Taking The Neighborhood Back – But From Whom?


Grandma asked the girls if they would like to come outside and help her plant some flowering bulbs one Saturday afternoon when we were up in Baltimore visiting. She’d hoped to spruce up a scruffy patch of grass that lay dormant on an otherwise neatly manicured viridescent lawn.

On this warm, cloudless, and exceptionally luminous day, everyone’s mood was very light – and now, almost festive as the girls became super excited to show off their gardening prowess to grandma in an effort to earn a coveted “green thumb” seal of approval. Each girl had her own digging apparatus, however Marley’s was the only one making any headway breaking ground. Hers was metal, but Delaney’s and Journey’s tools were plastic, and threatened to break in two each time they attempted to jab into the tough soil.


Grandma and the girls were working away, while Rach and I were content to be witnesses to this quirky planting operation. Except for the usual sound of the busy traffic motoring up and down the street, there were no audible distractions. That was the case until up strolled a slightly out of breath, and dare I say, out of place looking woman (especially for this neighborhood) wearing a small backpack and carrying a fist full of 5 x 8 brochures. She wore a multicolored cotton tank top, faded jeans, and had short brown hair. She also sported athletic sandals, and as she neared us, she seemed mildly apprehensive.

She greeted the adults in our brood pleasantly, and explained that she was out to spread the word about a certain former federal prosecutor who is currently running for state’s attorney in Maryland, and she was hoping that she could garner our support. Once Rachael explained to her that we could not vote since we are not Maryland residents, she directed her focus to Grandma – who was still on the ground digging in the dirt with the kids.

As she leaned down to hand my mother one of the brochures, this organizer began her pitch by listing what she thought were her candidates glowing accolades. I was half way sitting and half way leaning against porch, but decided to straighten up and take a peak at her pamphlet which read like this: Why should you vote for Mr. “So and So?”

  • Increased the felony rate resulting in the conviction of nearly 500 more dangerous criminals
  • Creating a Major Investigation Unit, which has prosecuted 200 violent and repeat offenders including gang members and drug dealers.

Then it went on to promise how he planned to continue to convict “criminals and drug dealers” and “take back” the neighborhoods that are apparently, overrun with crime. The brochure ended with the slogan: Fight crime first, Fight crime together! This document read like the biggest load of propaganda I’d been exposed to in some time.

When Rachael and Grandma both looked at me out of the corner of their eyes, I knew they must both be thinking the same thing as I. For it seemed to me that the terms “gang members” and “drug dealers” in this instance, were interchangeable code words for African American males.

See, we’ve been lead to believe that the kind of criminality that is more detrimental to society is “Reggie selling a dime bag of dope to Billy, so that he can go home and mind his business getting high” – that is not completely the case!

While this city official is busy waging a war on street crime, by attempting to rile people up with inessential emotions and fear, it would be nice if folks were also made aware of this fact – “white collar crime now affects more Americans than all other forms of crime combined, according to a report published by the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).”


In a 2010 study, it was found that “nearly one in four American households had been victims of white collar crime” during that year. The types of crime included “mortgage fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, unnecessary home or auto repairs, price misrepresentation, and losses due to fraudulent business ventures and Internet scams.”

Why is this politician not running on a platform to rid us of the types of crimes that affect more of our neighbors on a daily basis? Why are so many of these white-collar crimes underreported on by the media and not attacked with an equal amount of vigor by politicians? Should it not be considered a crime when fat cat CEO’s decide to send jobs overseas leaving our neighbors without work (which one could argue helps to contribute to street crime)?

Granted, street crimes are senseless and tragic – there is the emotional shock involved and a feeling of loss when they do occur – and trust me, no one wants to become the victim of bodily harm! Lets also ask ourselves though, how much of this crime is really taking place in our neighborhoods, or how much of it is the media saturating the airwaves with alarmist news reports and view points, while politicians like this use the fear of victimization as a tool to get elected in urban areas, by using African American males as scapegoats – the faces of urban crime?

Little did she know, she was barking up the wrong tree when she stepped to us with that utterly biased promotion. We let her know in no uncertain terms that she was not about to convert anyone at this address. She seemed oblivious as to why, thanked us, and left. I watched as she moseyed away, and I continued my gaze until she was almost out of sight. I watched as she toted and planned to dispense this rhetoric of political manipulation to the unwitting, and shuttered to think how many people might be swayed by her grassroots efforts down that long lonely road. Just then a clump of dirt landed on one of the sneakers I was wearing, and my attention was brought back to the children who were still digging around us. As I looked down at my soiled shoe, I lamented the fact that it wasn’t the only thing that needed to be cleaned up.


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