Published 7/14/2019 in The Maryland Daily Record
I am in the market for a new home. This surprises me, given how much of a city girl I am. I have loved living in Butchers Hill, one of many neighborhoods in Baltimore that provides such a rich city experience. Sadly for me, the main thing it did not offer was parking. If I had parking available, I am convinced that I would not have moved.
Well, that and the fact that my son, soon to be a middle schooler, is eager to live in a setting where kids have more independence to move freely between basements and backyards. This is the understandable desire of a young boy who wishes for siblings and, as a result, loves to have his friends be a part of the action of our daily lives.
The input from so many whom I talk to about my house search has become like a broken record. Upon hearing that I am looking to stay in the city, I consistently hear the same two questions. These are predictably asked in the same order and made with the same implication.
I have grown so accustomed to this routine that I can’t help myself when I hear it. I literally laugh to myself as the person is talking. This is a common experience for someone who did not grow up in Baltimore. There are these routine exchanges, known as a shtick in Yiddish, that happen when I hear them, I can only think of these as Baltimorisms or Baltimore’s shtick.
Many will guess the most common Baltimorism. I can’t bring myself to write it because you already know what it is. You may even be one of those who asks this routine question. It is one that feels very typical in Baltimore yet is a question so confounding to someone who was raised on the campus of an Ivy League school and whose upbringing was entirely focused on ending up at one. So we will leave this one at the top of the list.
The twin concerns
When it comes to a move, the most common two things that I hear are focused on crime and taxes. Aren’t I concerned about the crime in the city? You’re going to pay all those taxes in the city? My stock answer is no, I am not worried about crime, and, yes, I am happily going to pay taxes in the city. People are shocked and confused by my response so allow me to explain.
When it comes to crime in Baltimore or anywhere else, I have decided to live my life in a way that I simply will not dictate my life choices based on the fear of crime. As a result, I don’t experience the culture of fear that has been propagated about Baltimore.
Where many express fear of people approaching their cars to wash their windshields, I see children who are doing whatever they can to survive. I see them as I see my own child, still growing and developing and in need of positive energy and support from the adults they encounter. When met with love, they respond with love. When met with fear or anger, they may respond similarly. The most basic principle of treating others as I want to be treated is the spirit that I have in my heart for all people, especially in Baltimore.
The follow-up question about paying city taxes is one that I feel especially strong about. I believe in the concept of community. I am willing to forgo something more for myself to give to the greater good. If each of us takes ownership of our capacity to commit to our personal role in making Baltimore a safer city, Baltimore will in fact become a safer city.
When we don’t take ownership of our individual role, we contribute to this shrinking tax base that has devastated our city’s capacity to invest in appropriate ways. This was not accidental in Baltimore. This was engineered in 1910 with the intentional racial segregation of Baltimore neighborhoods and is perpetuated today by this very question about paying city taxes. Soon enough, Baltimore County will face a similar fate, and there will be an opportunity to unite, to be simply one Baltimore.
A friend recently wrote to me in a text exchange that the city is ruining the county, to which I replied by asking if he ever considered that the county has ruined the city. The media has hijacked any positive public viewpoint, and we need to hold the media responsible for this unwillingness to show Baltimore in a positive light.
—Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth