Stoop stories

My black friends call it Murderland. My white friends call it Charm City, a town of trendy cafés. I just call it home

by 4,000 words
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D Watkins in Baltimore. Photo by Stacey Watkins

D Watkins in Baltimore. Photo by Stacey Watkins

D Watkins is a Baltimore writer whose work has been published in Vice and Salon. His debut memoir, Cook Up, will be released by Grand Central in 2015.

So I’m posted up, sharing a sandwich and a cigarette with a friend in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in America, and my phone buzzes. On the other end is one of my old professors asking me to tell one of my wild childhood stories at the Stoop Storytelling Series, at Center Stage in downtown Baltimore.

A stoop show, I thought: kind of like what I do on the corner in my own neighbourhood every day. I’m always surrounded by stoops, Baltimore stoops made of cracked and chipped marble steps where all we do is tell street stories: who’s getting money, who’s going to jail, who murdered who, whose album is hot, who is that girl, who’s driving what, and who’s coming home from jail.

This would be easy, the same thing, but in someone else’s neighbourhood. I agreed to it like I agreed to the last 15 opportunities that fell in my lap. I’d recently written ‘Too Poor for Pop Culture’, an essay that went viral and made me semi-relevant on the internet and the man to know on the local scene. I’d learnt that exposure and platform are key, so I looked forward to the event.

The day of the show rolled round and I was backstage with my fellow cast members and storytellers. These guys were Easter-sharp, with starched button-ups and wingtips; the women matched them in pumps and flashy adult versions of their prom dresses.

Obviously, I missed the dress code memo because I walked in wearing a black hoodie and some black Air Jordans. But no one really cared about my outfit: they greeted me with gifts, praise and love when I arrived backstage.

One of the organisers hit me with some drink tickets so I could get a little buzz before the show. I grabbed them and blasted into the lobby to redeem. That’s when I realised. This is one of those events.

By ‘those events’ I mean a segregated Baltimore show that blacks don’t even know about. I walked through a universe of white faces wondering, how is this even possible? How could we be in the middle of Baltimore, a predominantly black city where African Americans make up more than 60 per cent of the population, at a sold-out event, with no black people – except for me and the friends I brought?

I swallowed my drink and grabbed another for the stage. The hostess gave me an amazing intro and welcomed me to the mic. I walked up and said: ‘This ain’t the stoop I’m used to. There’s no pit bulls, red cups or blue flashing lights, but I’ll make it work!’ I paused, took a look at the crowd and honestly felt like I wasn’t in Baltimore.

My black friends call it Baldamore, Harm City or Bodymore Murderland. My white friends call it Balti-mo, Charm City or Smalltimore while falling in love with the quaint pubs, trendy cafés and distinctive little shops. I just call it home.

We all love Baltimore, Maryland. It’s one of those places that people never leave – literally. I know people, blacks and whites, who have been residents for 30-plus years and haven’t even been as north as Philly or as south as DC.

Baltimore is one of the few major metropolitan cities with a small-town feel. The town was founded in 1729 and named after the Englishman Cecilius Calvert, better known as Lord Baltimore. In the years that followed, Germans and Scots settled the cheap land, which was too poor for tobacco farming but good enough for wheat. Proximity to water helped Baltimore flourish, with a thriving ship market at Fell’s Point, now a hip waterfront area.

Is Baltimore a place split on ideologies because it’s too south to be north and too north to be south?

Eventually, Baltimore took off in a major way, and as industry grew so did the need for slaves. By 1810 Baltimore had 4,672 slaves, mostly hired out by cash-strapped owners from upper Maryland. In the heyday of the antebellum South, before the Civil War, some of those Baltimore slaves made enough money on the side to buy their own freedom and eventually the freedom of their family and friends.

Maryland sided with the Union during the Civil War by not declaring secession, even though it was a slave state – though some people in southern Maryland joined the Confederates anyway to keep their slaves and their tobacco farms. Some Confederate supporters attacked Union soldiers, causing 12 deaths and the Baltimore riot of 1861. After that, the Union Army had to step in and occupy Baltimore until 1865.

Is this how the two Baltimores began? As a place split on ideologies because it’s too south to be north and too north to be south – was this the start?

Daily Weekly

It is now 149 years later and nothing has changed. I went to all-black schools, lived in an all-black neighbourhood, and had almost no interactions with whites other than teachers and housing police until college, where I got my first introduction to the other Baltimore.

My SAT scores and grades were exceptional for an east Baltimore kid. This gained me acceptance into schools I probably wouldn’t have been admitted to if I weren’t a ghetto kid. Thirsty for a new experience, I wanted to go to an out-of-state college. But my plans were derailed when, months before my high-school graduation in 2000, my brother Bip and my close friend DI were murdered. I became severely depressed and rejected the idea of school.

Most of my family and friends came around in effort to get me back on track. My best friend Dre hit my crib everyday.

I met Dre way back in the nineties. His mom sucked dick for crack until she became too hideous to touch. Then she caught AIDS and died.

Dre’s my age. He had so many holes in his shoes that his feet were bruised. I started giving him clothes that I didn’t want, and he stayed with us most nights. We became brothers.

At 13, Dre started hustling drugs for Bip and never looked back. He loved his job. Dre was organised, he recruited, and he outworked everyone else on the corner. Like a little Bip, Dre beat the sun to work every morning: 4am every day in the blistering cold, with fist full of loose vials. His workload tripled after Bip passed, but he called everyday.

‘D, how you holdin’ up, shorty?’ said Dre.

‘I don’t even know. Man, I been in this house for weeks,’ I replied.

‘Naw, nigga, get out. Get a cut, nigga, go do some shit! Least you still alive!’

‘You right,’ I said as I sat on the edge of my bed. ‘Wet floor’ signs were needed for my tears.

‘What the fuck, Yo, you cry everyday?’ Dre said.

‘Naw, well no, shit. I dunno.’

‘Yo anyway, I’m gonna murder dat nigga that popped Bip. Ricky Black, bitch ass. So go live, nigga, get some new clothes, pussy or sumthin’.’

I’m not a killer. Or am I? I am capable of hate, and I am a direct product of this culture of retaliation

I picked my head up for the first time in days. I didn’t know my brother even had static with Ricky Black. They played ball together a week before Bip died. But it didn’t matter if Dre killed Ricky, or I did, because someone would eventually.

Murder made Dre smile theatrically; he leapt from his seat. ‘Nigga, I keep the ratchet on me,’ he said, lifting his sweatshirt to show me the gun gleaming on his waist.

I told him he was crazy, but I didn’t care. I wouldn’t commit that murder – I’m not a killer. Or am I? I am capable of hate, and I am a direct product of this culture of retaliation – a culture that won’t let me sleep, eat or rest until I know that Bip’s killer is dead.

‘Be careful,’ I said.

‘You should think about school, D,’ said Dre on his way out the door. ‘Bip would like that.’

He was right. My brother always wanted me to attend college: I owed Bip that.

I decided to stay in state to be close to family, so I attended Loyola University, a local school on the edge of the city.

I always thought college would be like that TV show, A Different World. Dimed-out Whitney Gilberts and Denise Huxtables hanging by my dorm – young, pure and making a difference. I’d be in Jordans and Jordan jerseys or Cosby sweaters like Ron Johnson and Dwayne Wayne, getting As and living that black intellectual life on a beautiful campus. No row homes, hood-rats, housing police or gunshots: just pizza, good girls and opportunity. I could even graduate and be ‘The Dude Who Saves the Hood!’

I’d clearly say: ‘Excuse me, where is the book store?’ And they’d look back with a twisted face, like: ‘I don’t understand you’

A plethora of white and Asian faces smirked at me as I walked across campus the first day. This was a different world, but not the world I was looking for.

There were some other black dudes there, but they weren’t black like me. They spoke proper English, wore pastel-coloured sweaters, Dockers chinos and boat shoes, carried credit cards, chased Ugg-booted white girls, played sports other than basketball and talked about Degrassiwhat the fuck is Degrassi?

I wore six braids straight back like the basketball player Allen Iverson, real Gucci sweat suits, and a $15,000 mixture of mine and Bip’s old jewellery. The other students looked at me like I was an alien. I’d walk up on a student and clearly say: ‘Excuse me, where is the book store?’ And they’d look back with a twisted face, like: ‘I don’t understand you. What are you saying?’ And I had this dance with multiple students every day until I mastered my ‘Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ voice.

I related to no one, so I talked my friend Nick, who dropped out of middle school, into hanging around campus with me.

‘Yo D, if any of these people act dumb, even the da principal, tell me. Swear to God, I’ll fuck ’em up for you, Yo.’

‘Colleges have deans, Nick, not principals, but I guarantee I won’t have any problems here.’

I laughed as we sat in Nick’s Camry. His face was stone. I cracked the door, split a blunt down the centre with my ring finger and dumped its guts on the sidewalk. We’d sit a block away from the school and burn two Ls of dro mixed with hash, and then it was school time.

Clean and high, I’d float through Loyola. Some of the students were racist – not to my face – and it seemed like my professors made sure I knew I was the only black person from low-income housing on their planet. My philosophy teacher was the worst. One time he asked: ‘What sport did you play to get into here?’ I fantasised about having Nick pistol-whip him, but he was only a pedestrian on my road to bigger goals.

I tried to adjust to the campus culture by attending basketball games and buying a grey Loyola hoodie; I bought Nick a black one. Together we sat, emotionless, through home games – underwhelmed by the basic style of play and unaffected by the school spirit that shook the gym. Loyola students got excited over made free throws and baseline jump shots. Hood dudes like us needed thrills – rim-breaking dunks, spin moves, shit talking, finger pointing and ankle-breaking crossovers.

Eventually, I met some cool white boys to smoke weed with. Tyler stuck out the most. He was a freshman like me but already had a hold on the campus. Girls giggled when he spoke, and most of the other freshmen lived and died for his approval. Initially we met in the athletics centre. I was shooting jumpers and Nick was rebounding for me. Tyler walked up and said: ‘Nice shot. You guys gamble?’

‘Shoot his head off, D! Shoot his head off, D!’ chanted Nick. Tyler and I went $5 a shot for an hour or so and I think he beat me out of $200 or $300. I paid him and he gave me $100 back.

We’d walk in and the mood would change. They’d call us bro and brotha, and give us too many handshakes

‘What’s this for?’ I said, rejecting the money. He explained that he had gambled with black guys before and he noticed that the winners always give the losers a little something back. Then he said: ‘Besides, you guys smell like Jamaicans! Can I get some of that?’ The three of us walked back to Nick’s Camry and smoked some joints. Tyler thought the bud was decent; Nick and I always had it so we exchanged numbers and ended up building a relationship.

Sometimes we smoked and talked shit to girls together, or beat the shit out of the squares that hung around in the athletics centre at basketball. Tyler even took me to his crib in Bolton Hill, with beautiful brownstones that ranged from $300K well into the millions.

I really liked Tyler but most of his friends were hard to take. They’d invite me and Nick to campus parties. We’d walk in and the mood would change. They’d reference Dr King and then Dr Dre, and call us bro and brotha, and give us too many handshakes. They tried to imitate us so we felt more comfortable, but it just felt condescending. The good part is that we never got into any fights and the N-word never slipped out. These parties got old to us really quick so we stopped going.

Doing homework and adjusting to this new world helped me deal with my losses a little, but I still had sleepless nights where I sat in the park until the sun woke me, wondering why I was alive and my brother wasn’t, why couldn’t Nick study and be a student too, why was I losing so many friends, and why I never got a chance to tell these people what they meant to me.

By mid-semester, I was sick of school. The work wasn’t hard, but it was boring as that show M*A*S*H, and trying to assimilate had become exhausting.

What would my brother say if he saw me hanging around this campus with Zack Morris and AC Slater, laughing at jokes I hated, listening to stories that bored me, going to wack basketball games, slowly conforming – being a good negro. Referencing Degrassi!

I showed him how our operation worked and who played what roles, how we changed shifts, different ways we incentivised hard work, and our methods for staying out of prison

So I said fuck it and stopped going. I had some money put up. Roughly $50,000 left behind in my brother’s stash. I took that along with some cocaine he left in his safe and dived right into the family business as a full-time crack, heroin and coke dealer.

Tyler hit me on the phone a month or so after I stopped showing up and said: ‘D, what the fuck, man? You’re just not going to come back?’

He needed some weed so I invited him down to my neighbourhood. After living in Bolton Hill all his life, my Baltimore blew his mind. He knew some black guys but had never really kicked in a housing project.

Tyler leaned against the gate and saw a bunch of Baptist churches, dirty little Korean stores with 30 teenage dope-dealers clogging the doors and the corner. Singing-and-dancing-and-dying dope fiends wandering around and bumping into each other like Thriller. Thirty-year-old pregnant grandmas. Dudes in Nikes waving automatic weapons. Unsupervised children, some barefoot and trying not to step on glass like we in a third-world country. And us: me and my crew.

I showed him how our operation worked and who played what roles, how we changed shifts, different ways we incentivised hard work, and our methods for staying out of prison. He was infatuated to say the least.

Shortly after, Tyler discovered a void in the raw coke market throughout the Loyola and Johns Hopkins/Charles Village area, and he wanted to join our operation. I set him up with coke and we never looked back. Tyler moved more coke in a week than most of my street people could move in a month. He built a huge clientele consisting of everyone from students to professors. We were all making crazy money and that’s how I really discovered the other Baltimore.

Black Baltimore is all about Grey Goose vodka, Hennessey cognac, crack sales, making money and running to the outskirts of the city, playing basketball, paying $40 to get into parties with $15 drinks, cookouts, corner stores, being harassed by cops, pit bulls, dirt bikes, church, diabetes, and staying in black areas.

White Baltimore, which in most cases is only two miles away from these black areas, is all about Ketel One or Stoli vodka, Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Coke, sniffing coke, labradors, eating outside, free entrance into clubs where you buy one drink and get another free, barbecues, free-range chickens, playing Frisbee, jogging, being loved by cops, and staying in white areas.

For years, Tyler and I worked the whitest areas in the city – Fell’s Point, Canton and Federal Hill. I even stacked enough cash to move out of the hood into a Bolton Hill brownstone similar to the one Tyler’s parents owned. When I told the homeboys where I lived, they thought it was more than 100 miles away, but it was only five miles from where I hung every day.

Living in Bolton Hill taught me a lot about our city and the role that segregation plays. I liked to bring 10 or 15 of my boys from my old neighbourhood up to my place to show them a little experiment that I figured out. I’d wait to around midnight and take a large, full trash bag out to the front of my house, cut it open and dump its contents all over the street. Then we’d smoke, drink, club, or whatever, but by 2 or 3am, all of the trash would be gone. The city would come through and pick up everything, leaving the front of my house squeaky clean.

I was sick of funerals, wasting days on corners, wondering when the cops would finally bag me or when it would be my turn to die

Then I’d do the same thing with a bag of trash in the black neighbourhood closest to Bolton Hill called Marble Hill. And the trash would sit. It would sit for days, unless residents cleaned it up. Marble Hill was known for being more dangerous, but Bolton Hill had more cops patrolling, in addition to better-kept parks and first priority when it came to snow removal.

During those years I lived in Bolton Hill, I also hung with Nick on a corner in the hood. Different sets of crews would come and go: some died off and went to prison but Nick maintained until 2004, when he asked me to put $60K of my own money with $100K of his and another guy’s cash into this big deal that could get us 10 bricks of cocaine and set us straight for life. I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t want to do it. I was thinking enough was enough around the time he was thinking expansion. I was sick of funerals, wasting days on corners and wondering when the cops would finally bag me or when it would be my turn to die.

I kept selling the little bit of drugs I had tucked away while Nick raised his money through an old-school approach. He hit every block from east to west, shaking down dealers, jamming his gun down throats, and emptying the pockets of anyone selling anything. I heard he even hung a kid named Tevin out of a window for $300: any and every thing to raise that money.

We have a saying in east Baltimore that goes: ‘Stick-up kids don’t last long’– and it’s right. Some guys from one of the many crews Nick robbed caught up with him and blew his brains out on Ashland Avenue, steps away from his grandma’s house. I got the news while visiting family in LA, and that was the beginning of the end for me.

Eventually, I lost contact with Tyler, lost the house in Bolton Hill, and ended up back in the hood where I started out. I decided to go back to school in hopes of finding a job and getting a better life.

This time, I attended the University of Baltimore, which is a semi-mixed school. UB ended up being a better fit for me than Loyola. It wasn’t A Different World, they had few black professors, and the white students at UB knew nothing about the Baltimore I’m from. But it was a mix of working people who wanted to better themselves through education, and I connected with them because of all the game I learnt from Tyler.

We are all gunning for the same things, but taking different roads and using different languages along the way

UB is a commuter school in the heart of midtown, and you’d be surprised to see such a small number of black students and professors at a school in the middle of Baltimore. But it’s true, the segregation continues. It’s evident in every classroom – the blacks sit with blacks, and the whites sit with whites. We’d work together on class assignments and presentations, and then, when we would go celebrate, the whites would go to their bar and we would go celebrate at ours.

My experience at Johns Hopkins, where I finished my Masters of Science in Education, felt more extreme. I walked through the hallway on my first day in 2010 and a woman looked me up and down, stopped me and said: ‘Excuse me, sir. Someone threw up in the women’s bathroom. Can you handle that? Thank you.’

I knew what she thought. I’m a black man at a white school, meaning I’m a janitor. I looked her in the eyes and said: ‘I believe in humanity,’ before walking away. The rest of my experience at Hopkins was just like that, but I must admit being there helped me master what I already thought I knew about the other side of Baltimore.

Simple communication, which I perfected at Hopkins, was the key. Underneath it all, I found, the privileged whites and Asians at Hopkins were the same as the black dudes in my neighbourhood. We all wanted love, success, purpose and opportunity. We are all gunning for the same things, but taking different roads and using different languages along the way. Learning how to communicate with people so far removed from my reality made me smarter, and now I’m an expert. I can communicate in the roughest housing projects because of my origin, and in the whitest neighbourhood because of my college experience and my time with Tyler selling good coke, and now I’m doing an event like the Stoop.

The crowd at the Stoop Storytelling Session must have been drunk: they laughed at everything I said to the point where I’m considering a career as a stand-up. ‘Oh yeah, and black people! There are no black people on this stoop! I’m not sure if you guys noticed or not!’ It was the last joke I gave before I dove into a story about me at 12 being robbed at gunpoint for my dirt bike.

My family didn’t panic or call the cops – they strapped up with guns, found the dudes and retrieved my bike. And even though we illegally took back my stolen bike, the overarching theme of family looking out for family connected us all. The audience at the Stoop got my perspective and had a unique chance to be invited to my side of Baltimore. It was all relatable, and the two Baltimores felt like one – but only for that night. Because after the show, I travelled back to my Baltimore and they returned to theirs.

Names and some locations have been changed.

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Comments

  • http://thewayitis.info/ Derek Roche

    Well, I'm from the other side of the planet, so I'm probably not qualified to comment, but it sounds to me like Baltimore, like much of the rest of the 'United' States, could do with a good dose of miscegenation.

  • babi

    Love it. Both entertaining and informative, I wish I was that good a writer

  • Richard

    Great piece, love the depictions of areas and people.

    On the other hand I just don't understand there has to be this artificial and rather simplistic divide that seems to prevail in almost all stories about America's poor communities, or rather, America's black v white discourse; either you're a drug dealer or you have a job.

    Having a job, or 'being a proper person' is mostly portrayed as a kind of settling down, or giving in (to white culture). As if somehow the dangerous rough and tumble life of a drug dealer in the projects is more interesting, or more inherent to black culture then, say, being a scientist. Or any of the other thousands of professions out there that imho are so much more valuable and worthy and exciting than that age-old cliché of living and dying on the streets with a gun and a vial in your pocket.

    • opheliagbooth

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      $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

    • marjorierhosmer

      My Uncle
      Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
      with a laptop. visit their website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • margaretgang

      My Uncle
      Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
      with a laptop. visit their website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • sylviadstrong

      as Thelma
      explained I cannot believe that a stay at home mom can make $7420 in four weeks
      on the internet . more info here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • tonygcastaneda

      Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising, last week I bought
      themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month and-in excess of, 10/k
      last-month . it's realy the easiest-work I have ever done . I started this 4
      months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in at least $78 per-hour .
      why not look here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Raymond

    Probably one of the best, if not the best, essays I have ever read online. Similar to my experiences, though not nearly as extreme.

    • aspire

      Can you elaborate please?

      • Raymond

        Well a lot of the events in this man's life mirror my own or at least relate to it some way. I'm from a neighborhood much like the one described in this article. I too have been sitting on stoops my whole life, listening to the same stories, watching the same types of people come and go from my life. I had to learn a whole different way of communicating in college, and learned the value of communication through those experiences, which has completely changed my life for the better. I'm not as good at it as the author of this essay is just yet, but I'm good enough to have gotten a good scholarship to my local state university, which is a start. I too had to make a similar decision, whether to take the easy way out and get into the drug game my friends and family were into, or go to school, and I too spent a few years crossing that line back and forth (also spent some time behind bars) before I decided I wanted to stick it out in school and I haven't looked back since.

        I never did become a drug king pin, though some friends died along the way, my brother is, thankfully, still with us, and I didn't experience the marked disdain he seems to have experienced in his school (people are all love where I go to school) so my experiences in that way are not nearly as extreme as his. In a lot of ways I'm just a normal city kid just like any other city kid, and I happen to be very proud of that fact, because it proves to me that if I could do it, anybody can.

    • Ayana Bass

      I agree!

      • celinadlittle

        Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising,
        last week I bought themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month
        and-in excess of, 10/k last-month . it's realy the easiest-work I have ever done
        . I started this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in at
        least $78 per-hour . why not look here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

      • myrnaestamey

        Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising,
        last week I bought themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month
        and-in excess of, 10/k last-month . it's realy the easiest-work I have ever done
        . I started this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in at
        least $78 per-hour . why not look here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • berthamdonovan

      Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising,
      last week I bought themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month
      and-in excess of, 10/k last-month . it's realy the easiest-work I have ever
      done . I started this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in
      at least $78 per-hour . why not look here C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  • Paul

    "Oh, Baltimore, man it's hard just to live, just to live". Randy Newman got it right.

  • michele24K

    Excellent! Thoroughly relatable and very telling essay about life in Baltimore.

  • Jason

    Truth revealed. This story brought some clarity to Baltimore. Why does it have to be this way?

  • Diogenes

    Heartbreaking, funny a mini tour de force. Watkins is a writer. PERIOD

    On some level I know this shit and yet Watkins essay leaves my head reeling. How do we reconcile that we all want the same things "love, success purpose and opportunity" and yet live in such separate worlds with such different and unequal opportunities.

  • Sid K

    Beautifully written. I loved your little experiment comparing Bolton Hill and Marble Hill; two neighborhoods so close together, yet so different.

    It reminds of Bubbles in The Wire saying, "Thin line between heaven and here", after returning from a visit to a white neighborhood with McNulty.

  • Sid K

    Mispost.

    Beautifully written. I loved your little experiment comparing Bolton Hill and Marble Hill; two neighborhoods so close together, yet so different.

    It reminds me of Bubbles in The Wire saying, "Thin line between heaven and here", after visiting a nice neighborhood with McNulty.

  • http://www.rebeccascheuerman.com Rebecca Scheuerman

    Love the article. I've recently moved to Baltimore, I am originally from New York. I've had a hard time grasping the segregation that pervades here. This the first place where I go somewhere and feel like I don't belong. While house hunting I met an amazing couple who were high school principles. They had lived in that house their whole lives because it was the only neighborhood that they had been allowed to buy into because of their skin color. I was scared the first few weeks here by the helicopters, gunshots, and fights, but can once again sleep like a baby. My neighbors are incredible, and look out for each other like nowhere I have ever lived before. Here's to awareness, acceptance and respect for humanity!

  • oddstray

    Wow.

    I grew up from 1950-1980 in Chicago. I thought it was the most segragated city still remaining in the USA.

    Maybe Baltimore trumps Chicago. :-(

    • notmike64

      Saint Louis is worse

  • pootietang

    You don't know much about Baltimore. It's a few rich people and a lot of poor people, white and black has nothing to do with it. I see a ton of poor white people every day. The black community is mostly racist though and mostly cuts themselves off from anybody who isn't black or offering a handout. The black community has made themselves really easy to manipulate politically as a result too, assuring that whoever offers the most handouts and is black continues to run the city, further digging the hole. WA WA WA my life was hard being black and selling drugs for a bunch of money. Oh poor me! As much as you'd like to believe there's some excuse for your crappy life, like it's whitey's fault keeping you down, it might just be that you suck at life.

    • SA

      This is the dumbest response to such an open, honest and true realization of what the city is. Living in hampden, a white neighborhood I know how city whites look at city blacks. It's the same as blacks look at whites inside the line that disconnects the rest of the world to city residents. It's pride that clearly you have no idea about. Great piece of writing by what sounds like a very ambitious inner city man. Don't hate on what he was able to accomplish just bc you have hate in your heart.

    • hehehehe

      you're an idiot. This is brilliant. I think you must have stopped reading a few paragraphs in. This isn't a sob story; it's social commentary about a plaguing and invasive problem of "separate" and definitely not equal. He isn't blaming a race. Also, nice pro pic and username, I take it you're 14?

      • pootietang

        He specifically draws the line like it's about race and there's a white and black Baltimore. There's just Baltimore. If you hate white people and don't want to hang out with them then that's your call, but there's tons of white people in his same position and making it about race shows he has no clue. Last I checked blacks were the majority in Baltimore and hold all the political power. If your life is so hard, it's not whiteys fault, it's your own.

    • aspire

      Pootietang you probably have been waiting for an opportunity say that, so a round of applause for you. Big boy!

    • Ayana Bass

      What a sad response. Maybe one day you will come out of that shell and play with some black people that are cool, fun and educated who do not say Wa. Who knows, you may make a new friend!

      • pootietang

        Again with the race card. I have lots of black friends, many of whom are even harsher with what they say about black community in Bmo. I'm not racist, I just have eyes.

  • bosco222

    D Watkins does a great job writing about his drug dealing and East Side life using Caucasian English so whitey can understand. To stay afloat he's actually going to have to learn to write about something else. Otherwise, Mr. Watkins is 10 minutes into his 15 minute arc.

    • CJ

      Isn't that the objective? For people on the outside to understand? Once people have the power along with the knowledge, change will occur.

  • Guest

    There were three Baltimores when I was growing up here in the 80s and they still exist. I struggled to straddle them all and failed each one. Today, I ironically just get to be myself in the city I vowed never to return to because of my inability to fit in. Anyway, appreciated this piece.

  • Tanika D.

    1. Is he British? What's with all the "neighbourhoods" and "organises"? He's from BALTIMORE.
    2. Everything he says seems like an extreme exaggeration or a total lie. I'd love to know if anyone fact-checked any of this.
    3. What's his POINT? What are we supposed to get from his stories? He needs an editor. And a therapist.

    4. I'm black and live in Baltimore, too, and there's a whole spectrum of life, from black to white, that doesn't look anything like crackhouses and drug dealers and condescending Bolton Hill yuppies. I hate how he makes it seem like black people are all one thing and
    white people are all the other. It's pedestrian and juvenile and
    completely lacking nuance. Again, he needs an editor.

    5. This shtick of his -- writing about all the "undersides" of black life for an all-white audience -- is getting old.
    6. Getting famous by shocking white
    people with his (probably) made-up gangsta life, and preying on their
    white guilt is reprehensible. But as long as white people keep buying it, he'll keep spinning these tales.

    • DiLand

      If you look it up, Aeon magazine is based in London. And if you notice, he talks about the black world he sees and the white world he sees. He doesn't claim that this is anyone else's point of view.

    • Shaina Anderson

      My experience in Baltimore is similar to his. Just because yours wasn't doesn't mean he exaggerated or lied.

      • persephone

        WORD.

      • Ayana Bass

        Agreed.

  • Daniel Harris

    While I don't have this author's exact experience with two Baltimores, I understand where he's coming from. I work near Lexington Market, at the University of MD and Baltimore's duality is played out every single day. This is an amazing essay.

  • baltimore county

    His brother: rich, drug dealer. Murder strikes black baltimore.
    My sister: poor, drug abuser. Overdose strikes white baltimore.

    Funny how that works.

  • Jaydeen DeCambre

    This piece just gave me LIFE! As a student of color that also went to Loyola College in Maryland (University) and came from "the hood" I totally relate to this experience and the way you express it is really honest. I don't feel like you're making any judgments, you're asking questions and telling your story.

  • Jean

    You lost me at "dirty little Korean store." Ironically, you point fingers and cry about your struggle against racism, while being obviously prejudiced yourself. And not that you would know the difference, but all those "privileged" Asians you saw on campus also include groups like the children of Hmong and Cambodian refugees.

    • E

      You know, the saying "reading is fundamental" really should be "reading comprehension is fundamental" b/c you totally misconstrued what he wrote.

      So, the phrase "dirty little Korean store" is a literal description of the store - not a metaphorical one. Basically, he's not saying that Koreans made the stores dirty; nope, he's saying that the area was dirty (hence, the description of his experiment w/garbage, and the bare-foot children trying not to walk on glass shards).

      Valid point that there could've been some Hmong and Cambodian refugees amongst the "privileged" Asians he saw on campus -- but that's a bit derailing b/c it's outside the scope of his essay.

    • Intern

      As someone who has done research on the illegally zoned liquor stores in some of the most crime ridden neighborhoods in Baltimore, I can tell you that it surprised me to learn that at least 75% of the stores are owned by Korean shop owners. It seems they have really done well in these areas by mastering their businesses methods and do not actually live in the city, most on the outskirts and in surburbias that outskirt the city. I believe is was just a description of the shop, stating that it was a typical thing to see in one of these neighborhoods; the shops are separately dirty (most of the neighborhood is not well maintained) little (they are often on the corners and bottom floors of row houses) and Korean (run by Korean shop owners). Maybe not a polite descriptor, but most likely accurate.

    • Bob Billy

      The college he went to sounds like most of it's students come from privileged backgrounds, so it follows that most of the Asians he met there would have been privileged. Should he have mentioned that not all Asians are privileged? What would the point of that been? Are there a lot of Hmong and Cambodians at John Hopkins that he should have mentioned in the article?

  • billyonetime

    This dude's perspective is about as fresh as five month old milk and as genuine as a four dollar bill. His writing is weak too, but don't let that get in the way of trying to show how culturally cool you are by praising his mediocrity. Disappointed that a friend told me this was a "must read".

  • Mulbi

    I admire your story telling skills, speak your mind freely. You have inspired many individuals in different ways. please don't be discouraged by the few negative response you are receiving. Our society is full of socially constructed oppressive categories. Race is one of them; who ever say race is natural, respectfully you are wrong. Racism is real and it has come to a point where someone doesn't have to be racist in practical. it automatically occurs. Whether it is a mile or less, I agree that our communities practice Gentrification based on race. Pay attention closely like our story teller did, and you will learn all the differences. Not only white and black but also within color of people. what is the relationship like between African American and African immigrants, how about Hispanic communities, Asian, and white? Nothing personal here, this conversation is for awareness not reveal hate over one race or ethnic groups. Generally speaking, we are all oppressive in different ways. however, learning from our experiences will make things better. Whenever someone post something they thought about. be nice and start with a positive responses and then you can give your critics with respect. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and stories.

  • Itzpapalotl

    So he does well in high school, gets into a decent college, and....decides it's a better use of his time to sell coke and crack. It certainly did make him more money than I'll make in 5 years with my job, for which I earned two degrees and pay taxes. I went to Hopkins, by the way. I heard about the murders, burglaries, rapes, assaults, and armed robberies in the Charles Village area and chose to commute 45 min to school for my own safety. We'd get a security bulletin every week. One guy got robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the day, in a secure parking garage, in front of his wife and kids. Another woman was mobbed by a crowd of 8-10 year old black kids demanding money. She pretended she didn't speak English and thankfully they left her alone. These people have no shame. He describes his friend as making money the old school way - no, his friend is taking money from people he doesn't know (some of whom have earned it, some of whom are fellow drug dealers) because he feels entitled to stick a gun in people's faces and get whatever he wants. You wonder why white people don't like going into "black Baltimore?" They're hunted. They're prey. They're fair game for any crime and no one bats an eye about it because 1) they do it to each other all the time and 2) if the victim is white, he or she probably deserves it for being perceived as wealthy and privileged. White people may make stereotypical assumptions about black people in "white Baltimore;" some of them probably also make snide remarks and many probably have an unconscious disdain in their attitude. The chances of a black person getting physically assaulted in "white Baltimore" are MUCH slimmer than vice versa, however.

    The author looks at white and Asian people and automatically assumes that because they are there (at his school), they are financially privileged. Everyone else (case in point - his philosophy teacher) probably had a similar assumption about him - that he was only there due to affirmative action or sports talent. He says he asked people "Excuse me, where is the bookstore?" but if everyone he asked couldn't understand him, he probably actually said something more like "Ey yo, wer da buh-sto?" So what does this guy do when he makes a ton of money selling drugs after dropping out of a good school? He moves into a rich neighborhood. He invites 15 of his buddies over to party and throw trash everywhere. He brings his drug business into a good neighborhood, and with it he brings the crime that inevitably follows. He literally lowers the quality of life in that neighborhood by his actions. He perpetuates the stereotype of the typical black Baltimorean and then wonders why he can't "assimilate" when not surrounded by the thug life.

    I have no sympathy for the author due to his own choices. At the beginning of the essay I really admired him for his grades, overcoming his brother and friend's deaths, and making friends outside of his comfort zone. In the end though, he chose to become exactly the type of person I would avoid on the street.

    • notmike64

      Thank you

    • Roy Niles

      I commented earlier that this is one of those "point of view" articles, where the author sees no comparative value to assigning reasons to views from diverging viewpoints. Either that or he just can't see things from another view.

      • Aeshura

        That's exactly what he's saying Roy imo, He never saw the point of view, it's not comparative, he's saying he never saw that side of the fence, but if you look over yours, here's what you'll see.

        • Roy Niles

          When I look, I see a comparative culture, where race is a contributive factor but competition is the comparative cause.
          And competition takes advantage of racial prejudices, which in turn are based on comparative ignorance. We then attempt to take competitive advantage of each others ignorance by assuming that race causes ignorance, when in fact it's ignorance which attaches such a meaning to the concept of race.
          And so I ask, for example, are black people more comfortable with each other because they share an understanding of the effects of prejudice, or somehow share an equal understanding of its causes?
          My son, for another example, is part Tahitian, and attended the same "upper power class" school in Hawaii at the same time as Obama, although in a lower grade. Both of them were called "blackshit" competitively, and it hurt. But on the other hand the lower power class Hawaiians have called me "whiteshit" for years and it has only pissed me off. I can understand the competitive causes of prejudice. My son still can't, because even though the little world in Hawaii is mostly brown, the bigger world of competitive power is still white. (Getting to be the Asian version of whiteness, but perhaps that's adding insult to injury.)

    • Raymond

      "'Excuse me, where is the bookstore?" but if everyone he asked couldn't understand him, he probably actually said something more like "Ey yo, wer da buh-sto?'"

      You seem to be as guilty of this us vs them mentality as you are accusing the author of being. I'm not from Baltimore. but I'm from a city just like it, and I can tell you that white people aren't "hunted." If you are a poor white person nobody is fucking with you. If you are a rich black person, you are getting robbed. In fact the level of black on black crime in these neighborhoods should prove that it is not a color thing from that perspective. I mean, in the essay he writes about his white friend who came out to his neighborhood with him, didn't seem to be hunted to me. But of course if you're white and not from that neighborhood, you might be in more danger as they might make the same kinds of assumptions "oh he's white he must have money" that you are accusing the author of making. But from my experience, it doesn't matter if you're white or black, you will be targeted if you are not from around there. Period.

      You don't have to feel sympathy for him because everything worked out for him. This wasn't an essay about "feel sorry for me because I'm poor and black" at least not how I read it. This is an essay about the lack of ability to see the other side of the fence so to speak, acknowledge their humanity, and perhaps even try to reach across it. Maybe he is guilty of those same things, maybe he too is a product of his racially segregated environment and the us vs them mentality it has created.

      I find it interesting that you assume so many things about this article. You assume he was speaking unintelligibly in that quote above, when I can tell you from experience that just speaking in a "ghetto accent" or, in my case, looking Hispanic will get you confused looks no matter how clearly you formulate your words. The level of derision you show a legitimate dialect that is not your own is also troubling. You also assume that white people in "black Baltimore" are not wanted, something that again, I wouldn't know about Baltimore but, from my experience living in the black side of town, is just not true. You also seem to reduce an entire neighborhood to "those people" and a lot of other things that tell me that Baltimore as a city has a long way to go before it can get past its cultural divides. A shame too, I think if you got over your fear and they got over their resentment of your fear, you might get along pretty well.

      • persephone

        CHURCH, Bruh.

        You took him to (much needed) school in this response. THANK YOU.

        Pure mierda.

        • Aeshura

          For real. I'm by Patterson, been here from up North ave for a while. Brothers deep in that shit from LA, Mom wanted me to learn so all I do is read. Not even a block away is this trendy little coffee shop, people sittin' outside drinking 10 dollar coffees with their chocolate labs or terriers. I usually smoke when I walk in those areas, so I cross the street (mostly because it would be rude to blow smoke when people are eating) Mostly because it's what I see when the two races see each other. I think the major thing is in my neighborhood, when you see someone you don't see a person, you see what they have and then you size them up to see whether you can "get that up off em". When I walk down the street and see these cats I feel my chest swell, my brows furrow just a bit and I know it's visible because one dude actually like, tripped over his own feet when he looked up and saw me. Now I just want to test him because his reaction made me angry, but it makes me scared too. scared that I can feel that way still after trying to not stick out, after hearing people surprised if I have an opinion on political discussions, and discussions that don't have somewhere in it "well it's like the ghetto's here" with a pointed look at me like because I'm not on a stoop, I want to tell everyone the struggles real. I enjoy being able to go near canton and talk about world events, politics, psychology or whatever floats my boat, but if you do it leaves a void, If I pontificate waving a 40 oz of Steele, no one seems to get the joke, I can't break into vernacular when I want to get a point across without dancing with words. my crew will say "man you know a lot of useless ass information" and it's a compliment. "cultured" people will say I'm articulate. But they don't understand the uselessness of it when you hungry.

        • Ayana Bass

          Agreed. Another disconnected person. He really just does not understand, nor does he want to.

      • Itzpapalotl

        Sorry for the late reply; I haven't checked Disqus in a white. But anyway! To clarify the "white people being hunted" comment: I'm not talking about white people hanging out with their friends (of any color) in ghetto neighborhoods. Even when I would go out in small groups people didn't bother us at all. In my experience, if I walked around Baltimore at night alone or with a girl, people would approach us: "Hey baby, what you doin' tonight?" "Hey sexy, want a ride?" One random guy pounded on the window of a cafe when I was sitting there; he called me a "little white whore" when I wouldn't come outside. Walking down the street in a residential area, people sitting on their front stoops would yell out things as I passed. Now, it's certainly plausible that these things happened to me not because I'm mostly white, but because I'm female and alone or unaccompanied by a male. It's likely that women experience that kind of harassment even more than men. It's also likely that most of the people I'm talking about didn't approach me based on my skin color but because of my gender. However, every single person who ever approached me or catcalled me on the street was black.

        I did have one experience that I would definitely attribute to racism. I was driving home from Hopkins and was sitting at a red light on 29th. A black man rear-ended my car, which in Maryland, even if I had backed into him, the car behind is automatically at fault. I tried to exchange insurance information with him but he told me he didn't have any. A crowd of all black people congregated on the street and told him "Don't worry, we'll witness against her in court; we'll tell 'em it was her fault." When the cops showed up some of the guys in the crowd started yelling, "Awwww, lil' white girl done broke a nail!" The driver who had rear ended me suddenly remembered that he did have insurance after all. After the police report was finished and I got in my car to leave, a black woman blocked my way, saying she wanted to take pictures of my car on her cell phone...even though she'd been sitting there with everyone for about 45 min. I asked her to please move; she smirked and just started photographing. I waited for her to finish and when she did move, I left. Now, if he rear ended me, why was it automatically my fault in the eyes of the black crowd? Why offer to perjure yourself in court? This is a perfect example of the "us vs. them" mentality you described.

        Moving on, I enjoyed reading a different perspective that I would never have the opportunity to hear. The closest I came to really getting an idea of life in the Baltimore ghetto is when I dated a "friend of the Bloods" and hung out with his friends, a mix of black, white, and brown. Intellectual curiosity aside, I still don't like some of this author's life choices. He obviously turned his life around by getting a Master's and a career, but his decision to be a coke and heroin dealer instead of getting a college education is still something I consider worthy of contempt. I'm sure most drug users would disagree with me because he is providing an in-demand product; however, I value education and hard work over wealth and crime.

        As for the bookstore thing, I only surmised that because he mentioned that every single person he asked didn't understand him at first, and so he had to practice his "Carlton voice" to be coherent to people on campus. Also, the reduction of neighborhoods to "us and them" you mentioned was a function of the author's descriptions of the two Baltimores - "white Baltimore" and "black Baltimore." He kind of did that for us. Obviously there are a mix of races in the city, in the county, and in the country, though I think the division he was pointing out wasn't necessarily about race, but about socioeconomic differences in culture. That contributes to the "us vs. them" mentality of which you accuse me and others; for my part, I enjoy hearing new perspectives because it helps me broaden my own. I would never look down on someone for being a particular race. I would look down on someone for their choices, actions, and demeanor. I am not so politically correct as to absolve people of all personal responsibility due to their class, race, financial circumstances, etc. Anyway, hope that helps give some context

    • Kelly

      Wow, and it is these sorts of opinions that keep Baltimore divided. My hope for people who live 45 min away from a city they go to school in, because they are scared of it, just stay there. No one wants you here. You're racist and a classist, and no one wants that mess here. Go back to the county and go live in a gated community with other people like you, so you all can commiserate on how hard it is to be white and middle-class.

      • Ed

        Why should anyone put their life in danger for a social experiment? If and when Blacks decide to act like civilized human beings than I'm sure more people will move into the city.

      • Itzpapalotl

        Do you have anything to add to the discussion? I'm interested in other points of view; however, it is a common knee-jerk response these days to accuse someone of racism when they haven't got anything of value to say. But anyway, you'll be happy to hear that I did move; I now live in a not-so-great neighborhood in another state near another big city. (The "not-so-great" part, by the way, is due to the vandalism and theft I and other residents have experienced, as well as the roving groups of teens and grown men that often wander the streets at night.) Also, it seemed like a win-win living at home for college - no unnecessary wasting money on room and board, smaller chance of being mugged or burglarized. Anyway, hit me back with an intelligent response; if not, have a nice life :)

    • ABW

      This is an ignorant response written under the guise of your phony, I'm-smart-because-I-went-to-good-schools intellect. I guess there are certain things schools can't teach you. You are perpetuating the myth that white people are targets and victims of black criminals, ignoring the fact that most crime is in fact intraracial. 86% of white murder victims are killed by other whites and 94% of black murder victims are killed by blacks. I'm sure it appears they were targets in black neighborhoods because the school is predominantly white, but no more than blacks were targets in their own neighborhoods, as the author points out several times.

      He is not sticking up for his friends' behavior, he's merely telling their stories. The author is telling the story from his point of view and isn't claiming otherwise. You can't expect him to speak for others when, as he emphasizes, he has no understanding of what it's like to be them. That's the point of this article, genius: "Here's what it's like to be me, I wonder what it's like to be you." Once you've been born and bred with hood mentality, it's hard to escape, which people don't understand unless they've experienced it firsthand. "I had all these opportunities, but it was frustrating because I felt like I had no support." And that's where you're tempted to give up. Yes, he went through growing pains and did shitty things as a result (who hasn't?). He couldn't flourish because of his environment. Who wants to be in an environment where no one respects you and most think less of you?

      If you finished the article, you'd understand that he ended up succeeding when he went to schools where he felt he had more peers. If you looked him up, you'd know he's enjoyed a career as a professor and a writer. You say he ended up being the type of person you'd avoid on the street and I'm glad you said that. Because he ended up being a black man with a master's degree. But, clearly, as the woman who confused him for a janitor, you only see the black part.

      • Ed

        He's glorifying it. It's clear as day.

        • ABW

          Yep, "Most of my friends and family are dead, the rest are ravaged by drugs and poverty." If that isn't aggrandizing I don't know what is. You got me there.

      • Itzpapalotl

        Again, sorry for the delayed response! So to start off, I would apologize for writing like someone who has a brain and a good education but...that's nothing to be ashamed of, so I won't. You will just have to deal with it, I suppose. Anyway, I agree with your point that the majority of crimes are intraracial. No one, including me, is denying that fact. As for your comment that the point of the article was "Here's what it's like to be me," isn't that the same dam n thing I was doing? Lol. The fact that my perspective is different from the author's doesn't make it automatically dismissible. The author mentioned that he felt out of place and had difficulty assimilating in a predominantly white and Asian student body; I of course would have a similar problem assimilating into a predominantly non-white or Asian culture. So if the author is allowed to point out the shortcomings and his dislikes of "white Baltimore," why is it now not okay for me to point out the same for "black Baltimore?" And if you say it's because of my racial privilege, that in itself is racist.

        Finally, a black man with a master's degree and a professional career isn't typically someone I'd want to avoid on the street. I'm glad he re-turned himself around and didn't give up on an education. I would so much rather have more people like him now in the world than people like he used to be. So to conclude, yes, I would want to avoid a coke and heroin dealer on the street. How do I know he's just an "innocent coke and heroin dealer" and not someone like the author's friend who made his money robbing people at gunpoint? It's common sense. I don't care what race you are; if you make poor choices, I'll probably not want to have much to do with you. As the majority of Baltimore's inner city is black, it statistically follows that the majority of Baltimore's criminals are also black; therefore, I would probably want to avoid more black people on the streets of Baltimore than other races. A black man dressed in a nice suit, for instance, to me is different from a black man dressed as a gangsta. It's about how you present yourself.

    • ABW

      Also, let's nip this in the bud, lest people start taking your word for it and not looking it up on their own. He did not introduce drugs or crime into that neighborhood, that's an assumption you're making because we tend to associate crime and drugs with blacks. In fact, while blacks are disproportionately arrested for drugs, they use marijuana at the same rates and whites and whites actually constitute the vast majority of narcotics users. Look it up. I'm sure that's the reason Tyler was able to bring in that much business. Drugs were already there. Therefore, crime was already there. White neighborhoods are just less likely to have drug sweeps/raids, so it obviously appears they have idyllic, pristine, halcyon lives. But we know that's not the case, right?

      • tfh

        Not only that, but all markets, including drug markets, operate on laws of supply and demand. They wouldn't have sold any drugs if the people in those neighborhoods didn't want to buy them.

      • Itzpapalotl

        Of course I'm going to assume he likely brought crime into a good neighborhood. Increased crime is often the result of drug dealing. I'm not talking about a few neighborhood kids selling dope. I'm talking about the author's highly successful enterprise selling hard drugs. (Yes, another assumption: If the author were not successful, he would not have made such a large amount of money.) If it was a good neighborhood, it probably didn't have much crime to begin with....but let's say it did. He's adding to it. (Also, from a business point of view, it was brilliant that the author was able to tap into a previously inaccessible market through Tyler.) I've lived in suburban white neighborhoods before and there were drugs, vandalism, and hit-and-runs. And these were relatively "good neighborhoods." However, adding one more drug dealer to the mix does absolutely nothing to improve the quality of the neighborhood. At best, it has no effect; at worst, it brings it down even more.

    • java jock

      It was a mainstay of the evolving American culture to keep black people at the bottom of the pile. Every race of immigrants were allowed to rise above the black people. the American negro is in the poorest, lowest economic level. In other countries the working class is the lowest economic level but of the same race. There is of course the lingering denial by whites of the sheer scale of the horror of human slavery that took place in the U.S. Who can imagine being completely owned by a brutal sub human being who had legal power and control over you. Who could legally torture,rape or kill you if he or she so wished and they often did! Black families were deliberately broken up and the father sent, sorry ,SOLD off resulting in human beings who were unable to function emotionally.The trauma of such an existence reverbates through the generations of black people and is intensified by the hatred, vilification, intolerance and racism prevalent in the U.S. today. This has culminated in the description of life related to us by this gifted black writer D watkins. Until the white people who have done little or nothing to remedy or alleviate the plight of black people then they must suffer the annoyances of being robbed murdered and raped. Some would call it karma.

      • Roy Niles

        You're leaving out the fact that most black people did not willingly come here as immigrants, but unwillingly as slaves. And that many of your so called highly prejudiced white people were in fact instrumental in finding them a way to achieve their freedom. My mother's family were Irish immigrants yet they helped in the operation of the underground railroad. My great grandfather was a Scotsman, who immigrated to America just prior to the Civil War and volunteered to fight with an Iowa regiment, that he then led from the front during the entire war as their Colonel.
        He specifically made it clear from the start, and prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, that they ere fighting, not just to preserve the Union, but to free the Confederacy's slaves.
        This is a country built by immigrants, and immigrants don't shy from competition with other immigrants. But your description of them as wholeheartedly and viciously prejudiced toward blacks reflects an equal prejudice of yours toward the very people whose families had done so much to free their black compatriots..
        I realize that the Southern part of America has substituted their various forms of less than legal segregation for their slavery, and the Southern politicians do their best to deny blacks the right and the opportunity to vote. But nevertheless, the times, they are achangin'
        And your call for whites to meet their Karmic fates is what I'd call the wailing of its meanest spirits.

      • Itzpapalotl

        That is really messed up. There is not a single white person today in the US who has owned slaves. Murder and rape are not "annoyances." They are not "karma" when perpetrated on white people. You need to accept the fact that black people are not members of a helpless, pathetically downtrodden race that just can't succeed without white people's help. You need to realize that black people are perfectly capable of improving their lives, their communities, and overcoming life's adversities. Black people have the ability to be smart, hardworking, and compassionate - and many are. There is no excuse outside of extreme poverty for black people to commit crimes or live for years off of welfare. Most black people who complain about "white privilege," "systemic discrimination," etc. are the ones who are too lazy and entitled to get off their couch and work hard. That is not the fault of any other race.

    • Ed

      Thank you this sickening glorification of the destructive pathology of inner city Blacks must end. The fact that he did well in school and chose to engage in such a lifestyle reflects some level of retardation. Most people grow out of the lifestyle not embrace it as an adult.

    • timeswhat

      Oh boy are you missing the entire point....

  • Dirk

    He mentioned the poor garbage truck service, but how were the wambulances?

  • barbara

    love love love your direct style of writing. reading this makes me want to wake up and make a difference to help healing this painful gap of our two Baltimores...

  • John M

    I can attest that the Loyola side of this story is probably 100% true.

  • Rocky

    Loved this piece, an example of point-of-view narrative in the tradition of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." Most comments here are, to say the least, moronic.

  • John

    The segregation in Baltimore schools is defacto. It was not and is not by law. It is by individual choice.

  • Dwayne Thomas

    I am the product of one of the Baltimores. Growing up on the Westside (Edmonson Village) and surviving the Eastside (North Ave and Broadway) a story for another time. How I pull it off still amazes me today. I often think of how I could go from any high-rise project building without difficulty (Flagg, Murphy Homes, etc...). Laughed at the episode of HOMICIDE when they blew all of them up. We were gangsters before the word turn up in every rap song. I was Harold's little brother and the world stood back and took notice because of the violence I existed in. Untouchable by some and gave as good as I got. Not to be taken lightly but the warriors in my Baltimore. Drugs, murder, hate, and the unbelievable was all I wanted to get away from and knew that if I didn't escape I would die on those streets.

    This story brings back those memories of a time in my past. Marble Hill -- yes the hell that raged in that neighborhood. The lives left on the side walk with holes made by too many bullet holes to count. Fighting over the crumbs left by a drug dealer to stupid to keep an eye on his homie. Youth lost for turning the wrong corner or left the house on the wrong night. The sleepless nights wondering when it would be your turn to dance with the devil. Would I be ready...they never were ready. I hate that city...and love it.

    I still return when the family needs me to because on those streets I was taugh family is everything. I still pick up a crab cake from Lexington Market during most of my visits. Two Baltimores--is right.

  • Sekou Waters

    I remember when he was out riding dirt bikes and selling dope, I'm glad he changed because so many dudes from our neighborhood are dead. I'm glad he made it!

  • david slebodnick

    I really enjoyed this article and it truly shows how extreme the racial segregation is in Baltimore. Thats why in the city of Baltimore, from the black and white side, there is so much hate and racism. This article truly brought this to light and showed how Baltimore is such a melting pot of different cultures you have to respect and understand before you judge people. The crime in Baltimore is a cycle of violence people are born into and its hard to get out, as this guy proves. The drug trade is far and away the most destructive epidemic in Baltimore. However, my only complaint about this article is how the writer trys to describe whites in Baltimore as all the same. He describes whites as everyone of them being privileged, ignorant to reality, and pompous. This is not the case. There are plenty of people not involved in the violence of Baltimore that are aware of it and not blind to it. Every white person in Baltimore is not an pretentious privileged rich person. There are plenty of struggling white families in Baltimore and plenty of people aware and willing to help those in need. Overall, this was an extremely well written article, and the writer is a very smart guy.

  • GRock Jones

    I like that dude write about Baltimore and hang over Latrobe every week. Thats real shit he got all us readin his stuff. G shit , I took dis pic of him and im bout to start writing

  • Kelly

    I grew up in Baltimore City, and you described it perfectly. I had no idea how shockingly divided Baltimore was until I started teaching in west Baltimore right after college and I felt like I was in a different country. I had gone to high school not even 2 miles away from where I was teaching, and yet my school experience was so vastly different from that of my students'. I don't think I'll ever see Baltimore the same way after that, but I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

  • Marquita Marie Blanding

    Such a great article! Being raised and currently living in the inner-city of Philly, having attended and graduated from Loyola and spent a lot of time in Baltimore after graduating, I can definitely relate to some of your experiences! It is great to see someone have the courage to share their experiences that to some would deem "touchy" topics. It brings to light that we need to have more discussion on the topics of race, culture and wealth... not just at the micro level (Loyola), but also at a macro level (Baltimore, USA, Global). Keep doing what you are doing, as it is definitely creating forums of discussion, and we look forward to your next article!

  • HeyHey

    Sort of weird to highlight Loyola students in a description of white Baltimore. While they most certainly meet the white criteria, almost none of the student population is even from Maryland. Then again, they probably do more good for poor Baltimore children and neighborhoods than anyone who really is from here.

  • topshot

    "We all love Baltimore. ..it's one of those places people never leave." You have got to be kidding me. I can't leave fast enough. I've lived in multicultural communities all my life in the States and abroad but never have I experienced racism (by blacks against whites), mistrust, attitude and crime like I have in Baltimore.

  • Bob

    Did he have a scholarship to Loyola and waste it? (Loyola is an expensive school, so I am assuming he had a scholarship)

  • Whody Blowfish

    Awful writing. Initially, while scanning those short paragraphs which contained little depth and scattered narrative, I wondered "when's he going to start the ghetto shock words?" Bang! There they were...

    btw, many whites are delusional (and that's being kind).

  • DB

    I love this essay and the writer's perspective, although I would challenge him on there being just two Baltimores. I understand the author is telling his truth, but that notion is too simplistic. My "Black Baltimore" didn't look like his, nor did it look like the Huxtables' Brooklyn, but all of Black Baltimore does not look like "The Wire". Nevertheless, this is a powerful story about managing a life and creating a new one.

  • http://www.readingwritingrevolution.net/ Scott Meek

    Nice job. As a resident of Baltimore, pretty much the white one, and as a white kid growing up with mostly black friends in Mississippi, I totally understand the differences in cultures, the sameness in goals, and the way to communicate those gaps. I admit I love living in Baltimore, and it does have that great small town feel, but two towns like you describe - a black one and a white one. I know that none of my black friends in Canton can relate to anything happening in those poor neighborhoods we're all a little afraid to drive through. I wish it wasn't like that; I'm not sure if it'll ever change.

  • rosalynrmanuel

    my buddy's sister makes $87 every hour on the internet
    . She has been unemployed for 6 months but last month her payment was $19402
    just working on the internet for a few hours. go right here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Amanda in B’more

    I wondered if he's never noticed poor whites in Baltimore,
    we're here too. living in white and black neighborhoods, trying to live like everybody else. we still have some privilege because we're white so life is different, but we are far from the Bolton Hill types. I love telling rich whites my neighborhood, if only to watch the blood drain from their faces...

    This past Easter Sunday families were having get togethers , so there were more cars on the street as usual. I had gone shopping and had to walk my groceries a block or so, had more than one trip, and left the hatch to my beat up minivan open.

    Two black women were in a car behind it, and as I walked back to grab the rest, the passenger window rolled down.

    They were not my neighbors

    "We were getting ready to leave, but decided to watch your van for you."

    "Thats nice but, if anyone needs food that bad, they could take it."

    "Not your food!!! Your van!!!"

    "You think my neighbors would steal my van?"

    "In a heartbeat."

    The fuck they would.

    I shook my head and laughed.

    She said,

    "You must have just moved here or somethin."

    "No, I've lived here for a few years...no-ones ever stolen anything of mine and I carry groceries in like this weekly" (though i have given food away, no ones just taken it)

    I thanked them and they went on their way.

    I should have defended my neighbors.

    I'll do that now

    I do not doubt this author's experiences,

    BUT

    My
    neighborhood, my neighbors, most of them are good people, I stay out of
    the business of those who arent, and a post like this, *sigh* brings
    that stereotype to them. my hard working, law abiding black neighbors.

    And, You know, if someone wanted to hotwire my piece of crap van in the moments it takes for me to carry groceries

    I'd be impressed with their skills, but confused by the choice.

  • bluelight74

    A bit late to the party. But the reason you were the only black guy at that event is pretty clear. They didn't want any of the millions of everyday ordinary black people, they wanted something specific. They wanted to get drunk ( and have you get drunk as well) and watch you perform your hood shtick. And it seems you delivered. Fucking ridiculous.

  • Joe Smithereen

    Loved it. Sounds like someone was in one of Dr. Betsy Nix's classes at UB.......

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