Defund the Police Department

I remember my late mother, a graduate of Shaw University, Mary Beasley Hathaway, saying to me, “you don’t see the forest for the trees.” The saying was meant to communicate that every now and then you have to step back and take a macro view of a situation. I’m sharing this saying as a way of presenting my perspective on the “defund the police” movement.

We have to examine rightly the priorities and allocations of a $577,000.00 plus budget of the Baltimore City Police Department, a budget that takes a significant percentage of Baltimore City’s overall budget.

While I agree the budget needs to be reallocated. I see simply looking at the budget of the Baltimore City Police Department as the proverbial looking at the “trees instead of the forest.”

It’s become a social justice issue to focus upon the Police Department. The treatment of people of color by the hands of the police force merits Federal Court monitoring its operations and mandating change in its practices and policies. I can understand the emotional and substantial rational for defunding a police department that possibly causes more harm than good within the Black Community.

Let me give some context, Dr. Karl Alexander of Johns Hopkins University, a researcher, conducted a longitudinal study of 790 youth for 25 years who lived within Penrose-Fayette, west side of Monroe, and Franklin Square on the east. He studied those youth from age three until age 28. His findings are published in the book, “Long Shadows.”

This is a summary of the findings: “Almost half stayed at the same economic level as their parents; only 33 children moved from low-income to high income bracket; only four percent from low income families had a college degree; while 45 percent of the children from higher income families earned a degree; White men from low-income backgrounds found high-paying jobs; at age 28, 45 percent of the Whites were working in construction trades and industrial crafts, compared with 15 percent of Black men and virtually no women; White women from low-income backgrounds benefit financially from marriage and stable live-in partnerships; and at age 28, 41 percent of the White men and 49 percent of the Black men from low-income backgrounds had a criminal conviction, but the White employment rate was much higher.”

The reason I point you to the Long Shadow’s study is to highlight the fact that by simply focusing upon “defunding the police department” you are only looking at the trees.

The forest is the total budgets of three key operations in Baltimore City— Baltimore City Government; Baltimore City Public School System; and Baltimore City Department of Social Services. These three entities have a consolidated budget of over $6 Billion per year. Using simplistic math and not accounting for adjustments and fluctuations over a 25 year period, the total consolidated expenditures of those three entities would be over $1 Trillion Five Hundred Million.

This is the forest we must see!

By doing business as usual the Long Study results are the outcomes we achieve. We need to do something radically different to change the outcomes of children and youth growing up in Baltimore’s low-income communities.

Simply demanding “defund the police department” without a comprehensive strategy for these three essential budget expenditures and projecting their investment over the life cycle of our city’s youth will doom future generations to the pot holes of rejection and low expectation.

It’s a tragedy that children of low- income families remain low income. Each generation should build upon the other and our public budgeting expenditures should provide our children and families a ladder to success.

If the results of the Democratic primary hold true we will have elected a generation of city-wide leaders: Mayor, President of the City Council and Comptroller who can guide our City for the next 20-24 years.

Our planning and budgeting process should reflect that possibility and be more strategic. Everyone understands that investment in human productivity, education, workforce development better health outcomes and quality housing will provide the masses of people with a better quality of life.

Business management and organizational development professional would share with you that our Japanese counterparts plan in hundred year cycles. This thinking creates within those organizations the mindset to project over a longer period of time and out performs those organizations with a shorter planning cycle.

Instead of each department or agency coming before the City Council and the Mayor and presenting their annual budgets for review, let us engage the residents of Baltimore City in the budgeting process and state clearly that we are at this particular juncture and we are getting these particular outcomes. Then ask what outcomes we wish to achieve over a 20-year period? And present budgets within a 20-24 year context where each year we are making the strategic investments in improving the quality of life of the persons living in Baltimore.

You may say that’s wishful thinking.

I would respond it’s “forest view thinking.” We can no longer afford “tree view thinking.” We need leaders who are willing to climb the mountaintop and think at the level of the timberline. That, as Dr. Howard Thurman would say is “the line where the tips of the trees in the forest touch the mind and hand of God.”

Dr. Al Hathaway serves as the Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church located at 1219 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore City.

Generational Political Power

All eyes will be on the Black Community in Baltimore, Marylan,d as we enter into the final round of the election in November. There is the distinct possibility Baltimore City will elect four Black males from four different generations to positions of power: Congress, Comptroller, City Council President and Mayor. This is so unique that it rivals the rare and unique “planet parade” on July 4, 2020 when all the planets of the solar system— Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune plus the dwarf planet Pluto lined up on one side of the Sun at the same time.

It appears Baltimore City voters will elect Congressman Kweisi Mfume, 70’s; Comptroller Elect Bill Henry, 50’s; Council President Elect Nick Mosby, 40’s; and Mayor Elect Brandon Scott, 30’s. This unique alignment is a combination of youthful energy and senior wisdom. The question is what will this qualified quadrilateral of political dexterity provide the citizens of Baltimore City?

We have many problems that have been exacerbated over the years. It’s not necessary to recount them, they are generally well known. What is missing is our ten-year recovery plan? I say ten-year recovery plan because the Citizens of Baltimore City need a comprehensive redevelopment strategy and plan that will outlast the political terms of this particular cast of political personalities.

We have so many assets within our city: world-class medical institutions; world-class educational institutions; a world-class port; and the birthplace of so many firsts that I cannot begin to name them within this short space.

I will say, we have residing within our borders the intellectual capital to make a difference, and now I will argue we should have the political wherewithal to change the trajectory of our city to the benefit of all who live here.

The United States of America needs a comprehensive urban renewal plan. The political stars are so aligned in Baltimore City that we can become the model for that comprehensive urban renewal strategy.

Just imagine if every graduate of Baltimore City Public Schools was prepared to enter a local college if they choose to without having to take remedial courses?

Just imagine if substandard housing was eliminated within Baltimore City? Continue to imagine a community so safe that doors of homes wouldn’t have to be locked, and your neighbors were also your friends?

Just imagine when our two HBCU’s would hold sports events that would generate so much enthusiasm and be so spectacular that people would come from all over the area to witness the basketball, track and field, baseball, golf and tennis events?

Just imagine that all of the historic sites, building and monuments in Baltimore City were international tourist attractions?

Just imagine that if our mass transit system was so comprehensive that no one needed a car or had to pay for auto insurance unless they chose to do so?

Just imagine that all of our under ground systems were modernized and all of our streets were resurfaced?

Just imagine full employment for area residents? Just imagine transit travel to Washington, D.C. in 15 minutes and New York within an hour?

With each level of government, oh I forgot to mention, the quality state legislators emanating from Baltimore City, were in agreement and alignment on a comprehensive redevelopment plan and strategy for Baltimore City that we could advance programs, such as the ones we advanced before— the late Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias and the late Congressman Parren J. Mitchell navigated through Congress the Nehemiah Housing Act, which produced affordable housing in Baltimore City that still stands today. Former United States Senator Barbara Mikulski conceived the Hope VI program that demolished many of our public housing high-rise buildings and develop- ment communities of housing choice.

I must mention the unique contributions of the former Assistant Housing Secretary Robert Embry in the creation of the Community Development Block Grant program; and David Cornish in the management of the long ago Urban Development Action Grant program.

Prior government and elected officials without the benefit of the political alignment we now enjoy, took these significant and transformational actions to benefit Baltimore City.

Now the baton is in the hands of Kweisi, Bill, Nick and Brandon to run their leg of the relay race with the excellence the people of Baltimore City deserve. Hopefully, they will take this opportunity to cast a vision for Baltimore that is inclusive and comprehensive and develop a ten or twenty-year plan that will guide Baltimore City well into the future.

Do not allow the allure of political power to overcome the need for political service. I will say there is a crowd of witnesses cheering you on, and if necessary “Act Now Baltimore” will critique you as need be. The future of our city is in your hands! Let’s reimagine our beloved community together!

Dr. Al Hathaway serves as the Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church located at 1219 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore.

Me Black Too

One of the iconic images of the of Spike Lee’s movie “Do The Right Thing” was a Korean storeowner located within the community posting a hand printed sign on his store window saying, “Me Black Too.”

The purpose of the signage was to prevent his store from being looted or burned by identifying with the angry Black people within his community who had become extremely agitated by injustice and racism.

Similarly, rioting occurred after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when the power keg of racial abuse and injustice exploded and cities throughout America where set on fire.

Time and time again, there have been precipitating incidents against African Americans that have ignited the fuse on a time bomb burning in communities right below the surface.

Sparked by blatant police violence, or some atrocity against the personhood of an African American, or some racist action is all that is needed for people within communities to explode.

The names of people who because of police brutality caused the fuse of resistance to be lit due to abuse have in many cases resulted in people responding by burning and looting. We can no longer accept signage on stores we must demand dollars to buy stores.

In the case mentioned above, by posting the “Me Black Too” sign that Asian American’s store was spared.

Is this the secret to avoiding destruction by identifying with the plight of African Americans and posting some version of “Me Black Too” signage?

In many ways that’s what happening all over America, institutions and individuals you would never imagine are posting their version of “Me Black Too” and hoisting #BlackLivesMatter signs and writing statements expressing they are empathic with the movement and how they now seek to display their “Me Black Too” sign.

Can you imagine no more Aunt Jemima, gone is Uncle Ben, so long to Mrs. Butterworth and good-bye to the imagery on Cream of Wheat; every corporation and organization is doing a self analysis and quickly displaying their “Me Black Too” sign.

Why? Is it possible they understand what we don’t fully recognize, the power of the consumer dollar of the African American community?

According to a 2019 study by University of Georgia’s Multicultural Economy Report, “African American buying power has seen impressive gains since the end of the last economic downturn, jumping from $961 Billion in 2010 to an estimated $1.3 trillion in 2018. Since 2000, the African American market has seen a 114 percent increase in buying power.”

Is that the reason why companies and advertisers are displaying their “Me Black Too” signage? They don’t want their economic businesses destroyed or threatened.

Some economic researcher will do an analysis on lost revenue by racial breakdown and we will discover factually what we know intuitively, African American consumer spending greatly impacts the bottom line of most companies in America. Without African American consumer spending most businesses would not be profitable. Sucking the dollars out of the African American community creates wealth for other communities!

Check out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement, though highly criticized as hypocritical, “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much- needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players coaches, fans and staff.”

That’s the biggest “Me Black Too” sign I’ve ever seen! For all of the hades Colin Rand Kaepernick endured and the minimization of the Black Out by the African American Community of football games, now the NFL aligns itself with #BlackLivesMatter.

Maybe the NFL understands something we don’t fully understand, if the Black Players and the Black Community joined together and took a stand, there would be no NFL: television viewership gone, advertisers gone, and all the profits the owners have enjoyed would be gone too.

“The National Football League (NFL) achieved a B for racial hiring practices and a C+ for gender hiring practices in the 2019 NFL Racial and Gender Report Card, released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This gave the NFL a combined B-grade. Their overall score of 79.3 percent is the lowest the League has recorded in the last 15 years. The B for racial hiring practices broke a streak of nine consecutive years of earning an A- or higher.” Maybe the ‘Me Black Too” sign is being posted by the Washington Football team, who has hired Jason Wright as the first Black President in NFL history. When you add Doug Williams, Senior Vice President of Player Development, overnight the Washington Football teams has put on display, #BlackLivesMatter” and “BlackBrainsMatter.

For “Me Black Too” and #BlackLivesMatter to have a lasting impact, it has to be more than a symbol or a slogan to stem the destruction of a particular enterprise. It must mean we as a community, society and culture realize the structural impediments to equal access to capital and ownership must be dismantled. Incremental progress has had too many starts and stops; we are in the two-minute drill to get the ball across the finish line of economic equality.

Dr. Al Hathaway serves as the Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church located at 1219 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore City.