate that the businesses won’t pay living wages or promote people of color. Without the ability to build capital (or even pay rent) and without the experience of being more than entry level employees, how are people supposed to start their own businesses? How will there ever be more black-owned businesses in primarily black communities?

In my opinion, the onus is now on wealthy business owners of all races in Baltimore and the surrounding area to do their part in making the city a more livable place. It’s on the middle and upper middle class residents of Maryland to change the way things are run. I saw an incredible amount of unity build up in one week of Baltimore protests; a level of unity that is rare for any kind of movement. The revolution is here, and “us vs. them” is not going to be black vs white. It’s going to the people who have hopped on board vs. those who haven’t. Do not stand on the wrong side. Support the organizations that are on the ground making a difference. Support the organizations working to feed the hungry children of Baltimore and working to make the streets safe. Do not shop at places that do not allow their entry level employees to grow. Nothing will change over night, but it’s time we start working to provide education and opportunities instead of casting judgement when most of us can’t even imagine what it would be like to live in West Baltimore.

Follow my Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to my blog here.  A version of this post also appeared on my Huffington Post blog.

Finding Love on Dallas Area Rapid Transit: I Don’t Want Your Dirty Tennis Ball, But I Do Miss the DC Metro

My best friend and I were in Dallas for the first time ever (a weeklong vacation that would ultimately result in my permanent residence in the city), and being under 25, we decided to rely on public transit (this was before the days of Uber). When we asked the hotels we stayed at if they knew anything about DART, they acted like we were out of our minds. We didn’t listen to them…how bad could it be? Well. Our 3:00 pm stroll through West End Station was peppered with calls of “hey white ladies!” and “Hey you white girls, what are you doing here?” from men who came and stood too close to us. It was bizarrely aggressive behavior for the middle of the day, and something that could certainly have been stopped by ANYONE IN UNIFORM coming up and just saying hi to us. Neither of us were afraid, but we were definitely uncomfortable — largely because we both realized if anything were to escalate, there were no people readily identifiable as employees of the transit system or the city to come to our aid.

Flash forward to this past weekend, when I’m minding my own business on my  phone. I can’t even try to tell this as a story, so here it is in script form.

Guy: Are you taking my picture?
Me: Are you…talking to me? What? No.
Guy: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: Yes.
Guy: really? What’s his name?
Me: Andrew.
Guy [reaches underneath the seat and grabs something from his friend sitting in front of him]: You play tennis, right? I got you this. [procures a dirty, used tennis ball.] You can have two boyfriends, you know.
Me: What? No, no thanks. I don’t play tennis, and I don’t think Andrew would like that.
Guy: You could. [gets off train]

While that story is just funny and bizarre and not scary, it goes to my point that every time I go on DART I’m asked on a date. Sometimes it’s weird and WTF like that, other times it’s creepy and while I’m being recorded and then while I’m being followed off the train. Those times are less humorous. They also take place earlier than 9 pm.

Despite the knee-jerk accusations of DART defenders, I’m not racist, classist, or sheltered from what public transit is like. Obviously I took Metro quite a bit when I lived in DC, and I still take Metro, MARC, and Baltimore’s Light Rail when I go back. I have even fully relied on the Detroit public bus system to get around town. I lived/gypsied all over the DC area, frequently in areas where I couldn’t even get a pizza delivered to my home, but I’d say living in Oxon Hill and using the PG side of the green line was really the highlight of my slumming it. Every place I’ve lived in Dallas has been cheaper, safer, and I can get any food brought right to my front door.

So why is it that when I take the light rail in Dallas, I long for the days of sitting on the green line, wondering if my car will still be at Branch Ave (spoiler alert: not always)? Even though DART has lower crime numbers than Metro (and we’ll get to that in a minute), the aggressive and harassing behavior of my fellow passengers is way more worrisome on DART.

424481_4166891941955_1727532191_n

Perplexing, and yet I found it more welcoming under this sign than on DART

I have been wondering if there is just so little intermingling between classes and races that my being a single white female simply makes people more likely to same something to me. Indeed, most of the harassing behavior I deal with on DART comes from people who feel the need to point out the color of my skin. Even when I lived in areas of PG that were 1% white, less attention was drawn to my race.  I’m still trying to understand Texas racial and social norms, and I don’t know how to interpret this.

I’ve also felt, especially in the cases of going home in poorer areas of the District (specifically living in Landover once the train was passed Eastern Market, and living in Oxon Hill once the train passed the baseball stadium) and in being on the bus in Detroit, that there’s a little bit of a feeling like, “hey we all live here and we’re all on this train so let’s get along and keep to ourselves and roll our eyes at each other if someone acts a fool.” Not to say I always felt super safe on Metro or the Detroit bus, but when it was 8:00 at night and I was clearly coming from work, taking the Detroit bus down Jefferson or riding Metro through Addison Road, no one really ever said much to me other than, “Oh, do you live/work around here?” And these are locations that make the DART system’s criminal activities look like preschool.

At the end of the day, DART is super safe. Allegedly. As I am beginning to understand it, DART is responsible for hiring their own officers and, presumably, doing their own crime statistics.  WMATA does the courtesy of publishing per station crimes. I can’t find that for DART. It makes me feel like something sketchy is going on here…that little chart contains very little information.

I don’t like to call for more police presence, but I do wish that there were (some? any?) Dallas PD at the stations, or that DART employees other than the train drivers were visible (existent?). There also aren’t any huge, easily visible maps at most of the stations. Want to guarantee you look like you don’t belong and become an easy target? Look like you don’t know where you’re going. Easy to do on DART! They want to spend all of this money expanding their services when they can’t even get it right where it’s already set up, and that’s a shame — because traffic sucks out here.