|In 2014, the 63 percent black city of Baltimore needs police line surrounding the entire city. Decent people don't live there for a reason...|
I originally thought I was going to write this encyclopedic book of lynching," says Sherrilyn Ifill, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore.
Instead, her research took a narrative turn as she focused on the tragic deaths of Matthew Williams and George Armwood, two black men murdered by white mobs on the Eastern Shore in the 1930s - the last two recorded lynchings in Maryland. Ifill wound up devoting five years to writing On the Courthouse Lawn ($25.95, Beacon Press).
Some 5,000 lynchings have been documented in the United States. Yet no one has ever been convicted of a lynching crime. Reverberations from that era of violence are still being felt in American society, Ifill contends. For that reason she is a proponent of racial-healing efforts modeled after the South African government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"There is unfinished business in communities throughout this country," she notes in the introduction to her book, "where the reality of lynching and racial pogroms has never been fully confronted." Is there a definition per se of lynching?
From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched.
Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched. That is only 27.3%. Many of the whites lynched were lynched for helping the black or being anti lynching and even for domestic crimes.
Despite a seeming revitalization of several city neighborhoods, Baltimore's homicide rate remains among the highest in the country. A driving force behind this dubious distinction is that people such as Whitfield - young black men with lengthy criminal histories - continue to be killed in large numbers by others with similar backgrounds, according to police homicide figures reviewed by The Sun.
Whitfield was gunned down on Hanover Street in South Baltimore about 1 a.m. Dec. 15. As of last night, 274 people had died by homicide in Baltimore - five more than the 269 victims in 2005.
In 2005, 236 of the 269 homicide victims were black. Through mid-December of 2006, 236 of 256 victims were black.
In 2005, 243 victims were men and 26 were women. In 2006, through mid-December, 231 men and 25 women were killed.
Two men were convicted Friday of randomly firing into a group of young people, killing a 12-year-old boy and wounding three others in an attempt to "send a message" to their East Baltimore neighbors.
In May 2011, prosecutors said, Danyae Robinson, 31, and Derrick Brown, 20, fired at least 15 shots, seeking to avenge the shooting earlier that night of a fellow gang member — even though their victims had nothing to do with their gang's rivals or the earlier shooting.
"This was a deplorable, unconscionable act of violence that hurt many and took the life of one of our young people," State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said in a statement. "I thank the police and prosecutors for their unrelenting commitment and tireless work to bring this case to justice."
The victims were "boys who had done nothing wrong," Assistant State's Attorney Thiru Vignarajah said during opening arguments. "They were young boys who paid in blood in a war among men."
Sean Johnson, a standout student with a promising future, was killed after being shot twice in the head, once in the neck and once in the leg. Another teen in the group was shot nine times, but survived.
None of them had ever been arrested; one of the surviving victims now works as an usher at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; another is attending college, and the other is about to graduate from high school.
Sean's mother, Shawnta Little, sat in on the trial and said she was pleased the case was concluded "so I can start the process of healing, all over." The neighborhood has been quiet since the shootings, she said, though it is less common to see children outside playing anymore.
But statistics hardly matter to the families left to grieve. Rosalind L. Knott, 45, has lost two sons to shootings - and a third wounded by eight bullets - since April 1998.
"Every time I turn on the TV, they are telling me that crime is down," Knott said. Her son Ernest L. Knott III, who was shot and killed Dec. 6, would have turned 23 the next week.
"It's all lies," she said, crying as she sat among family members in her Northeast Baltimore home recently. "No mother should have to mourn like this. You tell me why I have two sons taken by gunfire, lying side by side in a grave."
Baltimore has experienced more than 300 murders each year since 1990. Most are blamed on the city's volatile cocaine and heroin trade fueled by an estimated 60,000 addicts who stumble around desolate neighborhoods pockmarked by boarded-up rowhouses, vacant lots and trash-filled alleys.
Police officers had T-shirts emblazoned with "The city that bleeds," mocking the city's old slogan, "The city that reads."
With each violent death, a family mourned, most having gained little public attention. Rosalind Knott said she doesn't like the preoccupation with the numbers that shroud the names.
Her sons Daniel P. Smith, 22, and David Smith, 16, were shot April 2, 1998, as they stood on their porch in the 1100 block of W. Saratoga St. The elder brother died; the younger was hit eight times. He survived, but has three bullets lodged in his chest.
Police said four assailants rode down the street shooting from bicycles. No motive has been discerned, nor has any arrest been made.
But by blacks on other blacks.
No outrage, because it's such a common occurrence.