Ain’t no justice. It’s just us.

18 Dec
December 18, 2015

March 1992 Twigg Simon Bal Sun Article

In light of the frustration that many feel in the wake of this week’s mistrial in the first Freddy Gray prosecution, I thought I’d dig out an old newspaper clip. Written by veteran police reporter Roger Twigg and myself, it is an account of another Baltimorean who died in the back of a police wagon, and the early stages of an investigation that went nowhere once prosecutors, a city grand jury and police union lawyers did their business.

In this instance, now nearly a quarter century old, the sustained injuries were not to the victim’s spinal cord, but to his spleen and his ribs. In this instance, the prisoner was also clearly in distress and ignored.  In this case, the wagon man rode the victim around Baltimore not for 45 minutes without medical assistance, but for a full hour. In this instance, the wagon man actually told other prisoners not to step on the prone victim, because, he said, the man had AIDS. And in this case, too, as with Mr. Gray, there was considerable discussion about the criminality of the victim, as if by diminishing his human worth and highlighting his failings, a police-wagon death was somehow deserved.

Robert Eugene Privett, 29, died in Baltimore police custody in March 1992. There was no uprising and no riot. Coverage of the death produced no civic outrage. And a Baltimore State’s Attorney also took the matter to a grand jury and emerged with no indictments — not for depraved-heart second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. Not even for reckless endangerment.

It was death that just slipped quietly below the waves.

A police reporter for nearly a decade by then, I was certain it would.  I knew it once I heard prosecutors and union lawyers both mitigating the outcome with talk of the victim’s enlarged spleen, his drug use, his HIV status, effectively constructing a legal hole so large that a truck could be run through the center of the case.

The greater truth is that Freddy Gray is in no way unique or remarkable. Not in Baltimore, and not anywhere else in urban America. He comes to us amid a policing culture debased by thirty years of open warfare on the city poor — a conflict that has allowed, if not actually required, officers to see a large share of the men, women and children they are policing as the enemy, as arrest stats, as very much less than human.

Mr. Privett was white, by the way.  The desire to construct the Freddy Gray narrative along purely racial lines is understandable — Baltimore is a majority black city, and further, people of color are disproportionately represented among the poor, who are the specific, targeted cohort in the drug war — but it is nonetheless not an entirely honest construction.

Anyone who has watched drug prohibition applied in my city’s poor white or mixed neighborhoods — in O’Donnell Heights or Morrell Park, Pigtown or pre-gentrifying Remington — understands fully that the battle claimed against dangerous narcotics long ago morphed into a full-blown war on our most vulnerable and disempowered citizens, regardless of race.  I recently happened to find myself the only white fellow on a New Yorker festival panel on race and I tried to make this point gently — to acknowledge that while people of color suffer police violence disproportionately, they are not alone.  And that class warfare, as much as racism, now underlies our savage, repetitive reliance on law-and-order brutalities.

“Then how is it that we never hear about white people being victims?” asked a fellow panelist.

I told her I had covered cases in Baltimore, that I had seen the war on drugs play itself out against poor whites and blacks alike. She looked at me with disbelief and disappointment, as if I had obliviously blurted that all lives matter.

Make no mistake: racism is still good fuel for much of the brutality. Moreover, I understand the natural inclination to view the whole of the nightmare of institutionalized police violence through the prism of race. From that perspective, poor white victims are indeed less useful as martyrs for a movement that begins by affirming for black life. But America’s misuse of the drug war to overpolice and beat down its poor is simply bigger, and more complicated, than race alone. The hue of the six defendants in the Gray prosecutions suggests this.  And the fact that the Robert Eugene Privetts of the world were going to their deaths in the back of Baltimore police wagons decades ago affirms as much.

I waited for a verdict in the first Freddy Gray prosecution before posting this.  I didn’t want to add to pretrial foment or mangle the specifics of the present case with those of the distant past.  But I’m writing now, in light of a jury’s inability to find any guilt whatsoever in the death of Mr. Gray in police custody.

Fair-minded people can argue about whether sufficient intent was proven to justify a manslaughter conviction, or whether this particular officer was more or less complicit in what happened to Mr. Gray.  But if, over the ensuing trials, our justice system determines that a prone, unresponsive human being can be legally ignored for nearly an hour by the authorities who have taken custody of him, well then, what exactly is the law saying to us as citizens? In a civilized republic, a law officer, in taking custodial responsibility of a fellow citizen, must do all he or she can to transport that citizen safely and attentively. If the law in the Freddy Gray cases allows otherwise, without sanctioning those who so abjectly fail that test, then our police wagons and jail cells will continue to be bodied for another couple decades.

Baltimore failed Robert Privett entirely.  Again, there were no indictments for reckless endangerment as he rolled around Southeast Baltimore for over an hour, pleading for medical help and dying of a ruptured spleen. The wagon man made his HIV-status into a bad joke. The state’s attorney then failed him and the city grand jury failed him.  His fellow citizens failed him as well, in that in 1992, the hue and cry against overpolicing, the drug war and mass incarceration wasn’t yet on the horizon. A series of articles covered the case in The Sun, but produced little reaction from any quarter.  Privett was The Other.  Some dope fiend. With AIDS.  Fuck him.

And now Mr. Gray.

If Baltimore today can’t figure out how to legally hold accountable the law officers who failed for nearly an hour to secure medical assistance for a man in their custodial care — at least to the point of declaring that they failed in their duty and recklessly endangered a fellow citizen — then we will have stayed the course. And twenty years from now, amid some other wagon or jail death, someone else will be posting old Freddy Gray stories and explaining that there is nothing new under the sun.

 

70 replies
  1. Georgie says:

    David,

    No reply button available on your most recent post. So I reply to it here.

    ———————————————————————

    Interestingly enough, the tone of your most recent post about Shaunart’s unwillingness to engage further greatly mirrors my own attitude about your own seeming lack of response to something I keep bringing up.

    Specifically, my charge pertains to your seeming lack of willingness to engage regarding my oft-repeated conjecture that the very creation of the concept of “whiteness” is a premeditated, random, arbitrary and utterly unscientific lie in the first place. And that, therefore, the ensuing 360 years of hideous (and seemingly endless) racial violence in this country is an absolute foundational prerequisite for protecting the voracity of that humungous original lie (that those in power have known from the very beginning was an anecdotal based lie).

    And since I consider it a potentially earth-shattering conjecture that this violence (in order to sustain an astronomically huge known lie) has been the very backbone of our entire society virtually from day one, I can hardly wait to finally hear what kind of measured, open-minded and humble retort you can give me to this one.

    Something about pointing fingers…

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I didn’t reply to that specifically because I accept it specifically. Having experienced the ambiguous efforts to categorize people racially in places as varied as South Africa, which I visited twice after apartheid, in which paper-bag tests were long administered on a black-coloured-white basis to enforce the pass laws, or having spent considerable time in New Orleans, where the interposition of Creole identifications rendered the presumed specificity of white-black racial divisions absurd, I have no doubt that our basis of racial identification is corrupted, distorted and destructive.

      I found nothing to dispute in your contention.

      And the fact that all of us, when we consider race, are obliged to deal with the practical EFFECTS of this categorization, that in order to deal with the reality on the ground we are obliged to address the vernacular of race as all of America understands it — this is inevitable but, for my part, in no way an endorsement of the concept of some binary racial order.

      If I want to describe for example how the use/misuse of police arrest powers are visited upon certain cohorts and not others, the understandable vernacular in this culture might be white and non-white as a means of quickly and coherently demonstrating the effects of racial bias on the policing culture. I might as well add the phrase “so-called” in front of every racial reference. It would become redundant and burdensome to narrative and argument, but yes, it would certainly be more accurate.

      At the origins of American racial pathologies, did those who created our construct know that race itself was a far more ambiguous and uncertain metric than they claimed? Or did they simply give free reign to their inherent prejudices on the weak evidence of mere appearance? I don’t know, but four hundred years ago the human genome was a glint in no one’s eye. Now, of course, we know a lot more, yet the construct certainly endures and predominates.

      My question to you — and it is open-ended; I don’t have an answer — is how do we best proceed? Is it possible to argue the EFFECT of the construct without validating it? Can we simply cease to regard it as a metric for anything while at the same time charting and challenging the effect of the fact that it nonetheless guides the sensibilities of people who call themselves white and black both? Is there a new vernacular and a new vocabulary that allows us to work the problems while dismissing the initial dishonesty of measuring human beings so falsely in the first place?

      Reply
      • Georgie says:

        How do we do it indeed???

        I contend the answer was, is and will always be directly in front of our noses.

        Very, very similar to the conundrum that most people of different sexual orientations eventually have to face: It’s virtually never been a question of “what is the truth”. Because, for at least as long as abolitionists in America, their very existence presents evidence that we have, at the very least, suspected the real truth about race. So, again, much like the very personal dilemma for some of whether or not to “come out of the closet”. The question has virtually never been so much a matter of “finding out” the truth, as it is a matter of “CAN WE LIVE WITH THE IMMENSELY PAINFUL CONSEQUENCES OF FINALLY TELLING OUR TORTUROUS 360-YEAR-OLD SECRET”. Versus, (and probably much more importantly) “HOW MUCH LONGER CAN WE LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF CONTINUING TO LIVE “IN THE CLOSET” WITH THIS EVER EXPANDING AND EVER MORE PUTRID PILE OF RACIAL LIES, AND THE VIOLENCE IT REQUIRES TO SUSTAIN IT (as a result of what we have actually long known, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to have been a MORAL lie)?

        And as you somewhat attempted to breach the other day, with every day that we don’t confess the REAL truth about who WE are and what WE’VE been, we make the consequences for our children and grandchildren potentially more and more explosive and horrendous, when the truth finally does come out. Because the people of color who’ve suffered this immoral violence for SO long will then have TWO very obvious reasons to be absolutely mindlessly furious. The lie itself…AND the decades and decades of utter cowardice and guilt (and greed) that knowingly prolonged the violence that they’ve been enduring over fear of how like-minded they’d in turn be and whether they’d want to retaliate in kind once the real truth was finally told.

        You mentioned having visited post-apartheid South Africa. Tangentially, the financial gap between white and black in this country RIGHT NOW is worse than it was at the very height of apartheid in South Africa. That’s HUGE! I specifically bring this up because it took the absolutely immeasurable graciousness of a man like Nelson Mandela (with his Truth and Reconciliation Commission) to diffuse what was almost assuredly going to be a total, unadulterated bloodbath in South Africa…over…200 years of racial lies and the violence needed to sustain them.

        I, therefore, very, very strongly contend that if WE don’t tell the truth very, very soon about where this thing called “whiteness” came from, and how it is somehow STILL a seemingly viable construct 360 years later, we are playing a game of Russian roulette with six bullets in the revolver. Because the odds of there being another MLK or Nelson Mandela to somehow come along and save us from our uglier natures by sheer force of gracious will are pretty slim. And using the violence (and potential violence — that should have happened) of South Africa as the yardstick, once again, I’d say our children and grandchildren are on the verge of paying an absolutely hideous cost if WE don’t do everything we can to keep this racial powder keg we call America from exploding. Black and brown people are far more pissed off than you believe. (Twenty times less wealth, 50 years AFTER the Civil Rights Act, tends to do that to people.)

        Which brings me very directly to my final point.

        I mentioned earlier that “non-whites” have a couple obvious reasons to be more and more pissed off the longer we continue this “shell game” called “race”. But there is a less obvious reason, that has the potential to be far more formidable in terms of it’s ability to foment mindless violence on a much more massive scale. In the words of your friend Ta-nehisi Coates, it is referred to as “PLUNDER”.

        Sharecropping, convict leasing, Reservations, citizenship for Asian railroad builders, Tulsa race riots, post-Civil War race riots in the North, redlining, gentrification, for-profit prisons, every Immigration ACT before 1965, the original FHA loan program, sub-prime loans, the original incarnation of Welfare, the Drug War, “white flight”, separate but equal, runaway code enforcement courts, downsizing, outsourcing, “last-hired-first-fired”, etc…

        These things aren’t just examples of the physical and psychological violence that has endlessly accompanied everyday life for non-whites. They are all meticulously thought out (and often very long-term) forms of financial plunder. Exclusively for the benefit of one “race” only. Even though there are differing definitions of what it even means to be “white”, depending on what era of history you are in and/or what area of the world you are in (in fact, during slavery it was sometimes both at once).

        The endless lies centered around “race” have seemingly worked without question for so long! But as I’ve said repeatedly, the perpetual physical violence has only taught people to not “outwardly” ask questions. Where I tend to believe you have your biggest blind spot is in your (and virtually all “white” people for that matter) ability to temporarily leave for white spaces, or simply “turn off the TV” when their seemingly “mindless” anger gets too discomforting. So very loosely speaking, when you consistently allow yourself to see only 20% of their anger and frustration, you gradually start to believe that 20% is all there is. But make no mistake about it, it’s much bigger than you suspect. Even to the point that the most successful among them carry far more of it than you would tend to believe. (ie. Gates, Winfrey, Obama…) So no amount of treating the symptoms is ever going to cure their disease. And to be perfectly clear, their disease is the continued existence of this arbitrary thing called “whiteness”, that by definition renders them “other” (on sight), everywhere they go. Coupled with the continuing 360-year-old game of supposedly not knowing and/or understanding what they’re pissed off about (and especially, pretending not to know where whiteness even came from in the first place). Leaving them more and more physically beat up and on edge, AND more and more at the bottom of the financial totem pole (than they were when they supposedly got their equal rights 50 years ago).

        So how do WE go about fixing it, you asked? By finally getting up enough courage to finally confess, to anyone that will listen, the REAL truth about the history of this mythical thing called “whiteness” (and the seemingly endless lies that have sustained it). Along with all the heinous and immoral things that have been done to perpetuate it. And also, — and this is key — by vowing to let our kids see us getting filthy dirty trying to make the world a “racially” slightly better place for them than it was for us. In other words, not just words, but actions. And last, but certainly not least, by not waiting for our children and grandchildren to “be better people than us”.

        Best wishes.

        Reply
  2. Georgie says:

    First off, thank you for responding.

    Your response was, for me, both illuminating and fascinating. I loved it. Interestingly enough, the biggest reason that I did love it was because you clarified, for me at least, in no uncertain terms, what you’re NOT trying to do when it comes to discussing these seemingly endless issues of race: Give it extreme preeminence over all other considerations, when looking at this country’s myriad of social issues. And I find that to be an extremely healthy way of trying to deal with what has clearly evolved into a fucking mess of seemingly constant yelling and screaming polar opposite extremes.

    However…

    From the seeds being planted in the final moments of Bacon’s Rebellion to this very instant. The creation and institutionalization of the lie of the preeminence of white skin has been accompanied by absolutely massive and endless amounts of violence, in order to try and sustain that lie. So I, therefore, contend: The fundamental reason that such a huge percentage of non-white people tend to still make race far and away the most significant prism that they see the world through is because it’s a reaction to the absolutely relentless violence (though mostly covert now) that is still being inflicted upon them in the name of propping up what virtually everyone now knows to be an institutionalized myth (and a more and more unsustainable one, I might add). In other words, they still want the 400-year-old constant threat of pain and death to stop! Slavery…gone. Jim Crow…gone. The lie of the existence of whiteness. Still perfectly intact. And as long as the lie remains intact, the violence needed to sustain will remain intact as well. So, while the other social factors you allude to are indeed major issues that need to be addressed, from their perspective, they don’t produce the endless DIRECT pain and violence that institutional racial violence does. So, you have the luxury of hitting the remote or retiring to predominantly white spaces, and at least temporarily avoiding seeing that violence, and focusing on other projects and issues. But once again, from their perspective, they don’t. Ever. Because the instant identifier of the color of their skin precludes it. Even if they are celebrated university professors, or fabulously wealthy talk-show hosts, or Presidents. From their perspective, it’s still potentially life or death, all day every day. Because for them, the lie of whiteness still very much requires subtle and not-so-subtle violence all day every day to sustain it’s viability. So it’s not so much that they don’t see the other social issues you mention, it’s more that they believe they don’t have the luxury of taking their eyes off the institutional violence of this utterly BS thing called race. Lest it overtake them AGAIN at literally any second. Urban decay after white capitol flight is their fault. High unemployment after factories go overseas is their fault. Black on black crime — a term whose very existence I personally consider the absolute height of this idiocy — is their fault. Disproportionate arrests and sentencing for equal crimes is their fault. Police brutality is their fault. Sub-prime loans (and their catastophic aftermath) are their fault. And my personal favorite: Unarmed people dying regularly at the hands of an institution specifically created in the first place to be the “muscle” for enforcing white supremacy is, nonetheless, their fault. Black children disciplined and suspended disproportionately is their fault. And last, but certainly not least, the vast majority of the imagery on TV and in the movies that continues to present these lies as truth is…not them.

    Violence. Institutional, seemingly limitless, pathologically twisted (because it’s built on a 360-year-old, and counting, lie), race-based violence.

    So are they wrong to view virtually everything through the prism of race? Almost assuredly. Do they have “A” viable reason why they do it though? I’d say yes… Because this thing called whiteness is a premeditated, intentional, cultivated lie. And as long as the very concept continues to exist, history has emphatically shown (and continues to show at this very minute) that they are going to ALWAYS be at major risk for disproportionate violence and death. Because the lie DEMANDS it, in order to sustain itself. But here’s the catch. What happens in the near future when the demographics start to seriously tilt the table in the other direction after 400 years of this crap? Oopsies? “Can’t we all just get along?” Sorry dudes? I don’t think so.

    As I said at the beginning of this. Your attitude is healthy. But. Our children and grandchildren are going to be left to pay for cleaning up this seemingly neverending, ugly, ugly racial mess. Because, make absolutely no mistake about it, 400 years of literal torture and death over a stupid f’ing lie, sooner or later is going to have to be dealt with…directly. Not just in beautiful flowing words. But in bloody knuckle and dirty nails action. You sentiments are beautiful. But for a people this pissed off, for this long, will that ultimately be enough?

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      If I claimed some more mock-heroic purpose than storytelling,clarity and however close I can get to accuracy, I’d be a pompous, self-important putz. My agenda is what it is and it is hard enough to be true to it.

      Sorry for anything that disappoints.

      I agree with you about the bill that becomes due. Maybe our children and theirs will be bigger than us. Not that we’re entitled.

      All best,

      D

      Reply
  3. ShaunArtsMind says:

    Good day David. After reading your blog posting & seeing the article that you provided from the 1990’s, my basis of seeing how race matters, apparently misses your trajectory within the history of oppression in this country—-to a wider extent, this world. When you factor in Blacks existing in this world, (using the prefix Afro-American to Afro-Latino to all the Black cultures that is living throughout this world) you will clearly—well, I can clearly see the imbalances that overrides any sort of intellectualism or political index finger pointing that has the rest of your fingers pointing back to the Drug Wars in America during the 1980’s & 1990’s.

    How would I be able to declare what I mentioned up & above? Because I am a Black Man who was born & raised in Black Baltimore.

    May I copy & paste a few paragraphs from your well-thought out posting to elaborate my position that unties itself from a white writer & thinker such as yourself?

    Mentally, I heard you say, “yes.”
    Mentally, I respond, “Thank you, David.”

    Your words:
    The greater truth is that Freddy Gray is in no way unique or remarkable. Not in Baltimore, and not anywhere else in urban America. He comes to us amid a policing culture debased by thirty years of open warfare on the city poor — a conflict that has allowed, if not actually required, officers to see a large share of the men, women and children they are policing as the enemy, as arrest stats, as very much less than human.

    My response: I would have to say that Freddie Gray & the Black boys & men who die by the hands of police brutality or survive the kicks & punches of police misconduct (yet alone the mental abuse that comes with being called all kinds of names that are vicious to the Black mind & self-esteem) is unique in the sense that the Black family has put up with trying to survive from slavery, during the Civil War, after the Reconstruction Period, through the width of the 20th Century that carried the Civil Rights & various other parameters of Blacks in America wanting to find a way to be culturally respected.

    As a Black teenager who grew up in the 1990’s Baltimore, & who lost 30 something family members or friends to murder, all in one summer—it is remarkable to us as a Black community to see the consistency in abuse, unfair treatment in the Baltimore public-school system, educational levels that are limited by lack of resources, financially & staff wise, the seesaw justice in the judicial system & the prison warehouse that rather see the Black male going to Central Booking on Madison Street, than Morgan State University in Northeast Baltimore.

    I did not know Freddie personally, & when I lift up that cushion on the couch which covers up the remarkable consistency & uniqueness in the history of oppression for the Black person in America—the pennies that are under there does not equate to enough of a sum for us to pay for the burial of all the Black children, men & women who have died by police abuse or misconduct.

    Now, I do not know if you could fully comprehend this kind of angle thinking, because you see it as a full problem. Trust me, I hold compassion for Robert losing his life in the back of a police wagon, but I am thinking that your whole premise of holding Robert in one hand & Freddie in the other hand to display the urban plights of systematic drug dealings & drug abuse is a way to shift our perspectives into a singularity that All Lives Matter. Philosophically, you may hold a metaphysical doctrine of seeing the inhumane brutally kicking down the humane, which does make sense when you do not have an oppressor or a system that has a biased agenda in its need to use the Black race as a profit margin that can go back to the traditionalism in business practices that appreciated the slave-trade as a success.

    Race matters man! When Black people say that Black Lives Matter, it is not our attempt to contrast & compare, it is about reminding our own Black race that we do not need a balancing act to make us feel the optimism that we will be treated better. We need justice for our race (not one that balances out a human race theory, this is not primary for us, the mere subjectivity in saying that we matter, lives on an innate understanding that we are human; however, as individuals that need a powerful & prideful race in order to feel the wholeness of being human, we must first know that our own race can be respected & treated fairly), we need oppression to be addressed & we need a form of leaving us alone so that we can regroup as a race, before we can do anything that will be culturally rewarding for our race alone—-yet alone participating in understanding & resolving the problem on how the system of police brutality continues to be a degree of warring that has us always losing. Even when we try to do it the U.S. Constitutional way, by allowing the system to work out these matters of racial injustices, or if we are resistant, we always end up with the boot of authority slugging down our necks.

    There is no need to hold the white justice in one hand & Black justice in the other hand, with a hope to prove that if we, as a human race can see the issues as a whole, we can fix it, & from there, become a prosperous human race. If we were to go this route, it would be the white race answering for us, & this is how the entire imbalance of oppression have thrived—-a so-called master race believing that they could answer for whatever race they deemed low, & uncultured, stupid & unaware to knowing how to live. Therefore, they need the so-called master race to “teach them.”
    ________________________________________________________________________

    Your words, along with someone asking you a question, & your reaction/response.

    I recently happened to find myself the only white fellow on a New Yorker festival panel on race and I tried to make this point gently — to acknowledge that while people of color suffer police violence disproportionately, they are not alone. And that class warfare, as much as racism, now underlies our savage, repetitive reliance on law-and-order brutalities.

    “Then how is it that we never hear about white people being victims?” asked a fellow panelist.

    I told her I had covered cases in Baltimore, that I had seen the war on drugs play itself out against poor whites and blacks alike. She looked at me with disbelief and disappointment, as if I had obliviously blurted that all lives matter.

    My Response:

    Of course she is going to hold disbelief. Do you know how many times I would see white drug addicts roaming the streets, looking to score a hit, or coming down in their cars—some had license plates with Pennsylvania written over the top of their license tag’s alphabetic letters & numbers. All of this activity was going on in our Black neighborhoods, & do you know how many times, a cop would let that car go after rolling up on them to “check in on them” & not check their car? The amount would be countless. White addicts were given free rein to purchase drugs in our neighborhoods without worrying about the cops as a chief issue for being harassed.

    Now, I have seen Black drug addicts slammed down to the ground, handcuffed to STOP sign poles, called a nigger junkie, a worthless piece of trash; furthermore, some of the Black addicts would be degraded in front of their own family members. Could you imagine walking right by your uncle or aunt, already living in the mental poverty of being a drug addict, clothes & sneakers are dirty, the look in their eyes is that they are willing to give anything to the dealer to get that high, being handcuffed to a STOP sign’s pole on the corner? Everyone in the neighborhood had the ability to witness who was doing this. It was the cops, who wore their uniform with pride.

    Yes, when you look at the ramifications that come with abusing drugs, you can see the same addiction, but society does not treat the Black addict the same way as the white addict. Neither does these newspapers, or the television media from the news as well as these prime time dramas. How many of these television shows has a Black man writing about white drug addicts, & these shows are on a major network? In my area of East Baltimore (Madison, Ashland, Rutland, Wolfe Streets), we did not see the white drug addict mistreated by the cops. Yeah, a drug dealer might stiff them for their money or some Black drug addict might sell them dimes for twenties, but the financial scams was about the only brush of an obstacle that I witnessed.

    Maybe the New Yorker invited you, because you are the white writer who navigated into Black Baltimore, because it was an assignment for the prestigious Baltimore Sun. You cleverly figured out a way to market that into The Wire (which I refuse to watch) & BINGO, you are a representative for the cultural imbalances that can be filtered into a philosophical necessary truth that can make us all realize that things are not as freshly civilized as they could possibly be. Black writers & directors have been protesting against this since the L.A. Rebellion of Black filmmakers were out there going against Hollywood’s biased system of filmmaking that condoned the white man’s way of telling a story, narrative wise as well as intellectually. (The L.A. Rebellion were countering the Blaxploitation films that had us dressed up as pimps, with films that were our stories in the Black communities that held onto a humane visual storytelling objective.)

    I am not jealous nor do I condemn the moves that you made as a writer. But, I have written articles & essays, extensively about race, as well as The Wire not being a core to Black Baltimore. Because I do not offer the vermeil of being a white writer or politically-correct (or slightly politically incorrect, but flexible enough to be straightened out) to the NY TIMES or the New Yorker—-all of my work has been rejected. But, here we had a mainstream media using an outlet in the manner of constructing a panel, which had you sitting there, discussing race, as the only white man. Keep up the great success, keep representing that Black Baltimore & Baltimore as a whole. *making eye contact with you, along with a fist pump.*

    The abundance of pain that Black Baltimore has been facing for many, many, years is not going to dwindle away after the collection of cases in respect to Freddie, are tried & verdicts are opened up & read by a judge sitting down & behind a bench.

    The lives of Black men (& on a greater scale, the Black family) in this country won’t take shape in the capacity that racism can become unnecessary, when judging someone’s contribution to living up to their potentials; no matter how deep we go into the topic of racism in America. The all-embracing slot of understanding the purpose of a police department & its powers to protect & serve will often become insignificantly untrustworthy to the Black communities in this country. This is not to say that there are not durable, honorable police officers along with detectives who believe in the professionalism of treating the residents in their community like decent people does not exist. In fact they do, it is just that they were not assigned to my childhood neighborhood. I remember meeting a cheerful Officer Friendly in elementary school, only to experience the ordeals of the “real officers” in our neighborhoods that would drive by slowly, looking at us like we were aliens—match this with any given moment of turning around the corner & having to see Black teenagers & men face down on the physical concrete with their pants down by their ankles. When these sorts of frisks showed no illegal possessions, there was no apology, just a bark that they can leave now, another reminder of who had the power.

    Yes, this is the Baltimore that I know, & even though I am based in New York, City, whenever I revisit my home city, I recollect the notion that Baltimore taught me about the differences between being Black & then being white. The only thing that we will agree on about this topic, is that the article that you posted from the Baltimore Sun was printed in black-&-white.

    Maybe we will meet for coffee in the New Year, because we have not had the chance to do so, this year.

    Success with great ambitions to your 2016.

    Peace.
    Shaun.

    Reply
    • Georgie says:

      As I somewhat said above, it’s all the equivalent of a street corner shell game. Simply on a much more massive scale. Created by an arbitrary and artificial legal distinction called “whiteness” in the 1650’s. Specifically In order to justify the perpetual existence of exclusively “white spaces” for as long as humanly possible. Then, in turn, spend as long as possible in the ensuing centuries deflecting as much attention as humanly possible away from that little “slight-of-hand”.

      Jim Crow, Sharecropping, Poll Taxes, Drug Wars, Internment Camps, Convict Leasing, For-profit Prisons, The Racial Dynamics of the Original FHA Loan Program, Redlining, Subprime Lending, Runaway Municipal Code Enforcements, Gentrification, Urban Price Fixing, and so on…

      Among the many other dehumanizing crimes associated with these things, they are also all varied and seemingly hidden forms of financial plunder. Specifically centered around race. In order to ensure the continued perpetuation of disproportionate white wealth (and white culture). But what we have been quietly trained to overlook is that they also perpetuate the continued long-term existence of predominantly (if not exclusively) “white spaces”. Quite simply, the continued existence of massively disproportionate white wealth means nothing without exclusive “white spaces” to enjoy it in. And THAT is where the lies about “all lives matter” and “it’s about class as much as race” come to die. Because it’s not just about who’s “starting” to share space at the bottom of the food chain. But just as importantly (if not even more-so), about who continues to sit almost exclusively at the very top, seemingly “no matter what”. And why.

      So again, it continues to be a seriously rigged game of “find the pea under the shell”. And the grifter is continuing to try and convince us all that it’s “not just about race” because lots of white people are losing too.

      But the problem is, after 360 years of seemingly endless minor appeasements, in order to keep people believing that “THIS TIME” they surely have “the same equal chance as everyone” of winning this rigged game, there is one question that remains unanswered, and much more importantly, unasked:

      While the losers of the game seem to now be coming in all shapes, colors and sizes, what is it about the rules of the game that the dealers are still virtually all white males, and they are still disproportionately walking away with all the REAL money and REAL power? Is it really possible that despite this seemingly newfound diversity amongst the game’s losers, that the game is still secretly rigged at the top — very, very specifically along racial lines — just like it was created to do in the 1650’s? To ensure the future survival of this scientifically strange and arbitrary concept called “whiteness”, and along with it, exclusively white spaces? While endlessly deflecting the conversation for centuries away from such a distinction ever having actually been created out of thin air in the first place (with crap like “all lives matter” and “it’s now about class as much as race”)?

      Yep, now THAT’S a con game!

      Reply
      • ShaunArtsThinking says:

        Georgie, I disagree, it is not a con game. A game has winners & losers, it has a reward, players, & spectators.

        Cultural dictatorship is what I like to call it. Point blank. There is no other race that has such a dangerously, ignorant & deconstructing word as “nigger.” You would be hard pressed to find another word that disrespects a race or religion as much as the word, “nigger.”

        Now, this does not mean that the Jewish religion or Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, does not have an ignorant word. We as a society know that almost every race has a stereotypical noun lingering over their culture; however, no other race had to culturally deal with the most powerful ignorant word that happened to be carried by Blacks.(Richard Pryor stopped using the word in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s). Tupac Shakur ( throughout the 1990’s) wanted to reshape the word by naming his album Strictly 4 my N I G G A Z, giving the power back to us as Black urban minds, with a voice to explain that we control such an ignorant word.

        YET WHAT IS THE RESULTANT?

        You have debates about the notion if white people can enunciate this word, because “WE” in the Black community made it “hip.”

        Does this sound like a con-game to you?
        Or does it sound like a dictator celebrating a New Year in their ruling power, because they have the power to do so? A con does con jobs to make money to survive or they may have some pathological inner issue that reduces them into some mental self-esteem, where they believe that they can outsmart everyone.

        Dictators rarely care about intelligence, or common sense. Power is what guides them. Greed & the concept of control, would be the alarm-clock that goes off to awakening them during their midnight hours of sleep.

        Cultural dictatorship goes on, every time we see a mainstream magazine’s cover with some fashion style being attributed to the white race, which came from the Black community, somewhere in this world. Or when some white writer or filmmaker step into Harlem, the South side of Chicago or into some African tribe’s land, with a notepad or a camera, offering the oppressed a voice. Then, the awards come, along with the what I like to call, “The Columbus Discovery Appeal” trickles down into a parade that this brave, white person walked into the land of some native residents, found some “honor” in them that they did not even know that they owned within themselves.

        Now, do not misread me, I am not saying that us as Black people invented everything. The white race has its originality, own style & culture, but, the swerve from their originality that has them walking through other cultures that are non-white has happened traditionally by those who want to be discoverers (not all whites, but the impact of some has given off this freedom to explore as they please). How many white singers wanted Soul? how many middle class white rappers wanted to be that hardcore rapper from the streets?

        Vicariously, the oppressor can take the air right out the oppressed lungs & live their culture without any regards to explaining it.

        Does this still come out to a game for you?
        A con?

        Noway!

        It is cultural appropriation, put into the washer with bleach, to clean off the original source, only to be placed into a dryer, aired out, & then given to the cultural dictator to wear.

        Peace.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          In the spirit of brevity — which, Georgie notes, has its rewards — I’ll simply point out this tangle:

          I am a journalist/writer/filmmaker in Baltimore, Maryland a predominantly African-American city with a significant plurality of African-Americans in the region as a whole. Race, disparity and racial relations are therefore a core issue. I can:

          1) Tell narratives without addressing race, to avoid discussing the topic. As many white writers do.
          2) Cease to be a journalist/writer/filmmaker writing what he feels about the world in which he lives.

          I reject both outcomes. Any writer who believes in the true purpose of shared narrative is obliged to reject them. I take the world as a whole and in fact, I’ve written more white characters in my career than characters of color, simply because that, too, reflects the depicted worlds. No one is arguing that there shouldn’t be a variety of voices telling stories and certainly, I am doing nothing to stand in the way of any writer pursuing any tale, collaborating with others, encouraging still more. But a writer who lives in the world, takes interest in the world, decides that certain things matter and then fails for whatever reason to address those things with what abilities and efforts he can bring — this pretty much defines what an honest writer isn’t.

          Reply
          • ShaunArtsThinking says:

            Words from Mr. Simon:

            I reject both outcomes. Any writer who believes in the true purpose of shared narrative is obliged to reject them. I take the world as a whole and in fact, I’ve written more white characters in my career than characters of color, simply because that, too, reflects the depicted worlds. No one is arguing that there shouldn’t be a variety of voices telling stories and certainly, I am doing nothing to stand in the way of any writer pursuing any tale, collaborating with others, encouraging still more. But a writer who lives in the world, takes interest in the world, decides that certain things matter and then fails for whatever reason to address those things with what abilities and efforts he can bring — this pretty much defines what an honest writer isn’t.

            My response:

            Years ago, filmmakers, comedian & writer, Woody Allen was questioned about making films about a New York, City that rarely, ever included Black people. The one Black character that he did write into one of his films, was that of a Black prostitute. It was not exactly a salute to the Black actor/actress being given a chance to be in a Woody Allen film.

            When Woody was questioned about this, he retorted something along the lines that he did not have the authenticity to write about Black people, because he is a resident of a Manhattan that does not necessarily have the vibe of a Black Harlem or even the Bronx.

            As narrow as this may sound, at least it was a subjective answer that did not try to paint a “writer” as a freedom to rein over any culture. Yes, his written role for a Black actress might have offended some Black people, because he cast a Black woman as a prostitute; nevertheless, we know that his range of storytelling is not trying to run a RACE with his own writer’s track-meet, where he is the track coach as well as the Soul inside of the Black runner who is the winner of his story about race, while he dictate how to see race on a comedic pace.

            Woody could have offered a role to just about any Black comedian to cover up his lack of not knowing the Black community. Even more commercially driven is that he could have marketed an OP-ED with the New York Times, comedic driven with an honest fact that he was unaware of his ignorance to not knowing about a neighborhood outside of his own white, wealthy or Jewish community in one of the most diverse cities in the world—he could have pulled it off, because he is a white man with the power to make films on a mainstream level, with an artsy following.

            Does this defines what an honest writer isn’t as well?
            ________________________________________

            One minute you want to elect your journalistic, political stance for seeing the streets as if you are in the momentum of a modern Jacob Riis going through New York with a new invention, titled the still-photography camera, only with you, it is the use of the motion-photography camera & HBO as your motion newspaper. All of this appears to be in the direction of social reform.

            After this, you want to pull out the writer’s pad & say that there is a true purpose.

            Come on now, Mr. Simon. Let us not act as if these major studios have equal opportunity options to non-white writers & directors. Of course, there is no one arguing against it, because we as a Black race (at least those of us, who are not aligned with the insiders of mainstream outlets, newspapers, fame, some form of a commodity, because after all, it is show business) tend to be uninvited to HBO, during these production meetings that would have us in the same room with the executives.

            We may peacefully, intellectually debate while online, or maybe stand outside with picket signs & civilized chants that want to draw some attention to this imbalance of Blacks being producers, creators, writers, & directors for shows about us in a sense that it is non-fiction with a realism scent; however, there is not a balanced platform for us to argue our case(s). What happens if we peacefully protest outside of HBO? Our voices may rise up into the air, but it won’t be heard by the executives who are comfortable in an office building, with a terrific view of Manhattan.

            A lot of people that I have this Wire conversation with, are completely unaware that it was created by a white man.

            I have a question for you, Mr. Simon, do you think that your race in an industry that is controlled in a majority sense by white men, does not see the benefit in selecting you as a creator, in contrast to the Black writer or creator? If I am not mistaken, was it not Charles Dutton who pitched a show to HBO, years, years ago, where the United States of America would be divided into two countries, one for whites & the other for Blacks, as part of a reparations program? Did this show get a green light? I am willing to believe in the wonder that if it was you or Dick Wolf, the project would have found some legs to carry at least one season.

            Yes, Charles did direct The Corner but again, the Corner is an offset to the white writer/journalist (you, Mr. Simon) telling a story about a Black Baltimore.

            Please do not act is being a “writer” is a fulfilling, massive key that can open doors for you, as if it does not matter if you are a white writer, or a Black writer. Oh, being a grand & unique writer can make the minds of publishers, editors & t.v. executives see beyond the race or gender factor—in a perfect world, seeing talent without judgement or stereotypes may exist. Mr. Simon, I am an optimist; however, if one must realize a belief about the conception in one world, we must admit that it is a Universe with other worlds, & I do not see such a perfection (as I mentioned above) in this world that we are spinning on right now.

            If John Waters wanted to make the Wire, he had a better chance of being budgeted & approved, then the Black writer or director who does music videos on the side, because he is trying to make some capital so that he can fund his own independent film.

            Part of the Wire becoming a mainstream & critical success was based on a World within a journalistic agenda that you carried with you, while you were with the Baltimore Sun. Therefore, you are telling me that an honest writer is not this nor that, yet, a sufficient set of parameters of your famous work is based on the Black culture, plights & social imbalances that is contributed to a historical oppressive, racist society that has made the Black race, slaves in the past into equal citizens on a modernity clock that explains a time where there is still a lack of diversity on television & movie screens. It is the 21st Century & we are still hearing the 1st Black to be nominated for this or that.

            I am certain that you have written white characters into your work, you are a solid writer; however, do not act as if The Wire would have been a mainstream & critical success, if you had made this show about a Black upper class Baltimore where love, family life, being adult & running a legal business were stories unfolding that mirrored a side of Blacks being productive.

            Even though I did not watch the Wire, I do respect your success on being ambitious enough to put your past journalism work into a machine to produce a career that extended outside of journalism.

            Please remember this: I have an open mind for writers, & I would certainly not tell someone what they can or should not write. However, as a writer who is Black if I decided to write about another culture, it would be clear to the culture that I do not know all of the answers. My words & observations are merely an opinion. I would leave it up to the onlookers, readers & viewers to call it real or not, but I would not market it as some mightier than this or that, I know what I am talking about sort of rhetoric.

            Of course, if it is a Black topic, my observation would be more personal.

            Again, I do not knock your hustle, it is what it appears to be. You found a mountain, put your writer’s flag on it & renamed it.

            The Explorer’s Theory.

            Peace.

            Reply
            • David Simon says:

              Can’t speak for anyone’s work but my own. And wouldn’t. So bringing up Woody Allen, or D.W. Griffith, or Spike Lee, or John Waters, or whoever, is simply an anecdotal cul de sac to my specific point: I am who I am, I did the things I did, I occupied the space I occupied, and my original assignments in life — randomized to the extent that at its origins, I wanted to grow up and be a newspaperman; I knew nothing of Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun or the beat that I might one day be told to cover — were what they were. I say this because you seem to think that I believe the mere term “writer” is in your terms, “a fulfilling, massive key that can open doors” for me, or for anyone who wants to tell stories.

              If you pause for a moment in your singular conviction that I was handed the opportunity at HBO because I was white — and I am unsure if such a pause is possible — then it will become apparent that in order to qualify for that moment, I had to in reverse chronological order: 1) Convince HBO that “The Corner” could be a miniseries and that I could write and produce it. 2) To do that though, I had to go to Monroe and Fayette Street for three years to report and write “The Corner” and 1a) spend years working for other producers on a previous network drama, learning how production worked, how to cast and budget and edit film. 3) To do that though, I had to sell the source material to those producers in the form of my first book, so that they would consider my addition to their writers room to be of great technical value, even though other TV writers — white or black — may have had more script credits. 4) To do that though, I first had to execute two freelance assignments well enough for them to make the offer to join the writing staff. 5) To do that though, I had to spend three years reporting and writing the source book on death investigation in Baltimore. 6) And to do that I had to convince the police commissioner, an African-American veteran of the homicide unit, to grant me access to write and report. 7) To do that, I needed to spend four and a half years reporting on the police department, crime, the drug war and the city so as to credibly argue that I could execute a book, not only to Commissioner Tilghman but to a publisher in New York. 8) And to get that gig, I needed to freelance my way onto The Sun by covering the College Park campus, Mogo and PG Counties, with about 100 bylines in what was my last year at UM. 9) Wait, not done. To get that gig, I spend three years at the college daily, becoming the editor in chief before applying to be the Sun’s paid-by-the-byline stringer. 10) To get that gig, I had to simply walk into the Diamondback and ask for that first assignment and then spend 30-40 hours a week at the college paper, doing enough damage to my academics so that it took me five years to graduate. 11) And to want to do that, I edited my high school paper, worked on it for two years, and spent my childhood reading three newspapers a day and arguing about their contents and execution at the family dinner table.

              I say all this because drawing it out to the degree it actually happened, in real time, makes your rendering of racial privilege — which certainly exists and certainly goes unacknowledged by too many — far too flat and unidimensional to explain all of the actual arc of my professional career, or most any human being’s professional travels You dismissively refer to all of the above as “hustle.” And then further demean that term by suggesting that I simply got to some mountain of reality first and quickly planted a flag.

              And yet to look at how I ended up at Sun, or writing books, or in television, or at HBO — it isn’t a single linear plan, much less a quick run of cultural hegemony.

              You say that a black writer would not be given the same opportunities. And yet here is where it gets too complicated for your world view. Because there are moments where you are exactly correct, and many more where you are proven exactly wrong in the context of my own story. To keep this from going on ad nauseam, let’s just go with these:

              1) Too many black writers of promise do not have the same economic opportunities that I did coming of age, certainly. The inequality of this country is profound and there is a reason that at College Park, the administration routinely failed to make desegregation goals and increase black undergraduate participation. So yes, there were fewer black students at the state’s flagship campus than there should have been. On the other hand, two of those who were of the same age and era as me — David Mills and Michelle Singletary — were black journalism students who walked into the student paper at the same time I did. I became a lifelong friend and co-writer with Mills on various projects. Mills was at UM on a Banneker minority scholarship, thereby evening the economic playing field sufficiently so that he could have the opportunity. He wrote his way from the Diamondback to the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post in the same period that I worked at The Sun. It was Mills who convinced Michelle Singletary to join the Diamondback staff, arguing that she would get better experience on the daily newspaper than at the biweekly black campus newspaper. Michelle wrote her way onto the Washington Post business staff. Point being that the exclusionary privilege of whiteness is a legit critique at the point of college admissions, but not, tellingly, at the point of gaining experience in scholastic journalism.

              2) On arrival at The Sun, where I was offered a temporary summer posting after a year of writing freelance, I was assigned to work with a three police reporters, two of them white, one of them black. After doing well in my summer assignments, I was offered a full-time position. I entered the shift rotation of cop reporters the same as the others on the beat. Any one of them — or for that matter any of the half-dozen Sun reporters or half-dozen Evening Sun reporters who were veterans familiar with the crime beat could have contemplated spending a year following a homicide shift. It took me four years to conjure the notion and propose it simultaneously to the police commissioner and to book publishers. Again, that commissioner was black. I knew him professionally, as a public official, but not well enough to be assured of his support for the project. I cold-queried him with a letter and then met with him to discuss the idea further. He approved the project. You are hard pressed to suggest that he did so because I was white, or that he would not have approved had the proposal come from a black journalist.

              3) When homicide was published, and the book sold to NBC, I was offered the chance — as the author — to write a script for the first season. I chose to do it with David Mills, who understood television drama and loved the form more than I did. We shared the credit on that first script. David immediately left the Washington Post (I feared he was giving up a great gig on the Style Section) to go work in Hollywood. On the strength of the Homicide script, he was immediately hired and commenced a run that had him on the staffs of the best network shows out there. (Picket Fences, NYPD Blue, etc.) Eventually he began to produce for himself, and he was the co-producer with me of “The Corner” a fact that you omitted when you cited that project as having been white-producer driven. Clearly, the most comparable career to my own (edits high school paper, works at UM daily, hired at major newspaper, shares credit with me on first script, goes on to write and produce television) had more or less the same outcome, and would certainly be producing further work had he not died suddenly while we were co-showrunning Treme.

              Lastly, The Wire was about what it was. Treme ran forfour years and had myriad black middle-class and working class characters engaged in restoring their lives and their city after a natural disaster. It was not as popular as The Wire, but it was satisfying work and like The Wire, it was about what it was. In the same manner that it is ridiculous to hold me to account because Woody Allen has not serviced African-American narratives, it is equally absurd to suggest that I bear some responsibility for the ratings of whatever stories I do tell. The stories and the roles are varied — black mayors, black police commanders, black lawyers, black drug dealers, black musicians, black bar owners, black dentists, black plasterers and Mardi Gras Indian chiefs, black housing project residents, both struggling and upright — people all. If you see some especial insight in the fact that American audiences like stories about dysfunction rather than quotidian life and you believe this is unique to racism and white desire to see black life degraded, you are hard-pressed to explain the commensurate popularity of the Sopranos and Breaking Bad. The gangster story has its own currency. Stories about upper-class or middle-class or work-class anybody — unless they become sleep-around soaps with hot people fucking and who shot J.R. — do not have that currency.

              I spent this time and space knowing that it is likely futile that you can be convinced that racial privilege is extant but in no way the only factor to account for careers and work product, and that your singular reliance on the claim may have made you myopic on the subject. But it’s my hope that rather than journey down the same tired stretch of road, you might take a breath, think of David Mills, who had similar opportunities to me and utilized every one of them in similar fashion with the same outcomes. Or think of Milford Prewitt, who covered the same beat that I did, was a great guy and a good reporter and but for a Christmas Eve in 1985 I spent drinking with a couple detectives and stumbling on the notion, might have proposed the same book idea to Commissioner Ed Tilghman. Institutionally, you are correct to say there should be more David Millses at the University of Maryland or hired by the Wall Street Journal out of college, or that The Sun, operating in a metro area with a significant African-American plurality, should have had, and should have, more Milford Prewitts than David Simons in the newsroom. I agree with that. And I agree that I am a direct beneficiary of that uneven playing field. That critique stands, certainly, and I know it must be infuriating to have the reality go unacknowledged by so many white folk. But beyond the institutional, at the point at which your narrative tries far too desperately to flatten all the circumstance, effort and chance associated with individuals into an all-encompassing paradigm to explain successes, failures, careers? I dunno. Even a white boy from Silver Spring, as limited as his experiences might be, he knows that kind of bullshit when he sees it.

              It’s a big world and it’s hungry for narrative — all kinds. No one can plant a singular flag on any mountain, anywhere. And Baltimore belongs every much to Ta-Naheisi Coates and D. Watkins and Roc Dutton as to David Simon or John Waters. But it’s in the doing it — and not the bitching about who else might have a story worth the telling — that anyone gets to claim anything at all. If the work has worth, it will endure. If not, then that is another argument entirely.

              Peace to you as well.

              Reply
              • ShaunArtsThinking says:

                As I swing at your 1st pitch & it is a single that goes over third base & speedily rolls into left-field.

                Before I make it to first base safely:
                Mr. Simon, please allow me to elaborate that hard work coming from knowing how to swing at a pitch applies to every one—each person can learn how to embrace hard work.

                Not once, did I indicate that it was easy for you in an element where the particles dissolved & you had your career handed to you. I respect hard work, race, gender or age are insubstantial, when someone put dedication into their success & at times, failure & comeback.

                However, do not act as if the Periodic Table of putting together formulas of success was not designed as a way to fit your mentality, (I wrote the word “your” as being indicative to the white race having a societal advantage, which does not equate to perfection, but, there is an advantage that is built for them not to endure systematic racism) the white intellect, thinker, producer & director.

                Here is another do not act as if your pitch to HBO is inside of the same bracket of appreciation (or expectation) that a Black writer would be granted or “PRIVILEGED” the chance to write about Blacks (certainly not about white people) in an inner city.

                Deep down in your writer’s mind, even you know the politics of racism (directly or indirectly) in the media & its power of representation finding sockets for the “right fit” in portrayals through the arts & entertainment mediums gearing up fame that is mainstream without diversity.

                It is not uncommon in the media where the conception of being too Black, too Mexican, or too ethnic can ride out in a world’s view with stereotypical miles. If you are too white, people will get the joke, perhaps the intellectual sarcasm. While the Black or Mexican will be rewarded with the “angry” or “I cannot understand his English, because of his accent” reaction.

                People layer the Wire with compliments that collect “real” or “powerful.”

                Mr. Simon, can you answer this question for me? Could you imagine if a Black creator had made the Wire? Would the words on the opening credit or logo that spells out THE WIRE, turn from a white font into a Black font against a Black backdrop?

                Wait, I cannot see the name of this show?

                Would it be too deep for the world to see a Black writer given a television platform reflecting the resultants of a Black America going through a REAL LIFE?

                (I won’t offer a rebuttal to you referencing Ta-Nehisi Coates or Mr. Charles Dutton, since you indicated that you can’t/won’t speak up for another person’s or writer’s career).

                As a grown man, bitching is nowhere near my mentality. I am a Black man who grew up in Black Baltimore. A real Baltimore, where no editor sent me into a neighborhood to get the scoop. You interviewed Little Melvin (R.I.P.) or wrote about Kenny Bird, because it was your job—a job that you excelled at very well & successfully. I breathed around them, or their family members. This is the fundamental difference between you & I.

                You could create ten television science fiction shows in a row, live off of the fame from the Wire, without having to discuss the Black race again, ever.

                I cannot forget about the plights that Blacks in America (& to some extent, worldly) go through, because I am Black.

                ^^ Another fundamental difference in its sophomore year.

                Matter of fact, a cultural difference that you would not ever be able to comprehend, even if you are able to construe it into a show business entity with a great book or television show, which increases your income or the profit margin for HBO.

                I do not need HBO or the Baltimore Sun. As a writer & photographer, I am content with my success & new ambitions. My basis of hammering down my position towards the “creator” of the Wire is to sit it squarely on the shoulders that supports the concept of expectations from how things are created—which goes to the white writer carrying the discoveries.

                If a Black creator had made Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy, maybe the imbalances of consistently depending on the white writer’s voice may shift a degree or two, to some sort of horizontal straight line, but there would still be a slant in such a line, evident to the powers that be—who could make it imbalanced again, if they wanted to.

                For you to go into the cave of explaining how your meeting with HBO went, well, it kind of zeroed in on my original point, one which you missed. YOU HAD A MEETING WITH THEM, & WAS GIVEN THE TIME TO PITCH YOUR IDEA FOR A SHOW.

                A lot of writers, won’t ever get such an appointment, yet alone, the option to offer convincing ingredients, added into the bowl of a possibility.

                Factor this into the decisiveness of a mainstream media not running to the floodgates of wanting Black themed shows written by Black writers, well, the unsuccessful attempt to score an appointment, becomes a traditional disappointment.

                Wait—-they will run to the floodgates, if a Black show is not written by a Black writer or creator or if the Black writer or creator have the desire to fit there television show or film into the popular, “Black Genre” bucket, waiting for a mop to be planted into the popularity, absorbed, squeezed & then slapped across the year, flooring the mainstream with “A” Black topic.

                However, go ahead & continue to write about the Black race or other minorities, with some additional white characters. I emphasize that I wish to you, grand success.

                You will never see my point, nor will the mainstream companies that feed the white writer’s hard work.

                The eventuality smothering the cultural verity of the Black writer, artist, entertainer, citizen in a World inhaling & exhaling a energy on a global conscience justified by a requirement, calling forth a reevaluation of the Black mind, Art, & ethical civilized contribution, is connected to the approval, funding, checks-&-balances of a mainstream machine, designed by the white writer, artist, politician, businessperson & thinker. My Words.

                What if I had a Time Machine:
                Maybe, if Mark Twain had wrote out my words that are living up & above, then the world may be encouraged to retort, “Excellence, thought-provoking, exactly!”

                Peace.

                Reply
                • David Simon says:

                  The specifics and substance of what I recounted are not addressed here. Instead, the uber-theory of institutional advantage — which I concede readily in my own remarks is recounted. Ergo, I am obliged to believe that while I am, in fact, addressing your content and critique, you are skirting and avoiding mine.

                  But my best to you.

                  Reply
                  • shaunartsthinking says:

                    I highly doubt that I am avoiding & skirting over your content & critique.

                    Your original post was based on the imbalances of a justice system that saw two men (one white & one Black) die in the back of a police transport van at two different time periods.

                    From there, you zeroed in on the “just us” balance.

                    My opinion is one that believes in the Black addict & white addict being treated & tolerated in two totally different methods—methods that is limited for the Black addict, & could reside in racism, as well as oppressive traditions, centering on condoning the Black boy, girl, man, & woman in a cycle of addiction or prison time.

                    With Freddie Gray, there was footage which helped to put the pressure on this systematic control over Blacks in communities, where the resources are crumbs from big budgets & empty promises from politicians.

                    Add Freddie’s footage to the notion of several Black men & teenagers (also on footage) being abused by a systematic oppression, the boiling water is overflowing in the stainless steel pot & landing on the burner—making a “scorching” sound.

                    Robert’s life was just as significant as Freddie—I would not ever debate this. If there were footage of Robert being arrested, along with a consistency in white men being beaten or killed while being captured on a mobile device or a dashboard camera—do you think the politics would unroll new platforms & reforms? Would the media put a serious emphasis on this concern for human life?

                    The lives of Whites in danger, due to police misconduct?

                    Would the mainstream media treat the dangers of the white man, boy, girl & woman with the sensitively attentive coverage, like they have been doing with those ranchers out in Oregon, who took over a federal building? Ranchers, not militants or extremist, separatist, nor troublemakers.
                    _________________

                    Yet, the collection of Black boys & men, girls & women who have been killed or beaten down by this traditional, oppressive system is expansively ongoing.

                    You (& white people in general) have to understand when a Black person states, “no, it is us, as Blacks who have to go through the imbalances putting us on the slants of failure,” as a counter to your, “ain’t no justice, its just us,” it is our decisiveness, driven purposely as a division (or space) needed for our own cultural rebuilding.

                    Philosophically, I agree with you. If you are observing life (in terms of ain’t no justice, its just us) from a position that is connected to some Karmic balance, a spiritual growth or a religious doctrine.

                    However, we do not live in a world sheltering such consideration. (Most of the time.) Economics, education, political clout are cornerstones. Racism can prevent the joining of other walls to this cornerstone.

                    Race matters, which is why Black Lives Matters is not indicative to offset any other races not mattering & this could have been the motive of the lady looking at you in a certain manner—when you sat on the panel as the only white man.

                    How did you get invited to this panel?

                    Dig into the foundation with a shovel & this metal will hit the core of your writing—writings that generated millions for HBO.

                    Writings attributed to the Black lives in Black Baltimore.

                    Yes, you are a solid writer, whom I am sure can write about a lot of things; however, the New Yorker did not invite you, because you were the white guy who wrote about white characters.

                    Maybe I went into the space shuttle, LIFT OFF! From here, I was able to see where you planted your flag on top of Black Baltimore. Perhaps, you have comprehended my words as avoiding your content & critique, where, if you look at it from a retrospective mindset, I was just giving you a Black man’s (view) point.

                    Peace & success to your new day.

                    Reply
                    • David Simon says:

                      We’re not going anywhere new. And no, very specifically, you are systematically refusing to address the content I offered, only restating or adding to your original theme. That means, to me, that you are not interested in a dialectic and in advancing a discussion. You are venting, at considerable length. Okay. But a conversation is always interesting to me, and a progressive argument most of all.

                      To make clear my disappointment in the lack of progress in this discussion, I’ll highlight this fundamental rhetorical dishonesty on your part. Yes, my original post was about the fact that the drug war, while targeting black Americans disproportionately, is in fact a war on the poor overall and has been so for decades. This produced in reply from you, not merely a debate over this premise, but a return to your concerns about my standing to engage in the journalism and drama that I do and you credit the reasons for my success at such to race alone. I concede the seminal institutional advantage of being white in this society — what sensate person would not? — but I point out as well the decidedly similar outcome of my colleague, the presence of others of color who were in the same opportunistic position to make the same narrative choices as me, etc. All of that goes into the ether — without a single consideration or reply from you — and what returns is a regurgitation of your original complaints, as if nothing has been contested and there is no fresh evidence to consider on your part. Finally — and here is the rhetorical dishonesty — you write me at the last and defend your unwillingness to address my reply in any detail by sliding back to the original discussion of the drug war, Freddy Grey and the original content of my post. You do this as if you yourself were not the party who departed from that content to journey to a discussion of my standing and ethnicity as a voice, and as if what I replied was not, by necessity and with due consideration of YOUR argumentative priorities and choices, in direct response to YOUR decision to go there.

                      In short, I make an argument about the drug war. You leap from that to an argument about my place to be making that argument or employing any interracial narrative. I reply to your claims with specificity and then, rather than address my reply, you leap back to the original issue and claim that you remain on point and engaged with me? That’s not a discussion. It’s someone running from the full, measured responsibility of addressing the other person’s views. It means you’re not here to actually communicate with the other fellow. Instead, you seem to enjoy harangue, which is a singular activity. I can’t claim the same level of interest going forward.

                      Best,

                  • shaunartsthinking says:

                    David Simon: In response to your post that you typed out on January 13, 2016 at 8:25 am.
                    ___________________
                    Are you kidding me? Better yet, let me make an assertion, you have to be kidding me.

                    Drugs were purposely marketed to the Black community for the intent of making any kind of Black on every financial, religious, education, cultural bracket, Addicted!

                    Do you know how many Black families are directly connected to the drug culture that was stamped down in our communities?

                    You speak of drugs being planted to the poor, working class. Please, you have to be kidding me.

                    In fact, both of these men who lost their lives that you mentioned in your post—they were connected to the drug culture. This is about all we will agree on, pertaining to this topic.

                    I expect this kind of response from you. Now, the people over at that New Yorker panel—the ones who selected you might have overlooked this kind of thinking from you; however, I knew that you would go this route.

                    What route is this? Typical, white, educated thinker who believes that economic issues is something connected to all races.

                    Never mind, you taking stories from your coverage from the Baltimore Sun & pushing it into HBO, where critical success has recouped you into a legend on inner city America, as if you walking side by side with the late Donald Goines.

                    I explained layers to you, & you can try to counter these layers with trying to go back to your surface point, which is, “ain’t no justice, its just us” doctrine. The core of you knowing anything about writing the Wire is linked to Black Baltimore.

                    When in fact, this Black native from Baltimore disagrees.

                    If you wish to take someone coming to your surface & expressing that you as a white man cannot fully gauge the drug wars, lack of funding for schools & political imbalances in the Black community—then, I do not know what to else to explain to you. Well, in fact I do, but it would go right over your intellectual presuppositions that you attached to anyone who disagree with your all poor people are even basis.

                    It is not about being right, or wrong, but speaking & writing from a real point that does not try to act as if racism is some 20th Century obsolete invention.

                    We can rename racism in the 21st Century & it will still take on another “ism” with the same traditions which will completely explain being poor & Black is hugely different than being poor & white.

                    I am done with this topic & I am not difficult to find in New York or when I am in Baltimore. Typically, I am in the Black communities, without a movie crew.

                    Success to your new week.

                    Reply
                    • Georgie says:

                      …A wee bit of gasoline for the fire you have burning in this particular thread! From a fellow Baltimore native son.
                      Ever heard of him? LOLOLOL

                      h*t*t*p://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/bernie-sanders-reparations/424602/

              • shaunartsthinking says:

                Good day David, I know that I stated I would not respond but I had to make an exception. For some reason, (perhaps it was my browser), I did not see your full response that you wrote on January 10, 2016 at 11:40 am. Therefore, I had responded to what I could only read at the time, which was about half of your response.

                To be exact on the response that I am talking about—it was your response where you listed 3 full explanations. As I indicated before, I did not believe that it was easy for you in the sense that you just “made it.” I do not believe that you walked into a publishing house & had your books published or HBO freely gave you a show with a budget.

                I understand it is a business, (show-business to be exact) & these companies generally want to make a profit.

                Yes, you have worked with Black writers, producers, directors, actors & actresses. I did not ever say that you pushed away the Black community. Thank you for mentioning David Mills’ contributions to not just only the Wire & the Corner, but to the television & writing industry as a whole. We already know about Charles Dutton & his achievements, some of which is connected to working with you.

                You were willing & had to work with Blacks, in order to give your stories, be it (journalism or television dramas), a place that held onto some reality.

                My basis of explaining to you that you took on the hustle, is that you or HBO saw an angle. This angle consisted of showing Black Baltimore, its plights & its battles with the drug culture.
                ________________________________

                Let me connect a prime example to you about how it is imperative for a culture of people to be all over the stories when it is non-fiction or a cultural view into their worlds. I will use the Italian Mafia narrative being commercially controlled by Hollywood, but then being rebuilt with some high-quality work that came from Italian writers, directors & actors.

                You mentioned the Sopranos. A cable drama show that I watched, until I found out that the writing came or was inspired from a real New Jersey crime family. I stopped watching it after learning about this, because I had thought that it was all creative writing from the ground up.

                However, if I am correct, David Chase (the show’s producer) is Italian-American. I am a huge fan of Martin Scorsese’s film work. His greatest work when you talk about a pulse to a narrative is that of Italian based issues, the mafia or a film on biographical seriousness like the Raging Bull, going into an Italian boxer’s life, which showed the counter-punches that Jake LaMotta had to fight against in his own life.

                We have a period of films that glamorized the mafia, which did not include Italian writers or directors. These films went through a Hollywood factory that picked stories off of an assembly line & handed the scripts to famously respected actors & actresses.

                Of course Italians were upset & found these films to be stereotypes to their cultures.

                Yet, it took Mario Puzo writing a book titled The Godfather, who would later work with Francis Ford Coppola, reshaping it into a masterpiece of three films; whereas, Al Pacino & Robert De Niro cemented their legacies in a career that grew into greatness.

                Do you see where I am going here, Mr. Simon? Everything in the above paragraph had Italians explaining their own real life—this does not apply to fantasy or fiction. Of course, we know that every Italian is not in the mafia; of course we know that it is a small percentage of Italians that actually know such a secret society that was the core of these films & literary narratives, up close & personal.

                However, it took their own people to explain just a fraction of the Italian Mafia to a world wide view. It took Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Mario Puzo,Al Pacino, & Robert De Niro to build a foundation of Italian themed films from Italian minds, in order for David Chase to have a future , where his contrasting points with The Sopranos can be side by side with what other Italians did with these narratives before him.

                Do you see how important it is for a race or culture to artistically or entertainingly apply their voices in the creative process of films, books, or motion-pictures, which gives a reference point to their lifestyles?

                I went into greater detail about this, because you applied time to write back in an articulated detail—so, I felt obliged to explain to you another layer to what I was referencing to, when I stated the, “hustle.”

                This hustle does not include the all Black team, which would be a Black writer, director, producer, cast or crew for Black themed shows, about Black core issues.

                I could go in another direction & say that, this hustle is not in a rush to have an all Black team tell white stories either.

                This is a quote from you, Mr. Simon: If you see some especial insight in the fact that American audiences like stories about dysfunction rather than quotidian life and you believe this is unique to racism and white desire to see black life degraded, you are hard-pressed to explain the commensurate popularity of the Sopranos and Breaking Bad. The gangster story has its own currency.

                ________________________________

                My response. I know that you are an extremely busy man. Maybe you missed the discussions in the past about the Black community pointing out how shows that expresses the Black actor playing roles as a clown, comedian, drunk, drug-dealer, dressed in drag, or a thug, are roles that reestablishes the Black Minstrel show in a modern package—shows which do well in the ratings, in contrast to the Black man being a man, a hard-worker or a contributor to their community, which rarely meet a green-light or come in low with the ratings. Specifically in the past, Spike Lee went at Tyler Perry for what Spike believed to be films & television shows from Tyler that are taking the Black race back some years—culturally.

                Oprah in the past has called out the stereotypical or limited strong characters available to the Black actor or actress. Recently, some parts of the Black communities have found that the Oscars are not really in a mood to see Black actors, actresses or films that elect us away from being slaves, butlers or open to the white race rescuing & showing us how to read, write & use our abilities to be a better person sort of narratives in cinematic form.

                Does this help with your question or assumption about the quotidian & ratings question that you mentioned.

                If “the gangster story has its own currency” your words. Then my words would be that gentrification does not just expand in physical communities with real-estate, it also applies to the block of television time that is sold to advertisers who might not be in a rush to purchase advert space for shows that the audience do not watch—an audience that want entertainment, which can be linked to stereotypes or a limited understanding, when these networks do step outside of the all white shows, with a white creator, writer, director, producer, cast & crew.

                Americans (at least television ratings & box-office numbers, Straight Outta Compton did very well, but some Blacks say that it showcased Black men who made music that welcomed the destruction of the Black community, disrespecting the Black women) do not enjoy seeing the Black story outside of the Black ghetto.

                Maybe I am focusing in on too much of the Art of storytelling, an intellectual driven film or television narrative that has the Black creator, writer, director, cast & crew being able to elaborate into the freedom of expressions, without having to fit the Black stereotype or a politically-correct applause.

                I understand that some of these shows on television have the need to entertain, & to them, the Black drug-dealer, being written by the white writer over & over again is a winning formula.

                American audiences & to some extent, listeners love to hear the gangsta music about the Black hood. Yes, we as Blacks are expected to fit a stereotype. When was the most recent time that you watched a Black show by a Black creator, director, writer, & producer on a major network that was not a comedy, an hour long drama, that did not include drug-dealing or the Black man in & out of the prison system?

                Now, Mr. Simon, I am not telling you what you should or write.

                You were an editor at a newspaper, you worked at a newspaper where you had an editor over you—you worked with HBO, where I am sure that you had to battle to get this actor or actress on the show, or you had to fight for an edit to stay in an episode.

                The whole expectation of what the Black writer, director or producer is limited, when you speak of it being an all Black driven show.

                Would it be too far-fetched to hire the question or wonder that if the Wire had been written by an all Black group of writers, producers & directors, would it had roamed into an HBO budget?

                Let us not look at this question from a modern approach. Yes, we do have a Shonda Rhimes who is building bridges with hit shows at HBO.

                We are talking about the 1990’s. Now, let us reestablish a modern backing to this discussion—even Shonda could not get the Wire on HBO, forget about ABC.

                I open this bag of discussion up & look deeper into it, & yes, I see & respect your hard work, yet, I stated that you found a hustle, one in which you hustled up that mountain. Mountains are supposed to be climbed & it takes a lot of hard work. I did not say that you built the mountain.

                What critics consider to be one of the realest shows to ever come on television about Black Baltimore was created by a white man. You certainly created a flag to put on top of Black Baltimore, (the mountain).

                Did you intend on cultural appropriation when you started off as a teenager who wanted to be a journalist? No, I do not think so. Did you plan on utilizing Black Baltimore into book work, which erupted into television work? No, I do not think so.

                However, Mr. Simon, this does not mean that the establishments that you went to (major newspapers, major publishing house & a major cable television network) does not have kitchen full of ovens, awaiting to take stories from white writers like you & put them into the cultural appropriation oven, baked, cooked & sold by the slice.

                Now, I am done with this topic. I wrote a healthy amount of insight, & you did so as well, & who knows, someone might try to scoop up what we wrote here & apply it to their own story, without giving credit. LoL.

                I have essays to complete on South-African photographers, Ernest Cole & Alf Kumalo.

                Keep up the success & even though we will disagree on this particular topic, I will always respect a thinker.

                Peace.

                Reply
        • Georgie says:

          My choice of calling it all a “con-game” is predicated on one single thing. The arbitrary and politically motivated creation of the concept of “whiteness” out of thin air in the courts of 1650’s Virginia and Maryland.

          Therefore, for me, your referring to it all as “dictatorship” implies that everyone knows that scientifically “whiteness” does not exist. And yet, everyone is nonetheless forced to bow down to the “truth” of it anyway. Versus a “con”. Where the preeminence of “white” skin STILL supersedes everything in this society. And yet, 360 years later, the origins of that hideously destructive concept are somehow STILL just as jolting to the average person as seeing bigfoot asleep on their couch. To my eyes, that takes manipulation and deception on an absolutely massive scale. In other words, it’s the difference between using raw power to bludgeon a lie into people’s heads until they submit and agree it’s the truth, in the name of survival. Versus manipulating them into believing that, despite what they’ve seen and experienced endlessly for 400 years, “living in the past serves no viable purpose” AND “they need to learn to just let it go”. Such that they even question what they’re clearly seeing with their very own eyes. And not questioning the humungous foundational lie of “whiteness” that’s been right under their very noses for 360 years.

          Reply
          • Shaunartsthinking says:

            Georgie. Yes, I have heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates. He might have heard of me as well. We are both from Black Baltimore; we both know about the original Black Panther movement in Baltimore, & we are Black Baltimore native sons. Just as there are many other Black intellects, writers & artists from Baltimore, who are Baltimore native sons as well. It does not stop with one. Thank you for sharing this link.

            Happy March by the way.

            Reply
    • Georgie says:

      Previous comment apparently censored.

      Excerpt from: h*t*t*p://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/05/ta-nehisi-coates-david-simon-discuss-race-in-america-new-yorker-festival

      “One of the things that we don’t ever say explicitly is that whiteness is a brand, and that everything in the culture moves towards creating concepts of whiteness that controls a lot of things”, Rankine said. “I don’t think individual [white people] care about that in themselves, I think this culture is creating that around them and they’re walking into it.”

      Reply
      • David Simon says:

        Note: Nothing censored. Just not monitoring the intake as rapidly over holidays. Sorry.

        Reply
        • Georgie says:

          Sincere apologies for the assumption and accusation.

          You’ve employed such a “terrible, swift sword” on the blindly raging bigots on here in the past, I assumed using that thing had gotten just a bit addictive to you.

          Lesson learned.

          Something about, “…never assume, because when you assume you make…”!

          Believe it or not, best wishes.

          PS

          I started reading this blog originally because I thought your description of “12 Years A Slave” was absolutely brilliant. However, the nature of my coming here periodically has evolved a great deal since then. Now, I’m not nearly so interested in hearing what you have to say about “race” — despite how it probably sounds, that’s not intended as a putdown, BTW — as I am in now trying to somewhat ascertain WHAT, in particular, motivates you to need to discuss it all so readily (and publicly) in the first place. Because, at this point in history, it’s still a pretty “UNAmerican” (if not, out and out taboo) thing to engage in when you’re so-called “white”. And I’ve even seen a snippet of you doing it (rather passionately I might add) in Australia! So if you’d be so kind: Why?

          Reply
          • David Simon says:

            I was a city reporter in a majority-black city for 13 formulative years. If I can’t at least try to be honest about shit, then I was a poor hire and I wasted my time trying to learn and cover the city. I took the job seriously. And of course the drug war and mass incarceration were the major crime trends on the beat to which I was assigned. (I didn’t ask for the cops beat. I was sent there.) Shit happens.

            Reply
            • Georgie says:

              That tells me why you started down this path. (And truthfully, you seem to have told variations of that story a dozen times just since I’ve been on this site.) I’m much more interested in why you’re still on it. …”path of least resistance” and all. In a nation as obsessively “race-conscious” and yet “race-terrified” at the same time, as America is, that seems to make you either an extreme masochist or someone with a very deep-seated passion for “something”, to want to continue walking down a path that most of America is seemingly trying their absolute damndest to stay off of. Because as I keep alluding to in my recent posts, there are still lots and lots of “white spaces” (with gates, guards and tax brackets) that someone of your stature could go to and virtually never have to encounter so-called non-white people or their “issues” at all. (In fact, some studies indicate that up to 80% of so-called whites still make it a habit to try and do just that.)

              So pardon my forwardness, but “shit happens” tells me virtually nothing. (And just for the record: I’m quite aware, you don’t OWE me or anybody any kind of explanation for why you do what you do!!! So feel free to let me know when I’ve stepped all the way across that line and I’ll BTFU.) Because it’s pretty easy to guess the humungous amounts of pushback you almost certainly get from BOTH directions on a constant basis for daring to “try and tell the truth” about this stuff. So again, you’ve explained how you got started. But as I said, I’m much more interested in what is it that burns in the gut of someone like you to keep you trying to do, all these years later, what most of “white” America is seemingly terrified to even start doing.

              As a “white” person discussing race, you’re pretty much constantly walking in a minefield, that you clearly don’t have to. So do you consider it more bravery or stupidity?

              Reply
              • David Simon says:

                I think you feel that racial discussion is more fraught than I’ve found it. Or that I am supposed to veer away at the moment that something becomes unpleasant for me or challenging.

                I’m okay being criticized, or dismissed, or provoked. I accept that some people will strain everything I write or say through the prism of race, and that no other paradigm matters to them, or that others, conversely, will never pause to consider race because doing so obliges them to acknowledge the wages of history.

                But most of all I’ve spent a whole career trusting in the work — that I would be able to land stories from my city — and now from the world at large — in a manner that were attentive enough to realities and the ideas involved and the stories would stand. And that the work — rather than people’s presumptions and biases, or my own presumptions and biases for that matter — would be the ultimate judge.

                I was a city reporter. So I became interested in the city as a concept, as a human endeavor. To contemplate the American city, race is one of many dynamics in play. Also class. Also institutional inertia and corruption. Also money and greed. You seem to find it fascinating that I would engage with race, but in my mind, it’s only one of many things that need to be addressed in order to make these narrative arguments. Sometimes, as with Show Me A Hero, race is entirely thematic. It ends up being 70 percent of the narrative. The Wire much less so. Generation Kill, there was certainly the Arab-American dynamic, and some relevance vis a vis Latinos in the Marine unit, but only a handful of scenes involving African-Americans because, hey, Holsey was the only AA in the real Bravo Two, and he was at the back of unit with Team 3 and we were hyperfocused on the lead humvee. That’s not exactly me with fire in the belly about race. It’s kind of you noticing that I go there when the narrative makes it relevant because it is, very naturally, your agenda.

                But my agenda is to tell stories. And make the stories deal with the arguments I think we should be having.

                But again, you can’t imagine how indifferent I am to the idea that I might get beat on for utilizing worlds and narratives in which not everyone is white. I started hearing that when I was 21 and began going out into Baltimore as a young police reporter. I heard it when I went to Lewisburg and sat for hours hearing Melvin Williams vent about his life and the mendacities of what he referred to as so-called Europeans. I heard it when I wrote Homicide, or when NBC made that into a television show. I heard it when I went to Monroe & Fayette to stand on that corner for a year. I heard it when the Corner was published, and later when I was in the room in HBO, they were terrified at first to make that miniseries because Burns and I were white. I heard it when The Wire began, or at every moment where I have not been able to follow any given campaign of African-American activism to every possible stated position. At any moment when an on-screen character disappoints someone, or a prose essay doesn’t go far enough, someone is unhappy. I accept those terms. I want to listen as much as write or talk, and I delight in the variety of voices that are available on these subjects, and I collaborate and build writers rooms wherever possible. But I’m bored with the argument about what is a black story or a white story or an American story.

                I’m bored for myself, and for white writers challenged not because of the work but because of identity, and for black writers marginalized for the reverse expectation, for Palestinian writers told they can’t write Israelis to human scale or Israelis told they can’t have insight into their Palestinian neighbors or Arab-Israeli countrymen. That thinking is to my ear an affront to something I know to be true after nearly four decades of writing non-fiction and fiction professionally. People are different and people are the same. They have different experiences, cultures, vernacular. But they are all people and push comes to shove, they want the same things for their children, their friends, themselves.

                I’m starting on a project about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I am Jewish. I will be working with both Jewish and Arab writers, but I go into knowing as I always do that I have to love every character we put on the page in some sense. Will I miss things because I am not an Israeli-Arab or Palestinian. Of course. Will I see certain things with some clarity for not being a Palestinian and standing a bit outside the politics? Usually. And the same for the Arab writers in the room. But if we are good at our business, we will attend to story and make everything serve the honesty of that.

                I hope this helps.

                Again, it’s not that I’m not aware of the pushback, but it’s coming at me from all sides whenever I want to write anything that in any way disappoints any cohort anywhere. White folk in Yonkers were not universally happy with SMAH, and despite the affirmation for integrative housing, there were black critics who were disappointed that it was a story of white politicians delivering from on high, especially since the black characters in the piece only assert and achieve agency once the new townhomes are built. I expect all of that. But my loyalty is to the story and executing that story.

                Everything else is noise — unless the criticism goes not to people’s expectations, or what they wish the truth was or wasn’t, but a legitimate criticism of our failing to see the story with sufficient context or fairness. Then I listen carefully to the substance of the critique. If it’s accompanied by the how-dare-he-being-white-or-Jewish-or-male stuff, yeah, I put that to the side. I quit that argument a long time ago. Good thing they let the boys write the girls or Madame Bovary doesn’t exist. Good thing they let the Gentiles write the Jews or Schindler’s List never gets published. Or as my late, great friend Dave Mills used to say when people complimented him on writing the handful of black characters in NYPD Blue really well: “Motherfucker, I write all of the characters. You think because I’m black I turn the story over to a white guy every time a character who isn’t black walks on to the page?”

                The work, the work, the work. And if you are true to the work and what you think the story is, sometimes you will have to write something or say something or argue something that will make people unhappy or angry. A writer who makes everyone happy all the time is lying somewhere.

                Again, hope this helps. This seems to matter a great deal to you, and to the other gentleman, who I do owe a cup of coffee, as well. Best,

                D

                Reply
                • Shaunartsthinking says:

                  Good day, David. Happy March.

                  Your words:
                  I think you feel that racial discussion is more fraught than I’ve found it. Or that I am supposed to veer away at the moment that something becomes unpleasant for me or challenging.

                  My response:
                  Of course there will be a fraught. I am Black, you are White. This topic about Race is still the biggest conversation that has met the quiet storm on a worldly level, over & over again.

                  ________________________

                  Your words: I’m okay being criticized, or dismissed, or provoked. I accept that some people will strain everything I write or say through the prism of race, and that no other paradigm matters to them, or that others, conversely, will never pause to consider race because doing so obliges them to acknowledge the wages of history.

                  My response: I respect any kind of artist or entertainer. It is not in my aim to critique what you have done or what you are doing. The basis of what I presented in my responses is that a White writer writing about Blacks, is one that is more about addressing the traditional protocol of expecting the White man or woman to get to the problem(s) of the Black, Latino, & in some cases, the Asian man, woman or child into the mainstream conscience. Recycle it, pimp it, discover it, intellectualize it & offer to it, any other filters that can be applied towards a culture’s originality in order to make it into something that is pleasing to the White world’s perception. Politically or apolitically.

                  Come on now. We know how the recent Academy Awards did not acknowledge the non-Black artist or entertainer. Wait, they did let a Black man host it.

                  Do you purposely run with this mainstream system? I do not know. Yet, you do have rewards from it.

                  I would want you to continue to trust your work. Criticism is for the critics. I am a writer & a photographer. It would not be rewarding for me to critique someone who is in the same bracket of expression as I am.

                  My basis was about my insight. From there, going into discussing my points, as well as reading yours. Then the two of us, went into the trajectory of societal expectations; furthermore, this discussion gravitates to White writers or artists coming through with the solutions (film, television, book works) that are traditionally accepted as a worldly view.

                  _______________________

                  Your words: But again, you can’t imagine how indifferent I am to the idea that I might get beat on for utilizing worlds and narratives in which not everyone is white. I started hearing that when I was 21 and began going out into Baltimore as a young police reporter. I heard it when I went to Lewisburg and sat for hours hearing Melvin Williams vent about his life and the mendacities of what he referred to as so-called Europeans. I heard it when I wrote Homicide, or when NBC made that into a television show. I heard it when I went to Monroe & Fayette to stand on that corner for a year. I heard it when the Corner was published, and later when I was in the room in HBO, they were terrified at first to make that miniseries because Burns and I were white. I heard it when The Wire began, or at every moment where I have not been able to follow any given campaign of African-American activism to every possible stated position. At any moment when an on-screen character disappoints someone, or a prose essay doesn’t go far enough, someone is unhappy. I accept those terms. I want to listen as much as write or talk, and I delight in the variety of voices that are available on these subjects, and I collaborate and build writers rooms wherever possible. But I’m bored with the argument about what is a black story or a white story or an American story.

                  My response: Your foundation in journalism is strong. You put in the time as well as the dedication to report on the news about a Baltimore that I grew up reading in the Baltimore Sun.

                  Okay, sit aside your journalistic success. The balance beam of how someone who is Black can look at your past television episodes or shows including the Black, Latino or any other non-White stories can be one of the reactions from us that is just as insightful & evenly successful as your journalism. Now that I think about this—it could be your inclusion of criticism in the 2nd paragraph of your initial response to me, which gives me a comprehension that you may think that whenever a non-white person addresses your need to include their race or culture into a literary or television narrative as a form of critique.

                  It could be exploitation, or it could be that the race of people being painted in a television show might want to know the ingredients which forms a view into their lives.

                  Of course, you cannot make every one happy with your work. David, you could write the greatest philosophical piece in this world & at least one person will misunderstand it, or they will apply how you should have done it.

                  Notice that my insight did not offer you any exits to take into how you should write about Black Baltimore or any other advice for how you should build a character.

                  Yes. Schindler’s List was written by a man who was not Jewish; however, it was directed by a Jewish man. Even when it was being pushed (by the same Jewish man who ended up directing it himself) to Martin Scorsese—who encouraged Steven Spielberg that he should take up this novel’s adaptation & layer it into a film.

                  Please keep me posted with your project the West Bank & Gaza.

                  I commend you for being open to hearing other writers. That is a solution. As you indicated with your late, great friend, Dave Mills, the writer does not always want to be in a box. What is the greater imbalance? Would it be the one Black writer that every network goes to, in order to write something or the many white writers who have the lane of driving their projects through green-lit understandings paved out for them? If they are a success with their television show, documentary, film or stage-play about a non-White culture, the awards & praises will rain down on every second of their piece.

                  We hold a similar balance when it comes down to the writer having the freedom to write as they please.

                  But, we cannot ignore the business of race. Outside of this business, there is this intellect, the stereotypes & affirmative action being given to the one Black show with the one Black writer, producer & director. It is not your problem though; it goes back to us as Black artists. We found a way in Harlem back in the 20th century & we can do it again.

                  You & I have been writing about this under this thread, so, of course, there is a division where race still has a play in the power of words. Just that less & less non-White writers are flooding the mainstream markets.

                  As for the cup of coffee, whenever you are ready, just make me aware. I am traveling back & forth to Baltimore & New York.

                  Success to your new week.
                  Peace.
                  Shaun.

                  Reply
  4. Bryan C says:

    How well does Baltimore pay its police officers? Not saying this is the only solution or that I am an expert on their department, but I wonder if they raised the taxes/increased officer pay that they would recruit more skilled officers that could help change the culture.

    Reply
  5. Lakshman says:

    Finished watching Making a Murderer on Netflix. Reinforces everything you write here about law enforcement targeting/exploiting the poor regardless of race.

    Reply
  6. Susie says:

    Unfortunately we are society and a culture that seems to easily place people into the category of less than human and once you’re in that box it’s hard to get out. Driving around with a wounded human in a van and not getting them proper care is akin to how road kill is treated. It’s unfathomable to me.

    I’m not sure if this subconscious caste system is something we can overcome because when a group is marginalized they cease to have a voice. And these groups are perceived to not make “choices” that are in agreement with the social contract.

    Homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted, “known malingerer”, recidivist criminal – these are the people that we easily throw away these days.

    In the 80s and 90s it was those with AIDs. I watched so many of my friends suffer and die as if it didn’t matter, because they somehow “deserved” what was happening to them. Because their “choice” got them where they were.

    I believe the way we treat each other reflects on our society as a whole. Compassion is easy to talk about and difficult to practice – but having goals is good.

    Reply
    • Georgie says:

      Your post is spot on regarding our fundamental lack of compassion.

      But what if our current headlines are simply continuing examples of this being anything but a new affliction? And what’s more, what if there’s a frighteningly simple, yet potentially earth-shattering, almost 400-year-old explanation for this affliction, that’s been right under our noses the entire time?

      ** Paraphrasing an old proverb: The greatest thing the devil ever did was convince the world that he doesn’t exist. **

      I, therefore, give you: A nation with a pathologically obsessive need to create and preserve exclusively “WHITE” spaces”!

      From the first Indian Wars, to the final shots of Bacon’s Rebellion, and the legal creation of the scientifically idiotic concept of “whiteness” itself in the 1650’s Virginia and Maryland courts, I contend that literally every single major historical event in our nation’s history has served to either create or expand it’s exclusively “white” spaces! And while that policy has, throughout our history, been loosely for the benefit of all Americans deemed “white” (thus, the need for this artificial distinction in the first place), it has been an absolutely unmistakable, life-and-death, imperative for those so-called whites throughout our history that have considered themselves elite.

      The proof?

      Slavery? Check. Jim Crow? Check. Indian Reservations? Check Internment camps? Check. Drug Wars? Check. Eugenics? Check. Immigration policy (HUGE example)? Check. Seats of political power? Check. Seats of wealth? Check. Entertainment and sports imagery? Check. Military? Check. Crime and punishment? Check. Birmingham? Check. Tulsa? Check. Rosewood? Check. Tuskegee? Check. …and so on, and so on. ALL…either have been, or have served to artificially create, maintain and/or increase predominantly WHITE SPACES! Particularly for those so-called whites at the top of the food chain.

      But it’s all a LIE! A HUGE one!

      Because the very creation of the concept of “whiteness” has been proven by DNA testing to be an astronomically huge (and through the lens of history, premeditated and politically motivated) scientific lie, in the first place! And therefore, by extension, the ensuing 360 years of endlessly needing to set aside and preserve exclusively “white” spaces is an even bigger lie built on top of the original one!

      And therein lies the solution!

      Expose the totality of the lie that is the artificial creation of the concept of “whiteness” in the first place. And you, in turn, automatically do away with the fundamental justification for “white” spaces, period.

      Such an amazingly simple equation…yet no one has physically survived coming within a parsec of pulling it off! Hmmmm? I wonder why?

      Reply
    • Derek Seymour says:

      This “we are society and a culture that seems to easily place people into the category of less than human” doesn’t ring true. I guess it slots neatly into how you views things, and indeed allows you to go on and construct an argument where you then say “Homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted, “known malingerer”, recidivist criminal – these are the people that we easily throw away these days.” This certainly may be true – or it may not be. Most likely not in my view. But believing it to be true, isn’t the same as being true -as you seem to believe it be so. This is the lazy liberal speak where the left know exactly what the problem is without any proof it is so. Next moment you’ll be chucking some spurious statistics at me. If it was all so simple – don’t you think we’d have figured this shit out by now?

      Reply
      • Jason P says:

        Derek, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you don’t live in America but there are a decent amount of Americans who have no trouble putting people into the category of less than human. Look at the way politicians and a lot of US citizens talk about Muslims or Syrian refugees. Look at how much slack is given to the police officers when they are on video of murdering/abusing a citizen (Eric Garner, Sandra Bland). Or look at how you paint liberals with a broad brush on numerous of your comments to the point where it is quite clear you view liberals as being at least intellectually inferior to you without having met them. Also who has said this is simple? There is nothing simple about putting an end to institutional racism or police brutality against the underclass.

        Reply
  7. Derek Seymour says:

    Why do you blame everything on a drug-war? I may have missed it, but I haven’t heard you once denounce Mexican drug cartels for flooding the USA with drugs. If people want to buy drugs, they will. but if they can’t buy them….they can’t buy them. If the cops and city officials devise ways to prevent them from buying it, that’s not a war, it’s illegality which needs to be dealt with. Please don’t tell me we should legalise drugs. The people who are creating a “drug war” are the various dope-fiends who want to get high and their Mexican cartel enablers. Yes, you say they want to get high because they can’t find a job (If I’m following your arguments). So surely it’s not a drug-war? It’s more a case of failed economic policies – enacted by both liberals and conservatives. Anyway if Trump gets into power (which is looking likely) he’s going to build a magnificent wall across the Mexican border (much like the Israeli wall) and this will no doubt have an immediate impact on drugs being imported. Also, if the US stops flooding the market with cheap labour, wages will go up, more jobs will be available for the working-class. Also, why aren’t you blaming corporations for sending all their construction work to the third world? Again, if liberals need to buy cheap I-Phones, converse sneakers, and beard-trimmers, they are part of the problem as well. But according to them, it’s all a republican conspiracy. Make more things in the USA – and stop enabling China. Does this make sense to you? By the way if you haven’t seen it, check out the doco, Cartel. Some US patriots are actually trying to stop evil Mexican drug cartels. Anyway, sorry for the rant, I’m on holiday and have some time on my hands. Happy Christmas. (Not happy holidays, btw).

    Reply
  8. Kevin says:

    Mr Simon:

    Would you care to give an educated guess as to what the state’s attorney is gonna do or should do next pertaining to all the upcoming trials as well as what legal strategy should be employed pertaining to the remaining charges and those charged? It’s one thing to write what you wrong, all of which I agree with, but there is a matter of prosecuting crimes and attaining convictions. I hope this isn’t loaded by be asking this, but ….how?

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I accept my own ignorance as to the big picture here. Do you work from the outer rings of the circle toward the center, or do you cut your losses after the Porter verdict and go hard at the wagon man? Or do you play the string out by seeking trials of all the defendants, if only to lock in narratives that can later be used to address the case in administrative hearings within the department? Dunno. I hope the SAO has a cohesive plan, to be sure.

      Reply
      • Kevin says:

        I often dab in conspiracy theories (2nd nature for most us black folk). If I’m wrong in any of this please correct me. The prosecution needed Porter’s statements/testimony in order to secure the convictions of others. But I heard bc it was a mistrial, they can’t use any of his testimony in the cases that follow, for a variety of reasons.

        So the question is why wasn’t the chronological order of trials made to have a domino effect in terms of testimony and evidence needed? I refuse to believe any prosecution is that stupid. *conspiracy theory in 3….2…..1* Would I be way off in believing there have been behind the scenes negotiations that would determine the most beneficial order of operations, per se, where the states attorney would continue to get the support of cops doing their jobs in exchange of small nuanced concessions, like having the first one up for trial the most complicated case (or the one with the least culpability ) thus making a successful prosecution of the remaining cases less feasible

        Reply
  9. Derek Seymour says:

    A jury, which was was not able to reach a decision – were guided by a judge with total access to all the facts . If they don’t agree with your narrative, why torture yourself with what-ifs and what-nots? Were you in the jury? It’s very easy to criticise from a distance. Do you believe in Jury trials? Or do you believe in trial by media? Or mob justice?

    Sorry to disappoint but contrary to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s opinion Justice is a verdict. It’s may not be what you want to happen. But it is justice.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I believe that the legal standards under which law enforcement officers currently operate — with regard to use of force, as well as their responsibilities under the law for the care and safety of those in their custody, and in particular the requirement that malevolent intent be a requisite of any criminal responsibility — amount to a rigged game.

      It is bigger than a jury. Bigger than a singular case. The legal system is rigged to defend the most appalling indifference and contempt for civilians and the most unprofessional and unnecessarily violent actions on the part of officers. Again, as the essay notes, people of goodwill can disagree on a charge of manslaughter, to be sure, in the death of Mr. Gray. But that man, unsecured in the back of that wagon and driven across Baltimore as he lapsed into unconsciousness for nearly an hour, was recklessly endangered. If not by Officer Porter, then by some cohort of law officers who were responsible for their prisoner.

      Reply
  10. Adam says:

    David — the failure to call for immediate medical assistance seems more understandable when you consider that Gray was a known malingerer who, when arrested (which was often), would pitch a fit or feign injury or illness. The officers, or at least Porter, knew this. I might have found that story a little too convenient for the defense but for the fact that we can see Gray faking injury in that famous cell phone video. He acts as though his legs don’t work and he cries out in pain, only to then stand on his own two feet, turn his head, and speak. All four medical experts at trial (two for the State and two for the defense) agree that Gray wasn’t injured when he went into the wagon, and even Deputy State’s Attorney Schatzow said in his opening statement that Gray could walk, talk, and run when he was put into the wagon.

    In light of all that, Gray seems like the boy who cried wolf. The experts can’t even agree on the point at which his requests for help turned from phony to legitimate. The defense medical experts testified that Gray wasn’t injured until the last leg of the trip, which would mean the officers’ decision to not call for help didn’t contribute to Gray’s death at all. That alone ought to be enough for reasonable doubt.

    But even if you’re convinced Gray was injured when Porter checked on him, how much can we blame Porter for thinking Gray — who had no outward signs of injury — was still putting on a show? How unreasonable was it for the officers to decide “We’ll drive him to the hospital ourselves after we pick up and drop off the other arrestee”? And I do mean “how” unreasonable, because though it may have been unreasonable, the degree of unreasonableness is what matters in a criminal trial. Failure to do one’s duty, carelessness, etc. — that’s the stuff of civil negligence. Gross, criminal negligence (required for proof of even reckless endangerment) is essentially a callous disregard for another’s life. I see a strong case for the former but not the latter. The family of Freddie Gray has rightly received an enormous civil settlement from the city, and in that sense, the officers (and the city) have been held “legally accountable” for their negligence. With Gray being dead for no good reason, I understand the thirst for criminal punishment, but our system of laws does not impose criminal sanctions for negligent omissions that don’t rise to the level of callous indifference to another’s well being.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Fuck this “known malingerer” slander. I don’t have your love of blame-the-victim bullshit.

      Boy who cried wolf. They managed to break his fucking neck, if not during the arrest, then during the transport. They failed to secure him properly. They rolled him around Baltimore for nearly an hour, indifferent to the possibility that a prone, non-responsive human being needed medical assistance. They were indifferent, and with reckless disregard for a prisoner in their custody. If not Officer Porter, then some number of the cohort of arresting and transporting officers. They were wrong in their dehumanizing presumptions about Freddy Gray, his condition and his medical needs. As you continue to be wrong. They saw him as less human than themselves and therefore they failed in their duties and their moral charge. As you see him as less human and display a moral equivocation that is beneath contempt.

      Justice may not be done. But I know what justice ought to be. Those officers who are deemed to be responsible for safely arresting and transporting a human being either to the lockup or to medical care failed so utterly, so consistently and so continuously with regard to Freddy Gray, that I have no problem suggesting they ought never to be granted the authority of police officers ever again. And to the extend that an officer is shown to be consciously aware of Mr. Grey’s inert status in the back of that wagon and indifferent to the notion that it is incumbent upon him or her to investigate fully and interpose with medical care, I’m fine with a criminal conviction for reckless endangerment.

      Fuck paying blood money and going back to business as usual. The BPD has to change. And it won’t with apologists rushing in to explain why the victim always deserved his misery, and worse, why the officers were not so demonstrably indifferent to human life as they actually were.

      Reply
      • Derek Seymour says:

        Freddy Gray may not have been…

        (Derek, I was obliged to delete your rampant and hyperbolic speculations on Mr. Gray, which bear no evidentiary collaboration and veer decidedly into manufactured theory, psychoanalysis and libel. This website will not be a repository to trash anyone — least of all the dead — with speculations, guesswork and character assassination. Sorry.

        I don’t like to censor, but you went down a trail there that leads to a dark and unethical patch of woodland.

        Reply
        • Derek Seymour says:

          response to moderators. You don’t like to censor people – Except me it appears – when it’s all good then, right? But not only censor me but accuse me of character assassination, – when you effectively do it to me?. Character assassination of a dead person? Do me a favour. Laws of libel don’t extend to the deceased. Laughable. Have fun in your liberal echo chamber.

          Thanks though – you prove my points why liberals need to be challenged.

          Reply
          • David Simon says:

            I’m uninterested in the legal ramifications of your post-mortem assessment of Mr. Gray. Just the ethical ramifications of such. Mr. Gray had his struggles to be sure, but your speculative assessment of his criminality is not something I think justifiable or evidenced. You’ll have to take that elsewhere rather than employ my site for it.

            In brief, I am well aware that you can legally slander a dead man. The better question is would I?

            Sorry.

            Reply
            • Derek Seymour says:

              I think we both know we can’t slander the dead. Carry on….

              Reply
            • Derek Seymour says:

              What ethical ramifications can there possibly be for saying that Freddie Gray was a violent career criminal who sold drugs? He had 20 criminal court cases.

              You already said you don’t respect the court’s decision. It seems like you want to retrospectively make him a saint to further your liberal narrative.
              Good luck. It’s fun.

              Reply
              • David Simon says:

                For one thing there is very, very little in his record to indicate any substantive capacity for violence. Saying someone grew up in West Baltimore and sold drugs like saying someone grew up in Pittsburgh in 1965 and made steel. Saying someone is violent, without specificity and detail to back it up, is something very different.

                Reply
                • Derek Seymour says:

                  According to the well positioned internet sources

                  http://heavy.com/news/2015/04/freddie-gray-arrest-record-criminal-history-rap-sheet-why-was-freddie-gray-arrested/

                  Gray was arrested March 13, 2015 and charged with malicious destruction of property and second-degree assault.

                  Maybe it’s all bullshit – I suspect not. I’ve personally never met a peaceful career drug dealer. Especially not in Manchester where I used to live. Yep, they’re all fucking choir boys.

                  Reply
                  • David Simon says:

                    Do you realize you’re attempting to elevate two misdemeanors — vandalism and a common assault without a weapon — into a career of violence? I know plenty of non-violent drug dealers. I wrote an entire book in which some featured.

                    Just stop. Please.

                    Reply
                    • Derek Seymour says:

                      I want to, but you keep disagreeing with me. His record fits a pattern. I’m more inclined to believe he was capable of violent acts than you are. I guess you’ve never been asleep in your bed when a drug fiend robs your house and you find him in the your wife’s bedroom going through her personal belongings. I have. Let’s leave it here.

                      Excellent book btw.. One day I’ll check out Baltimore first hand. When I have some extra coin.

                    • Derek Seymour says:

                      Violence comes with the territory. If you think it doesn’t am I expected to believe it? One of my friends – who nobody suspected could go “mental” served time for murder when a drug deal went wrong. He smashed a TV on some guys head over a small amount of ectasy. One time a drug dealer threatened my friend’s dad, and a group of us (including the kid who was banged up for murder), jumped into a car hunted him down, stuck a gun in his face, and threatened to beat the shit out of him him with a baseball bat. Sometimes strong words don’t work. These experiences have coloured my perception of so-called “peaceful drug dealers”. Must be nice to live in your world. The number of times I’ve personally been robbed by drug-fiends is unbelievable. If it wasn’t nailed down – they took it. So I’m not really compassionate towards them.

                    • Derek Seymour says:

                      I’m going to up my game, David. You deserve better. No more random thoughts. 🙂

  11. Jane Mulcahy says:

    Hi David, really interesting and thoroughly depressing post analysing the factors that lead to this far from just outcome. As someone from Ireland, much of the savage theatre of punishment and the sheer magnitude and ferocity of the war on drugs with its attendant social devastation and swelling of incarceration rates is hard to fathom. We too have grown more punitive over the years, particularly in relation to dealing with problematic drug use on the part of the disenfranchised urban poor and our prison numbers increased by 400% since 1970. Thankfully, there has been a bit of s shift in penal policy in recent times with an appetite at official level to do things differently, largely because the country was in its knees financially. Still, the kind of wanton brutality that is employed by police officers sometimes when dealing with rather minor transgressors – usually African Americans – in the States is deeply shocking and then the seeming inability/unwillingness to secure justice for the deceased and their loved ones by taking the homicidal killers that are certain police officers out of their uniforms and off the streets is horrific. No wonder lots of Black people are incensed. I am myself, and I am secure in my white privilege, thousands of miles away from the daily lived reality of the racial inequality and exclusion that blights lives. Oh, the 2nd Amendment is utterly insane. Without the proliferation of guns the stakes would be a lot lower.

    Reply
  12. Jonathan says:

    Another case of getting away with something by:

    1. Doing it as blatantly as possible to the point where people question themselves because it’s hard to believe somebody would do something like that.
    2. Ignoring the obvious and focusing on the details.

    That pattern is repeated over and over again wherever something horrible happens. Baltimore, Russia, Timbuktu…doesn’t matter.

    In the end, I think just as sure as there’s nothing new under the sun, justice will always be served. Sometimes god lets us give it out and sometimes I think he waits so he can give it out himself, but it always comes.

    Reply
  13. Not Putting My Name on This, Are You Kidding says:

    I still don’t know what to do with the screencaps I have of a fairly high-level BPD official telling me in writing during the week prior to the Gray homicide charges being filed that he had seen the autopsy report and that it wouldn’t be charged as a homicide. After the homicide charges, he was happy to inform me (again, in writing) the charges wouldn’t stick and that “the police aren’t going to do shit around here from now on”. And that he was reading my private social media pages using his governmental access…in what my lawyer tells me is a violation of federal law…because he had nothing better to do than see what me and my acquaintances have to say about it.

    If anybody has any ideas about that, let me know. I really don’t know what to do with them other than maybe give them to the ACLU.

    Reply
  14. Mark Gatelly says:

    David,I always enjoy your writings.They are well done and thought-provoking. .As to this one, however, I have to disagree with some of the things said in your post. Before I do, let me make it clear that I do not think that Freddie Gray should have died while in police custody.I do know, however,that because his death occurred In the back of a police van with no witnesses,t proving criminal conduct here is going to be very difficult. You stated that the jury, had an “inability to find any guilt whatsoever in the death of Mr. Gray in police custody.” While this is true as to the criminal charges that were before them, ,they were not asked about “any guilt whatsoever” and more importantly, as you well know, this was a criminal case where guilt must be found beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard. And even now we do not know the vote of the jury, only that they were unable to reach a unanimous decision.

    You also wrote, “[b]ut if our justice system is incapable of determining that a prone, unresponsive human being who asks for help in the back of a police wagon cannot be legally ignored by the authorities who have custody over him, well then, what exactly is the law saying to us as citizens?”
    I may well be wrong, but my recollection of the evidence is that Freddie Gray was not at all unresponsive at the critical stop 4, but rather actually spoke to Porter at that time. Further,In the case that all seemed to agree was well tried by the prosecution and defense,and where the jury paid very close attention throughout the trial, but could you not unanimously agree that the State had met its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt ,It seems unfair to use this to conclude that our justice system is incapable of making a proper decision. Criminal charges were brought against Porter and five other police officers, which as you point out was something that very likely would not have happened in the past and often did not happen.The case was tried and it resulted in a hung jury.andcan be tried again If the State wishes to do so.This may well be a better example of our system actually working. It would have been an abject failure had no charges brought at all, or if the case has not been competently handled and vigorously prosecuted by the State..That is not at all what occurred here. .

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Let’s leave manslaughter, and certainly second-degree murder, alone. What does it mean when you, as an arresting or transporting officer, drive a unsecured prisoner around the city for nearly an hour, making one stop after another, and fail time and again to summon medical help as that prisoner evidences more and more obvious distress? What are the responsibiities of an officer with a human being in his custody. What is reckless endangerment? And more directly, what is the responsibility of officers to successfully transport and injured man either to jail or a hospital, or to summon medical intervention, during such a prolonged period? What are the responsibilities of custodial authority? Are there none that the criminal justice system will ever manage to recognize or demand?

      Reply
      • Mark Gatelly says:

        I agree with you entirely on this point. When you take someone into custody and they are within your authority and control,It is absolutely your responsibility to provide for and do everything possible to keep them safe.This was, without a doubt, not done here and the fact that it wasn’t done is inexcusable.To answer your question directly,I think it is the responsibility of the transporting Officer to make sure that an injured Individuals in his or her custody promptly receives proper and necessary medical care and that obligation is absolute.As I mentioned in my last post, There are some proof problems here for the simple reason that we do not know the exact time and mechanism of injury, but to me the person in charge of the transport Is the driver of the Paddy Wagon (It was once the Irish who did not do so well with the police!) to assure, either by his or her own acts, or by directing others to take action, the safety of those being transported, and, further,to provide for prompt medical care where necessary.
        I have thought from the beginning that Mosby overcharged in this case A more focused charge against the 1 or 2 officers against whom she has the strongest evidence may have been a preferable strategic move.

        Reply
        • Mr. Smith says:

          Gatelly hit the nail on the head. Mosby stepped on that podium and made the case more about herself and the “public momentum” at the time, rather than using actual intelligence and law. If she had been a competent professional, then at the very least there would be 1 officer serving punishment. But hey! She made the news for 3 days! She had her name in the news! People were calling her a modern day MLK (no exaggeration) …Justice – solely – for this particular instance was never her goal. Justice for all of the injustices of the past was. While certainly understandable and human, that ultimately cost her victory in this case, and that was known for the second her initial grandstanding press conference was over.

          Reply
          • David Simon says:

            I will say that I hated — hated — hearing her say, in the wake of the riot, that “we heard you.” That was a terrible narrative for her to offer Baltimore — that the charges against the officers did not result from a deliberate and precise assessment of their criminal involvement, but in reply to the distress and desire of the community.

            That said, one can argue about manslaughter, and certainly second-degree murder, given the questions about proving intent and even about the ambiguous timeline involving when the victim sustained his fatal injuries. I find it much harder to argue that dumping any prisoner unrestrained into a police wagon and bouncing him around Baltimore for nearly an hour without attending to his distress is anything short of de facto reckless endangerment. If not on the part of Officer Porter, then by some certain number of Baltimore officers who had custodial responsibility for this person. Sorry. I was happy to see that charged and I would like to see the charge sustained by a jury that correctly identifies the officers who were responsible for transporting that prisoner safely to either the lockup or to medical attention.

            Reply
  15. Kim says:

    Well, I guess I’m more hopeful than Mark. I’d file this under “Stay the Course — or Not.” We have choices. And multiple courses, or paths. Thank you for staying on yours, David.

    Reply
    • Mark says:

      Kim,
      I admire your optimism, but I confess that I do not share it.
      Right now, our nation remains mired in its cyclical dance of surrendering to the three basic human emotions:
      Greed, fear, and greed.
      Or, if you like, Fear, greed, and fear.
      We’ve again found The Other to blame. The Non-White. The Muslim. The Hispanic. The Latino. The Homosexual. The Impoverished. The Addict. In the past, we’ve tagged The Irish. The Italian. The Japanese. The Catholic. The Jew. And, of course, The Non-White, The Impoverished, and The Addict.
      We’ve then and now mired ourselves in an almost endless pit of jingoism, xenophobia, and the foolish cries of “American Exceptionalism!” – forgetting, of course, that exceptionalism, itself, is centered on perfection and mankind is, if nothing else, decidedly imperfect.
      We applaud the French in the wake of the horrors of Paris; the very same French who, when they refused to back our military follies in Iraq a mere dozen years ago, we scorned and many of our very same “leaders” and, even worse, the pundit class demeaned with calls, and actual actions, to rename French fries and Freedom fries.
      We’ve been told we need to “get tough”, as if the foolish, loud sounds of “toughness” will do anything more than play into our fear, writ large, of The Other. We’ve heard that if we build a wall along our southern and northern borders, we can end illegal immigration – mindless of U.S. General George Patton’s old line about fixed fortifications being “monuments to the stupidity of man”, for if we can overcome mountains and seas, we can easily conquer anything built by man. Even better, we’re told, we’ll be able to get the suppliers of our illegal aliens to finance the construction and maintenance of the Dream Wall/ phony security blanket.
      These “leaders” and pundits tell us that the answer to mass shootings rests on little more than the even greater, if not mandatory, arming of all Americans. Can you really picture 60 people, each packing heat in a darkened movie theater in Omaha, Pierre, Utica, Tupelo, or El Paso actually taking down, if not out, an armed gunman with an AR-15 or long rifle without capping 20 percent of the rest of the movie-attending crowd? Reads like Elmer Fudd in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, doesn’t it?
      Yes, Kim, I’m cynical. Waterboarding’s not torture. Gitmo’s not a means of scorning our the Constitution. Carpet bombing’s not a violation of the Geneva Conventions. When I read, hear, and see all of that, it’s hard not to be cynical.

      Reply
  16. Mark says:

    David,
    Sadly, we need to file these stories, and the ones to come, under the heading:
    The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
    In honor of Texas state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Happy Holidays to you and yours and to all who read this blog.

    Reply

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