Media Focuses on Violence, Ignores Poverty and Policy in Baltimore
Maryland State Delegate Jill Carter, Michaela Brown of the Baltimore Bloc, and Baltimore teacher Meghann Harris discuss how the mainstream is covering Baltimore
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux coming to you live from our Baltimore studio.
If you’ve been following the story that’s developing here in Baltimore through the mainstream press–you know who we’re talking about, CNN, Fox News, the usual culprits–you probably have a very skewed view of the story. I’m joined with a esteemed panel here to really get into what they’ve seen in the mainstream media and what is the reality of the situation here in Baltimore. We’ve Michaela Brown, who is an organizer and the communications director for the Baltimore Bloc. Also joining us is Meghann Harris, she’s a teacher here in Baltimore. And of course, Jill Carter. She’s a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing the 41st Legislative District of Baltimore City.
Thank you all for joining us.
PANELISTS: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: Okay, so let’s open up this segment and really get to showing our viewers a clip from some of the footage of how the mainstream media has been covering this. I want to start off with something that happened last night. Councilman Nick Mosby, who’s actually, represents the district where Freddie Gray resided. And he was being interviewed by a Fox News reporter, and he was trying to explain why protesters were out there. Let’s take a look.
REPORTER, FOX NEWS: Tell me what this means for your city.
NICK MOSBY, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN: [Inaud.]
REPORTER: When you’re watching this go on, does it break your heart to see this happen?
MOSBY: Oh, definitely. I mean, what it is is young boys, the young folks of this community showing decades old of anger, frustration for a system that’s failed them. I mean, this is bigger than Freddie Gray, this is about the socioeconomics of poor, urban America. And you know, these young guys are frustrated, they’re upset. And unfortunately they’re displaying it in a very destructive manner.
You know, when folks are undereducated, unfortunately they don’t have the same intellectual voice to express it the way other people do, and that’s what we see through the violence today.
REPORTER: We just watched this liquor store being looted, and there’s a bunch of folks running in and out of there. What’s wrong with that? The police are all the way down there. You’re a City Council member, is that right?
MOSBY: Is it right for people to loot? No, I mean, I think you’ve missed everything I’ve tried to
articulate to you.
REPORTER: Okay, so help me understand.
MOSBY: What I said is everything out here has been wrong. The violence is wrong. That’s never acceptable. Understanding that there’s a symptom of something that’s going on here–.
DESVARIEUX: So he talks about how there’s a symptom, and you can see that the reporter’s really focusing on the looting. Anyone want to jump in here? Michaela, let me start off with you.
MICHAELA BROWN, BALTIMORE BLOC: That has been the narrative that the media has been using since Saturday, and it’s interesting that they seem to want to focus on the violence aspect and not the actual root causes of these issues. Nobody wants to talk about the history of violence in the community when it comes to cops and black people. Nobody wants to talk about the fact that in these poor communities we have no other outlets. Nobody wants to talk about the fact that policy hasn’t changed in God knows how long, so we feel like there’s no other way to deal with these issues. And at the end of the day unless we find sustainable solutions to deal with what caused this backlash and outrage and anger, then nothing’s going to change.
DESVARIEUX: Meghann, some of your students were out there protesting yesterday. You were interviewed by the mainstream press. What was your interaction with them like, and did you even get–did they publish or air what you–.
MEGHANN HARRIS, BALTIMORE TEACHER: So it starts back on Saturday. I went out to the march and saw many of my students out there. I invited them out there, in fact, and saw students walking along that I didn’t even expect to be there. And at the end of the march we all kind of congregated around City Hall. And what I saw was that a lot of them were being interviewed. Some of them were interviewed before I was interviewed. We gave very positive interviews about what was happening. Media were asking us questions that were kind of skewed, but we’d skew it back the other way, because everything that happened during the march was peaceful. And none of those things were aired. I looked for them over and over again. I knew particular students who were interviewed, I knew I was interviewed twice by two different networks, and none of those things were put up.
Then yesterday, they’re kind of focusing on the rioting and everything, but I haven’t seen a lot today about Baltimore’s cleanup efforts that I was a part of this morning, or anything like that. I’ve seen some, but not nearly enough. And most of it still focuses on the violence from last night.
DESVARIEUX: And focusing on the violence, I think some of the images you see is sort of the police officers who’ve been injured, and some people might even say turning police into victims. What’s your take on that, Delegate Carter?
JILL CARTER, MARYLAND STATE DELEGATE: I think that’s exactly what the media has portrayed. And I think it’s by design. You know, one of my heroes, Pastor Heber Brown, says that I’m suspicious of anyone that focuses more on the expression of our pain than the root cause of our pain. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Turning the entire narrative, or entire dialog and the media focus on the actions that are disruptive to the community and then constantly saying, and they’re tearing up their own communities, which I also think is misleading. Clearly there is no real stake that people feel in these communities where they own very little to nothing, and the businesses are people that come into their community, make profit off of the people, and then leave the community with nothing and give very little back for the most part. Of course that’s not, that’s not all.
But you know, the truth is Baltimore police have routinely for a very long time hyper-policed and over-arrested and brutalized black people in Baltimore City. And more than just black people, but that’s the majority of who it happens to and who gets the worst of it. But the media yesterday was portraying the people acting out, where normally they don’t get much of a chance to act out. Because they’re cuffed, and in the situation that we saw on videotape, Freddie Gray–and they don’t get very much chance to act out.
And so what we saw the media, we saw the police being very, very passive. Very, very controlled. Which is very interesting, because on a regular basis they’re usually not very controlled. They usually come with attitude. And of course you know, whenever you talk about this you always have to say not all. But what I’ve consistently said is that the majority of our people are really good, and the few that are really, really gonna act out are the isolated incidents.
The rage, though, the rage is very significant. Because I link it all to the political establishment. The political establishment of the city and the state has never had the political will to fix a lot of these problems. These people go completely ignored. We are still the lead poisoning capital of probably the world, definitely the country. What does that mean? That means that we have lead poisoning, the scourge that is 100 percent preventable, that causes permanent brain damage to young children. They are never able to fully realize their potential in life. It’s the number one precursor to juvenile delinquency and the number one precursor to so many other non-productive ills. We refuse to fix it. We, the political establishment. And at the same time, what’s the reason? Because slumlords don’t want to spend the money to clean it up.
That’s the kind of mentality that has governed these savage disparities, savage inequities in Baltimore, for a very long time. And so beyond Freddie Gray, that’s what young people are fighting back against. And what I get from it is, hey, you older people have not done a good enough job. And the only way that we’re going to get you to listen, because you never cared about us before, we don’t vote and we don’t raise any money, is to act out in the only way that we can.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. I want to talk about something else that transpired yesterday, was this clip that went viral of this mother who was essentially hitting her son, some people have called her Mom of the Year, because the son was participating in the protest. Michaela, what is your response to that?
BROWN: I have to takes on it. I think it’s interesting that for yesterday in particular that that was behavior that was [awarded], where normally when you see clips like that on social media or on the news it’s like, oh my God, she’s abusing her child.
I also think that, granted, she had every right to discipline her child the way she chose to. I personally feel like this is not the time to publicly chastise our youth for the way that they are acting. I think that she should have waited until they got home to deal with the issue, and me personally, explain to her child in a different manner for why his activities were counterproductive. But not to do it publicly, because now the media and everyone else has a reason to say why these riots and the looting is so horrible and so bad, and that this is taking attention away from everything when in reality we need to comfort our young people as much as possible, and deal with the rest of that behind closed doors.
DESVARIEUX: All right. I just want to thank all my panelists. We’re just going to take a quick break. Thank you all for being here, and–.
PANELISTS: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: –being with us. We would like to get you back on, because we’re going to be continuing this coverage all week.
And please stay tuned, we’ll be right back, just taking a quick break. Get your coffee, get whatever you need to do, and we’ll be back here with our continuing livestream.
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