By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
While the American hustle suggests pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, Associated Black Charities’ (ABC) new film Structural Racism: A Baltimore History, reveals that African Americans can’t as easily achieve the “American Dream,” because of centuries of discriminatory laws and policies that still affect Charm City to this day.
“It makes it hard to pull yourself up from the bootstraps, because you don’t have boots,” University of Baltimore professor Joseph Wood said in ABC’s first feature film, explaining the plight of the African-American experience.
True to ABC’s mission, Structural Racism: A Baltimore History unveils the horrors of the racial wealth gap in Baltimore. Through historic accounts and timelines specific to Charm City, the film reveals how African Americans were truly never given the boots to adjust their bootstraps, or a fair start in order to run the marathon that is life. While Whites were given certain assistance, allowed to purchase homes in several areas and ultimately thrive, since the 18th century, Black Baltimoreans have faced multiple barriers that contribute to current issues in the African-American community, including mass incarceration and housing, economic, educational and health disparities.
“Defacto discrimination continues and that’s because we as a people- African Americans- and we as a nation- Americans- do not understand how the system works to perpetuate people continuing to be in certain economic classes,” said Danise Jones Dorsey, former interim director for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.
The film explains that despite a 64 percent African-American population in Baltimore, White ownership accounts for 60 percent, while Black ownership is only 42 percent, and Black unemployment is three times higher than White unemployment rates. Celebrating its 35th anniversary on Aug. 13, with such statistics against Baltimore’s Black community, ABC’s President and CEO Diane Bell-McKoy emphasized the need for the organization’s new film as a means to educate and promote change.
“We are clear that structural racism is the impediment for the barrier for the racial wealth gap, as well as other issues that impact Black and Brown people,” Bell-McKoy told the AFRO in an exclusive interview.
McKoy explained that ABC worked with the Aspen Baltimore Group, which is a group of civic and corporate leaders who gather and train to combat structural racism in their organizations.
“Because of that, we were trained by the Aspen Institute, and we were trained using national videos, and the group felt it was important to have a video about Baltimore’s history of structural racism that would help us teach and help people understand the history of structural racism is very much related to the current condition and situation of structural racism,” Bell-McKoy said, when explaining the inspiration behind creating the film. “So it’s a tool to help educate people to move them to change to address this issue, currently, as it exists.”
In a little more than 20 minutes, audiences are left with a clearer understanding of the history of Baltimore’s racial disparities that contribute to many of today’s challenges and are charged with a call to action to make a change.
ABC will hold a virtual movie premier for Structural Racism: A Baltimore History on Aug. 13 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. To purchase tickets visit www.abc-md.org.
While the film is currently being distributed at a fee for educational purposes, ABC hopes the film will be didactic to have larger conversations about addressing the wealth gap directly related to structural racism.
“Ultimately we’ll probably end up releasing it for free, but right now we’re using it as a learning opportunity because we don’t want to release the video by itself. We won’t do that. It’ll always be released with us also having some sort of panel discussion to frame the racial wealth gap.”