Baltimore's very real problems make for punchline in WaPo travel blog

Hey there Washingtonian, thinking of listening to a new ad blitz attempting to lure you to Baltimore? Well, you better be careful, because if you move, you'll probably get shot—or so says Fredrick Kunkle in his Washington Post travel blog "Tripping."

Kunkle was so beside himself after learning of the campaign, in which a $669,000 D.C. rowhouse is compared to a $299,000 one in Baltimore, that he had to employ scare tactics typically reserved for racist suburbanites posting in the comments sections of Baltimore Sun articles, which can be best summed up as: "Enter Baltimore, and you will be the victim of a crime instantaneously." The riot of last April is even invoked as a reason not to come here.

He goes on to quote "Baltimore Live [sic] executive director Steven Gondol" about how swell the city is and how living here is "just so much easier."

"If you manage to stay alive," Kunkle writes. "Isn't it also possible that Baltimore's housing prices are so low and its residents are in short supply because the city is a little troubled?"


This blithe commentary is fucked up in a number ways, but a key one is best summed up by Michael Gold, a social media editor at The New York Times who previously held similar positions at The Post and The Sun. "344 people died in homicides last year," he tweeted. "That's not a punchline."

That's exactly right. It's a very real problem that touched the families of 344 of our citizens, not some goddamn joke.

I'm on record saying the D.C.-versus-Baltimore back-and-forth is a tired argument deployed by media sites to drive up clicks (please excuse the jumbled coding contained within that link), but this snarky swipe couldn't go unchecked. It is inane at best and makes light of the end of 344 lives—most of them young black men—at worst.

Kunkle is not wrong to imply that there is great housing stock and affordability here because of the city's problems. Years of redlining, white flight, and other forms of disinvestment have made it so. Who's benefiting from it now? Mostly affluent whites, as Baltimore-based writer Alec MacGillis pointed out in Slate. And even as things have gotten better for them, the rest of the city remains impoverished.

I could rattle off a list of tourist attractions and cultural destinations here in town that make it great—that's how these rebuttal pieces are supposed to go, right?—but I won't, because the thing is this: Baltimore is screwed up, and everyone who lives here knows that, regardless of how nice it is to walk along the waterfront or how hip Hampden is. This city has a lot of shit that needs fixing.

You could read about any number of Baltimore's problems in City Paper or The Sun. You could even read about them in The Washington Post, which has done some great reporting on the city before the publication of this drivel.

These problems affect the lives of thousands, and they deserve a bit more than trolling and D.C. snark.

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