The Glover Report: Racism, Mayor, Police, State’s Attorney, Black People, White People, Baltimore: WHO WILL LEAD?
By Doni Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(BALTIMORE – January 24, 2011) - What happens when more and more upwardly mobile whites live in a majority black city where many blacks are economically, politically, and socially stuck? Welcome to Baltimore!
It’s a discussion that few are willing to have: RACE. W. E. B. DuBois stated at the end of the 19th century that color would be the problem of the 20th century. Seemingly, it remains so still today.
In light of the two major incidents that have engulfed the minds and spirits of the people, race – once again – raises its head.
Many white people, I imagine, might question why the black folks are all up in arms about an 8-year veteran police officer, William H. Torbit, Jr., being gunned down in the streets like a dog. Black people, on the other hand, don’t have to wonder at all. Black people, for the most part, recognize that if the police have the license to unload on Torbit, they will surely do it to us – hands down – no question.
While Torbit’s case is currently in the Baltimore City Police Department’s hands, another case is a little further down the road. That would be the case of Eliyahu Werdesheim and his alleged attack on the Northwestern High School student walking through an upper Park Heights neighborhood. The youth is black; Werdesheim is a white Jewish man, and apparent member of the Shomrim security patrol. First degree assault charges (a felony) were dropped against Mr. Werdesheim last week. Then, in an interesting twist of events, his brother, Avi, was charged. Additionally, there is one other suspect who has not been charged.
This incident also wreaked ill feelings among Baltimore’s black population. And, to say the least, the new State’s Attorney for Baltimore, Gregg Bernstein, only responded to questions last week with a “No comment.”
This didn’t go over well to black leaders either.
And so, on this brisk Monday morning, the community leaders have organized a press conference in front of the Mitchell Courthouse downtown where Bernstein’s office is located. Clearly, these leaders want an intelligent and mindful response from the newly elected official who beat out Patricia Jessamy, a black woman who held the post for the past 16 years.
Bernstein is white; further, he is married to Sheryl Goldstein. Goldstein runs the City’s Criminal Justice division, a seemingly integral part of the City’s law enforcement policy making body.
In short, there is an historic mistrust by citizens, many of whom are black, of the police and the entire criminal justice system in Maryland – especially in Baltimore.
Hence, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office might do well to pull together a message for the people because right now, the citizens are restless. There is a strong consensus that City Hall is out of touch with the black citizenry.
One might also note that since Torbit’s killing, Rawlings-Blake has come under fire by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) for calling for an independent investigation of the double homicide that involved all-police gunplay.
Some wonder who is running the City and whether the Mayor, the police, and the State’s Attorney are all on the same page.
The Spectator reported in March of 2009:
For a department that has been controversial and under fire, including repeated inquiries from the Justice Department and ongoing investigations of widespread corruption, officer misconduct, and institutional racism, knowing who is actually in charge is very important. Public trust and confidence in the Baltimore Police Department is at an all time low.
Well, nearly two years later, public trust and confidence is even lower – particularly with the shooting of Officer Torbit by four other officers and the obvious hate crime initiated on the Northwestern High School student by war-tested members of the Shomrin security patrol in Upper Park Heights.
In both incidents, race plays a key factor. Furthermore, whether it is covert or overt – institutional or flagrant – racism eats at the core of American society. While The Sunpointed out that most undercover officers killed on duty in America, like Torbit, are black – the fact remains that race is still at the core of the matter. As for the black high school student attacked in the white, Jewish dominated part of the Park Heights community, again, the obvious issue is race.
What’s most fascinating to me, the quintessential political junkie, is that this is a citywide election year. To say the least, as the candidates – one by one – step to the mic to tell us why they want to be the mayor for the next four years, I am curious as to who will exemplify leadership to the masses in light of the racial earthquake that still sends tremors across Baltimore.
Who will step up and speak the words of healing so desperately needed in times like these? Who will allay the fears and concerns of the average citizen afraid of both the good guys and the bad guys? Mayor Blake? Otis Rolley, the man who recently called on Bill Cosby as he announced his mayoral intentions? State Senator Cathy Pugh, the current chair of the Black Caucus of Maryland who has been noting as of late that black people constitute 30% of the population of the State of Maryland and are long overdue for their fair share of the pie? Or, will Kweisi Mfume give some breaking news?
Time will tell, no doubt. However, the people are hurting now and are in need of a healing now. Folks on the street see the criminal justice system in Baltimore as one focused purely on “just us.” Until that perception changes, until leadership arises that will speak truth to power, until the hearts and souls of the people are touched and inspired as only a leader can – racism will continue to fester and wreak its wicked head on an otherwise forsaken population.
When is ‘enough’ enough?