On the night of April 28, I walked through what is known as the roughest section of Baltimore. West Baltimore is a community that had issues long before some of the residents decided to burn buildings and steal from stores.
But long before the uprising, West Baltimore had been destroyed by unemployment and drug abuse, ills that were fed new victims thanks to a lack of the educational resources that are available to more affluent neighborhoods.
While walking through the streets of West Baltimore at night, I saw abandoned tenement buildings with wooden boards on windows and doors. I was met by police and troops dressed in armored gear and holding shields. However, I didn’t encounter any thugs or criminals.
I witnessed a group of young men and women in their early 20s and 30s screaming of their frustration of not being heard. While looking into their eyes, I saw grief and hopelessness.
While on the plane to Baltimore from Atlanta, a White passenger asked the obvious question that has been asked countless times. He asked, “Why would they destroy their own neighborhood?”
While walking through West Baltimore and looking into the eyes of the residents, the answer became clear. They destroyed their own neighborhood because that was as far as they could see. This was their life, and there was no way to escape. If any human is placed into a box, it won’t be long before he or she will do whatever they can to break out. West Baltimore can feel like a box, and the uprising was a shortsighted way of breaking free and destroying the mirror that displays an ugly reflection.
Those who looted by grabbing sneakers, clothes, and other nonessentials were taking pieces of the American dream that they will never get to experience in its entirety. The buildings that burned showed the destruction that can take place when the human condition is destroyed years beforehand.
West Baltimore taught me that there will always be two Americas, and there will always be repercussions as long as this remains a sad truth.