Dancing in the Streets
Abigail F. Cohen
Cop Fire Cop
Wiley Hall III put his finger on the pulse of the attitude we, as people, regardless of race or creed, must have in order to begin to fulfill the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream (Urban Rhythms, May 30). Too many times, people are too quick to argue that race was the primary, if not the only, motivation for disagreements between people of different races. My father, a former high-ranking police officer, and I often find ourselves on opposite sides in this discussion. He seems to represent the majority of his generation's angst and mistrust, created from the pain they went though just 35 years ago. I think it is important to understand that the anger they feel is a very recent phenomenon. Thirty-five years includes a lot of people who make and shape the policies of today.
However, I seem to be speaking for the same ideal that Richard Wright did when he discussed Native Son. As you have put it, racism does happen, and far more often than anyone from the majority would like to admit. It happens in business, in sports, at school, in the government, and definitely in the Baltimore City Police Department. To say that 35 years of civil-rights legislation has eliminated 400 years of stigmas and beliefs is foolish at best. To ignore the history of a city that honors men like Justice Roger Brooke Taney and has high-ranking government officials shouting racial slurs at a bar is irresponsible. As a black man, I have some knowledge of the scope of racism in Baltimore, in Maryland, and in the country. I cannot allow it to dictate how I relate to people or how I draw my conclusions without even considering other perspectives. If a white police commissioner fires a black officer, it could be racially motivated. Given the history of the department, that would be a very logical assumption. However, just as logical would be the assumption of a deputy commissioner being fired because he wasted his time performing some sort of internal sting when the city has much more pressing problems. Both avenues, and many more, need to be considered, not just as possibilities but as probabilities. To me, the questions people should ask themselves are: If the roles were reversed, if a black commissioner fired a white officer, would whites shrug off the concept of racial prejudice, and would blacks cling to it?
Would someone please tell Mink Stole that the "raging adolescent hormones" syndrome, mentioned in two of her last three columns, has been definitively proven to be a sociocultural and medical myth (Think Mink)? Otherwise, this post-teenage reader is going to scream.
I'm writing in response to the outraged hand-wringers who are giving City Paper heck for daring to show an ad that depicts a gun in a humorous manner, or just because it dares to show a gun at all (The Mail, May 16, and May 30). These whiners complain that your ad is tasteless and insensitive to those who have lost someone to suicide. I could suggest they lighten up, or launch into a tirade against the vilification of guns in America, or say, "I feel your pain," and share my loss of a friend by suicide, but I won't.
What I will offer is a critique of CP's ad department. Hey, folks, it did its job well, got attention, and was eye-catching; but couldn't you have used a real gun instead of that tiny (correct me if I'm wrong) starter pistol?
I am writing in response to Ms. Lisa Hurka Covington's letter. Although City Paper may have used bad judgment in running such an ad, apparently she didn't notice that the man holding the gun was not pulling the trigger. And what about her statistics? She mentioned that suicides for people under age 24 occur every 1.53 hours. Has that been proven? And what about those who are in their 30s, middle-aged, and up? She seemed to have forgotten to mention them. If a suicide happened approximately every two hours, as Ms. Covington said, there'd be a lot of people dead right now--of all ages.
For two weeks now, my enjoyment of City Paper stopped at The Mail because of these boneheads overreacting to the fiction- and poetry-contest ads. I'm a graphic designer for a very large global company. I think these ads are great. They show the frustration of being a starving artist but reassure you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, brought to you by the ol' City Paper. The ad says "Send us your Poetry and Fiction"; it doesn't say, "We're holding our annual Poetry and Fiction Contest, shoot yourself in the head."
After the first letter I was able to let it slide, but the letter from Lisa Hurka Covington shot me over the edge. Now, I've been fortunate enough to not have lost anyone to suicide, so this may come off as insensitive, but goddammit, I'm an artist and I need to express myself, and I need others to as well. Now on to Lisa:
First she shows us she may have some sense, naming Joe MacLeod as the art director, meaning she knows what an art director does. Good for you, Lisa. But you lose the points you scored by failing to realize the actual meaning of the ad, instead reacting to the visual as opposed to the actual meaning.
Next you talk about suicide from gunshot, as opposed to any other means of suicide. So if ol' Joe had decided to go with a picture of a writer on a ledge or with a noose, that would have been all right in your book? By excluding the other hundreds of ways to commit suicide in your letter, you mark yourself as selfish, not concerned. You were affected by a suicide by gunshot, so you're pissed. The people who have committed suicide by overdose mean nothing to you; your letter marks self-interest, not a desire to help others.
Next you say multiple times "young people under the age of 24." As opposed to "old people under the age of 24"? You add extra words in order to make your point more valid. All it did was make you look like an idiot.
Then you bring up the Columbine reference, the tritest way to bring attention to any sort of teenage problem. No good, Lisa, no good. Then you ask if you should continue. No, Lisa, please, just shut up.
Now, you guys at City Paper aren't getting off so light. I didn't notice the ad a single time in this last issue. I'm disappointed that you would discontinue a strong visual and a good metaphor like the ad because there are people who can't (or in Lisa's case, won't) read between the lines. But that's life, and I do commend you for having the intestinal fortitude to run the ad in the first place.
Editor's note: The ad was discontinued because the deadline for submissions had passed. One thing we don't have the intestinal fortitude for is wading through stacks of entries after the contest is over.
I just read James Whitt's detailed description of the Quarantine Road Sanitary Landfill ("What a Dump," May 23) and found its content a bit too vivid for my usual lunchtime City Paper perusing. What the hell was this article doing in your Sizzlin' Summer issue? I mean, it's as fine an article as any could be on the topic of garbage dumps, but to place it amid other pieces on fishing, zoos, fried chicken, etc. seemed a bit odd. It was like the Audubon Society meets Sanford and Son. I was ducking every filthy bird in sight on my way out of the diner.
Editor Andy Markowitz responds: It was a great story, and a real slice of Baltimore life--that's what it was doing in our Sizzlin' Summer issue. A good read is a good read. Besides, there's more to summer than fishing and fried chicken. But we're sorry we ruined your lunch.
Thou Shalt Not Have a Drumstick
In Natalie Davis' article on Maryland fried chicken ("Bird Is the Word," May 23), she states that "there are no biblical prohibitions against eating [chicken]." That is a misconception. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were required to eat from every tree of the garden (vegetation). They were forbidden by God to eat anything else in the garden (Genesis 2:15 to 2:17).
Natalie Davis responds: There aren't any "forbids" against chicken in the Bible. The only thing specifically forbidden to Adam and Eve was the fruit from one particular tree. In any event, I was largely referring to the Mosaic dietary laws, which came along long after Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden. Thanks to the disobedient pair, we're stuck with mortality, painful childbirth, and anxiety; any deity worth his or her salt wouldn't deny us a five-piece box on top of everything else done to us.
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