Letter to the Editor: A tale of two Baltimores

Since 1901, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox have played a total of 1,906 games. Last Wednesday’s game, however, was the first of its kind. No fans entered the turnstiles to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to witness the White Sox’s loss. All the home runs and nifty fielding plays that only major leaguers can make were met with silence.

Local sports stations in Baltimore were outraged that the protests spawned by the death of Freddie Gray from the fatal injuries he suffered at the hands of the Baltimore police on April 12 led to such an inconvenience for the nation’s pastime. John Angelos, the chief operating officer for the Baltimore Orioles, who is well aware that the city of Freddie Gray is really a tale of two Baltimores, met the media onslaught unflinchingly:

“My greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case, is focused neither upon one night’s property damage or upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U. S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good hard-working Americans into economic devastation and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protection in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and surveillance state.”

Freddie Gray grew up in the wrong Baltimore, West Baltimore, a high-crime, drug-ridden area with 30 percent unemployment, known in the news most recently for the numerous lead paint lawsuits settled in favor of the plaintiffs. According to the police commissioner, “running in a high-crime area is an arrestable offense.” And Freddie Gray paid the ultimate price.

Those of us who read the news during the apartheid era in South Africa recall the numerous reports of black South Africans routinely meeting their end in police custody. The testimony given at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission only made it abundantly clear what we suspected all along: they were killed by the police.

The indictment handed down today by the state’s Attorney in Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby (the first in her family to finish college) offers some solace that reconciliation may be possible (at least in Baltimore) particularly because of the nature of the charges the officers face. The most egregious are the offenses of Caesar R. Goodson Jr: second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault and misconduct.

The Orioles played to no one last Wednesday. But the imposed silencing of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, to name a few, echoes resonantly throughout Camden Yards.

Philip W. Phillips, Professor of Physics