Trump picks on Elijah Cummings

Trump and his tweets: In the comeback city

The President of the USA declared Baltimore a "contaminated bastard". How the residents of the city react to this insult.

So this is what it looks like in the city where, according to Trump, nobody wants to live. Pretty stylish! Photo: ap

BALTIMOREtaz | If you are in the mood for clear words, curses and threats against Donald Trump, you should go to Baltimore. In the port city, an hour's drive east of Washington, many are angry with the US president. "He's sick in the head," a woman there can hear from a bus driver about the US President. "An idiot," from a construction worker. "A racist", from a professor, a homeless person, a businesswoman and any number of other Baltimores.

In the local newspaper Baltimore Sun reads: "Better to have a couple of rats than be a rat yourself". And a nervous young guy who is walking up and down a corner growls: "He shouldn't be seen here."

Trump kicked off the anger in the 620,000-inhabitant city in his usual way: he wrote a volley of tweets. This time he targeted the black Democrat Elijah Cummings, who has represented Baltimore in the US House of Representatives since 1996. The president called the popular MP a “brutal bully” and launched a sweeping attack on the city with its mostly black residents: Baltimore was a “disgusting, rats and rodent contaminated shit where“ nobody wants to live ”.

In the days that followed, Trump still went one better. Described the city as "drug-contaminated", "dangerous", "corrupt" and "criminal", claimed "the African Americans" were grateful and made his crusade against Baltimore part of his campaign. At a meeting in Ohio, he claimed that the murder rate in Baltimore was higher than in El Salvador, Honduras and, "I think Afghanistan too".

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Trump's numbers have little to do with reality. His offensive against Cummings and his city has transparent motifs. The 68-year-old MP chairs a committee in the House of Representatives that has summoned Trump officials to prepare for impeachment proceedings against the president. In addition, Cummings had sharply criticized the treatment of the children of migrants. In his tweets, Trump retaliated by claiming that the southern border was "safer and cleaner" than Baltimore.

“Trump is simply exhausting,” sighs Karsonya Wise Whitehead, who teaches communications and African American studies in Baltimore and hosts a talk radio program five afternoons a week: “He picks out a few bits of truth and wraps them in half-truths and lies . "

In the days before Trump pounced on Baltimore, Whitehead spoke on her show about the four young, progressive, brown and black women from the US Congress whom Trump advised to "go back" to their countries, even though three of the four were born in the United States and the fourth was a child when her family fled Somalia. Trump used the same words for them as for Baltimore: corrupt, criminal, catastrophic and "contaminated".

Whitehead knows from personal experience the request “go back to Africa” and knows that, conversely, no one in the USA would think of saying to a white person: “go back to Europe”. She senses that Trump is further boosting the racist sentiment by “giving whites permission to do and say things that are openly hostile to blacks and Latinos”. Whitehead fears that the things Trump kicked off will continue to have an impact after his term ends. "Some think that we are seeing the development of American apartheid," she says.

"Baltimore Sun," July 28, 2019

"Better to have a couple of rats than be a rat yourself"

Baltimore, whose architecture and atmosphere are both reminiscent of England and the Caribbean, is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The city map was created before the invention of cars. The streets are winding. And many old brick houses are still holding up against the rise of the skyscrapers.

Baltimore was officially part of the north of the United States, but its plantations and port made it so closely linked to slavery that it was tempted to fight on the Confederate side during the Civil War. The consequences of slavery and racial segregation up to the middle of the 20th century continue to have an impact today. Luxury residential complexes, shopping centers and hotels have sprung up around the inner harbor in recent years. The locals call the shining waterfront, which has received massive subsidies and tax breaks, "Gold Coast". A few blocks to the north, burned-out or boarded-up windows gape in the rows of small brick houses.

Public funding is urgently needed to rehabilitate these settlements and the thousands of "zombie houses" in Baltimore. The misery in some shabby neighborhoods of Baltimore is greater today than it was 50 years ago. Willa Bickham and Brendan Walsh opened their soup kitchen on Mount Street in West Baltimore in 1968. Since then, the two Catholic activists have entertained generations of people. The two of them say about themselves that they have decided against their white privilege and in favor of a life in poverty. In the early years on Mount Street, Bickham could watch from the steps in front of her house in the mornings as a stream of people from the neighborhood went to work.

Today the streets are empty in the morning. Since the steel mill, textile mills, and other large employers that employed thousands were gone, loneliness and isolation have ruled people's lives here, she says. In the same period of time, the number of people who come to their soup kitchen on Wednesdays has risen from 40 to often more than 200. While in the early years mainly older men over 50, often with alcohol problems, came, on this last Wednesday in July there are more than a dozen children and many young people.

For Bickham, Trump is a representative of the “white power” who is exacerbating the hard fate of their black neighbors. He does it not only with insults and insults, but also with threatened cuts in food stamps and other social benefits.

"Elizah" is what the Baltimore call their MP Cummings. They have been voting for him since 1996 and they say he works hard for his city. His constituency is made up of some of the poorest and some of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the country. After Trump's attacks, other members of the Republican Party are now trying to hold Cummings responsible for the political affairs in Baltimore. In less than ten years the city has lost two mayors who have enriched themselves in office. The penultimate police chief was put behind bars for tax evasion. But Cummings’s popularity is rising. Many Baltimorers see the attacks on him as attacks on themselves.

“I love my city,” says 17-year-old Jerrod, “even if there are a lot of murders here.” In 2018, the rapper published his first hit “No Fake Friends” on YouTube under the name “Smiley the Singer”. He lives in a social flat, surveillance cameras with the words "Believe" emblazoned on them are installed on the corners of the house. Jerrod doesn't care what the president says, "He never lived here and he has no idea."

The gallery owner and restaurant owner Kevin Brown also raves about Baltimore. "We're a comeback town," he says, "with a mojo that not everyone understands." Of course, Brown knows the rat problem. Baltimore does not have as many proportionally as Chicago, New York and Washington. But there have been more since the garbage is only picked up once a week. Brown also senses that security in Baltimore has deteriorated.

The 59-year-old has made a career. He worked as a journalist, speaker in the town hall and writer before entering the restaurant business. His parents - a factory worker and a truck driver - had moved to an "integrated" neighborhood with a majority of white families so that their 17 children would have a chance at better schools. As an adult, Brown moved into a world he would not have been allowed to enter as a child.

Together with his friend he bought a house in the posh district of Guilford in the north of Baltimore, whose owners still had the written rule until the middle of the 20th century: "No blacks, no Jews and no dogs". If white neighbors in Guilford cut him, Brown stays “cool”. And even if the motel guard across the street won't let him in to put up a flyer for breakfast in his Nancy restaurant, he's kept calm. "Something like that happens all the time," says Brown, "I'll just send my white friend."

But the President's words, "No human being wants to live in Baltimore" struck Brown deeply: "To him, I'm a bloody alien."