Protests in Baltimore? We’re Not Surprised

Following the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore was put into the limelight as its citizens staged protests and sometimes riots against police brutality. For the record, Freddie Gray was a black man who was arrested in Baltimore for being in possession of a switchblade. While under arrest, he suffered a fatal spine injury from being placed unbuckled and handcuffed into the back of a police car.

Baltimore is not the first city in the recent past to launch a protest sparked by the death of a black man. To anyone who has seen the statistics surrounding black lives in Baltimore or any of the other cities, the protests were just a matter of time.

Take infant mortality rates. These rates reflect a lot of things about that community — primarily wealth, access to good healthcare and regional stability. Countries like Finland have infant mortality rates as low as 2 percent, but in war-torn regions like the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the rate is about 20 percent, according to Vox Media. Looking at the history of these countries, the discrepancy makes sense. However, in the United States, both rates exist within the same city of Baltimore; it only depends on which neighborhood you live in. Within the neighborhood of Canton, where less than 2 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, you will find the infant mortality rate to be more like Finland’s rate. However, go a few miles to the neighborhood of Little Italy, and suddenly the mortality rate increases to be higher than the West Bank rate as reported by Vox Media

Unlike before, this difference is illogical. It’s the same city! These neighborhoods share the same national, state and city governments. However, income levels represent clear disparities. In Little Italy, 41 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Unfortunately, financial inequality and race are not mutually exclusive. According to the National Poverty Center, in 2010, 27 percent of blacks and 27 percent of Latinos lived below the poverty line compared to 10 percent of whites. Thus, the jump in infant mortality rates appears to be directly correlated with socioeconomic status. This means that not only are minorities disproportionately living in the poorest conditions (below the poverty line), but they also don’t have access to the same health benefits as their counterparts. This is just one example of how one factor such as income can affect many others, such as health.

Overall, life expectancy is lower in parts of Baltimore as well. For example, there are 15 neighborhoods where the life expectancy rate is lower than North Korea’s, according to Vox Media. Think about that. A dictatorship with one of the worst human rights records currently in existence. It’s almost as if  Baltimore’s residents are living in different countries rather than different neighborhoods.

Looking at the numbers now, Baltimore is no surprise. In fact, how could we not see it coming? As we observe the other cities in the United States, we discover these issues are present in New York, Cleveland and many others. If we don’t want to add another city the list, then we will have to address these issues soon.