By Steve Inskeep
This week’s Baltimore riot could not have happened to a nicer city.
Baltimore residents welcome strangers and even call them “hon.” They sit on benches painted with the slogan “The Greatest City in America.”
Baltimore is also where people looted stores and burned cars Monday night. They did it when a man died a week after being arrested.
I was about to call Freddie Gray’s death the latest in a string of high-profile deaths of African-American men involving police. But that’s not quite right. And that’s the point. Each incident of the past year was a particular story in a particular place, which became clear as soon as we arrived in the very particular place that is Baltimore.
Nothing about this story was quite the way it seemed from a distance. For one thing, the uprising did not bring a black populace into confrontation with an overwhelmingly white police force, as happened in Ferguson, Mo., last year.
Baltimore, a majority black city, has a black mayor and a black police commissioner whose force is about half black.
This reality was plain to Taiwan Parker, who lives in the neighborhood where Gray was arrested. He told us that police-community relations have long been sour. And yet, he said, “It ain’t no race thing — it’s not a race thing at all.”