Baltimore doesn't care about Trump people

Those of us who live in Cummings' Baltimore district can't be more disappointed by President Trump, so we carry on

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published July 29, 2019 4:30PM (EDT)

Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); President Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)
Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); President Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)


It's crazy when you wake up in the morning and the President of the United States is throwing shots at your neighborhood, but this is the world we live in.

Trump being Trump, on an otherwise quiet summer Saturday, the president ignited a racist explosion on Twitter attacking Representative Elijah Cummings, his congressional district and my hometown of Baltimore.


“Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.” The President tweeted, “No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!”

“As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded.” Trump continued, “Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place”


As the story picked up steam, President Trump continued to add fuel to the fire, retweeting videos posted by other conservatives that displayed dilapidated houses and alleys riddled with trash that backed up his claim. It’s important to note that Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight Committee isn’t responsible for rodent control or trash pick-ups, they are local issues.

Baltimore’s most notable newspaper, The Sun, clapped back at the president, publishing:

“Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.”

As a life-long Baltimore resident, who works year-round as a mentor, an advocate for critical thinking and education, a teacher and a positive example of being a part of the change that I would like to see — I sadly found humor in all of this. The people attacking the city, crocodile tears from pundits and the people pretending to advocate for it.  #WeAreBaltimore was trending on Twitter over the weekend with a ridiculous number of people posting vacation or business trip photos of the time they took a walk through the Inner Harbor, which is an expensive tourist trap downtown that many residents don’t care to frequent or really can't afford.

Surprisingly, my first instinct was not to come to bat for Cummings or to rip Trump in the corny manner that has controlled this entire news cycle. Mainly because Trump does something racist every week, rather it's calling African countries s**t holes, branding Mexicans as criminals or telling a black American congresswoman Ilhan Omar to go back to her country — in response, we grunt dismissively, complain, fuel his fire and put smiles on the faces of his team and supporters because they know, our responses ultimately amount to nothing. No jail time, impeachment proceedings, no nothing.

Me screaming, “Donald Trump  is a F’d-up haircut, corner store spray-tan having, racist clown!” doesn’t hurt him and probably couldn't reach him, even if I was standing one foot away. Trump's a money guy, an old racist, the definition of privileged and has been blowing millions for like seven decades. He can drop disparaging messages on the poor, but can’t hear screams from poverty. Oppressors wouldn't be oppressors if they listened to the oppressed. Most of the black people Trump addresses, are normally rich, and many of them can’t even hear the screams from poverty, unless a camera crew is present and it’s photo opp time.

As for Cummings, he’s a smart strongman from the bottom who can take care of himself. I grew up in his district and have been the victim of poverty, poor schools, a fake criminal justice system with a motley collection of racist cops that cause more harm to than good, and Cummings knows all of this. Cummings knows that we struggle.

I’m also extremely proud of Cummings' district as my family, my fiancée’s family and all of our friends collectively are stakeholders — we also own homes, we support those struggling schools we attended, we pray, we work, we mentor, we clean up the trash, we show love, we fight to make Baltimore better every single day, we eat at amazing restaurants, attend theaters, museums, create art, participate in festivals, build traditions and strengthen our culture all in Cummings' district and he knows this.

Gervonta "Tank" Davis, who also grew up in Cummings' district, bought a major title fight to  Cummings' District in front of more than 14,000 fans. Then, this weekend, he defended it.  Some months back, I rode my bike to the "creative crossroads," Motor House in Cummings' district, and anxiously took the elevator up to world-renowned artist Amy Sherald’s studio to get an early look at the brilliant, still-unfinished official portrait of Michelle Obama.

We are amazing.

I love when my city receives national attention. It doesn't matter if the narrative is good or bad because it gives thinking people a glimpse into the harsh realities that we are born into and the many ways we survive and thrive.

Trump is a distraction, an oozing underarm cyst on the body of American history — a cheap way to avoid the real problems at hand. Many of us are too busy surviving, and don't have time to acknowledge his mindless claims — I mean he tweets negative things about Baltimore as if Baltimore is not in America, the country that chose him as a leader.  Baltimore's problems are Trump's problems.

As beautiful as the experiences I had and have in Representative Cummings' district, there is a significant amount of ugly to­­o — that’s not just a problem in Cummings' district, that is an American problem, Trump's problem. America is full of beautiful and ugly and we all know this; the real question is who is going to log off Twitter and spend real time making an effort to remedy the ugly? That’s the more valuable conversation.

Like many life-long Baltimore resident, I’m sick of people — so-called "woke" people, insiders and out — leaping on to soapboxes, to share their opinion and Insta photos, addressing problems that they have no intention of solving.

Please walk the other way.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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