Ralph E. Moore, Jr.
I’ve known Ralph Moore for over thirty years. I think we first met when I volunteered for Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. Over the years, no matter where he’s worked, he’s been a community activist, fighting for the interests of Baltimore’s residents. So I paid attention when he posted this on the Baltimore Lift Facebook page.
It’s the structural poverty that leads to the structural violence we are now seeing in Baltimore.
The poverty in Baltimore (and elsewhere) is structural: the consequence of an exploitative economic system that has targeted Blacks and other persons of color for centuries. It has languished the poor in destructive circumstances–lousy schools, decrepit housing, low paying jobs with no benefits or futures or no jobs, limited access to healthcare if any access at all and too many guns floating in the neighborhoods, too little access to good food, too easy access to liquor stores and decades of lead paint in that bad housing. Not enough mental health services or knowledge of mediation services to help folks settle disputes is another source of the problem.
And so, gangs and unaffiliated folks are shooting and stabbing to take lives that are vastly devalued by our social, economic and political circumstances. Although Black lives matter greatly to many of us, Blacks lives are seen as meaningless and disposable by killers and their victims. Everything in the inner-cities such as Baltimore says you are not worth much, so taking your life and risking my own in doing so has no value.
It is isn’t about Black on Black crimes, folks, so you should understand the marches, the preaching, the slogans, the finger-wagging are all missing the point. If “poverty is the worst form of violence” as Gandhi reminded us, then the violence we are now experiencing in our city has been growing for decades now. It is the consequence of many years of neglect, disinvestment, corruption, exploitation and piling on of the poor. Whether the set up was accidentally or intentionally, the effect is the same: structural poverty wherein as the late Michael Jackson once sang in “The Wiz”, “You can’t win, you can’t get even and you can’t get out of the game.”
Eliminate the poverty and you’ll eliminate the violence. The folks out of Los Angeles who run Homeboy Industries, a job training program for the formerly incarcerated and gang involved say it best with their slogan, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
So enough misdirected wailing about “Black on Black crime.” It is time to step up the conversations about “Blacks on the job.” And since so many of us agree that Black Lives Matter, it is time we show it by adding value to the quality of life in the neighborhoods where poor folks live. –Ralph E. Moore, Jr. Baltimore