Getting Our Stories Straight

Dan Rodricks, who writes for the Baltimore Sun and has a show on WYPR, wrote two interesting articles last week that had to do with the way people view Baltimore. On May 23 and May 25, Rodricks discussed how the opinions of people who do not live in Baltimore have become the dominant descriptions of Baltimore City life.

In the first article, he quotes several individuals who have expressed negative perceptions of Baltimore: a politician who recently sparked a debate with racially-tinged comments regarding the St. Patrick’s Day attack, two local college professors, and a man who was confronted with panhandling. For these individuals, Baltimore has truly become a place to avoid. For all of us residents, it is an opportunity to define the city as we see it. Rodricks prompts, “What kind of city are we? Are we really ‘out of control’ and ruled by mobs and headed down a hole? Or are we the lovable, always-struggling Baltimore, clawing and scratching our way through the thorns?”

Later in the week, the columnist suggested that it is lack of familiarity with Baltimore city that allows people to harbor their disdain for it. I have to agree with this observation. Some of the most critical commentary I’ve heard regarding Baltimore comes from those who live in the county, elsewhere in the state, or outside Maryland entirely. This is frustrating to hear because it seems that this story isn’t echoed by those living within the city. City residents aren’t blind or immune to the bad things that happen in Baltimore, but they don’t let these things define their experience.

I think it’s time to get our stories straight. When I wrote about my excitement about seeing Baltimore referred to as a tourist destination by a travel writer, I was truly glad. Someone from outside Baltimore was seeing the good things going on inside Baltimore. Many people even think that the city is undergoing a renaissance. What does that mean to you? What great stories about Baltimore can you tell?

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