Tear Down That Wall
As a result of decades of city sponsored segregation, racial restrictive covenants, and redlining, York Road is a racial dividing line. When one travels further south on York Road, York Road becomes Greenmount. York Road divides and separates predominately Black east side, working class communities such as the Greater Govans from predominately white affluent west side communities such as Guilford and Homelands. There are two types of barriers separating African American communities from white communities in Northeast Baltimore. One set of barriers is physical. The other barrier is the continuing legacy of structural and systemic racism in Baltimore.
The Guilford community in Baltimore epitomizes white privilege and the racial divide in Baltimore. Today, under the guise of promoting public safety, Guilford is perpetuating and maintaining the New Jim Crow, modern day segregation. There is a stone wall on York Road separating affluent Guilford from surrounding predominantly black communities. As noted in the Guilford News, the York Road Guilford Wall runs from “north of Underwood Road to Old Cold Spring Lane.” As the Guilford News further reports, “Marlow Road between Wendover Road and York Road was eliminated.” That wall symbolizes segregation and inequality.
Moreover, Guilford has erected a sidewalk and metal barricades blocking the entrance on Southway from York Road. Guilford built a sidewalk in front of Bretton Place to block traffic from Greenmount from entering Guilford. At Greenmount and E. 35 Street, Guilford built a sidewalk and erected metal barricades to block traffic from Greenmount from entering Guilford. On Northway and Underwood Road, one-way roads prevent people from entering Guilford from York Road. Such physical barriers are designed to keep black people out of their precious, lily white community.
More important than physical barriers, there is the wall of institutionalized racism in Baltimore. That wall blocks the path to equality. As noted in the 2016 Vital Signs BNIA Indicators, stark racial disparities exist in income, unemployment and education in northeast Baltimore. The predominantly white west side of York Road earns far more than the predominately Black side of York Road. The median income in Greater Govans is $39,829. The median income in Guilford and Homeland is $83,787, more than double the income of Greater Govans. The unemployment rate is 8% in Guilford and Homeland. The unemployment rate in Greater Govans is 17%, more than double the rate in Guilford.
The predominantly white west side of York Road is more educated than the predominantly black east side of York Road. The white west side can afford to send their children to elite private schools such as Bryn Mawr, Gilman, Friends School and Roland Park Country School. Unfortunately, the Black east side parents have to send their children to underfunded, under performing, less equipped public schools. Consequently, the white west side is more educated than the black east side. In Guilford and Homeland, 74% of the population has a Bachelor’s Degree or above. In Greater Govans, only 34% of the population has a Bachelor’s Degree or above.
According to the Baltimore City Health Department, white people in Guilford and Homeland live longer than black people in Greater Govans. The life expectancy in Greater Govans is 73 years old. The life expectancy in Guilford and Homeland is 84 years.
One’s life expectancy, income, education, and unemployment rates should not be defined and determined by which side of York Road one resides on or based on the pigment of one’s skin.
During President Ronald Reagan’s famous Berlin Wall speech on June 12, 1987, he told General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” In that same spirit, we say Guilford, tear down that wall. It is time for Guilford to tear its stone wall and other unnecessary racist barriers. We need to tear down the wall that separates east from west and Black from white.
Baltimore City Council, tear down the wall of structural and institutionalized racism. Pay reparations for years of city sponsored segregation and redlining. Fully fund and implement the Kirwin Commission’s recommendations. We must tear down these barriers. This type of apartheid should not exist in Baltimore.