Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan

People wait for the bus at the Mondawmin Station while police secure Mondawmin Mall on April 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

People wait for the bus at the Mondawmin Station while police secure Mondawmin Mall on April 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Six Baltimore police officers have been criminally charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. As the case moves forward, a national discussion has emerged about the plight of inner city residents in Baltimore and cities like it nationwide. Some say discriminatory housing policies, the decline of manufacturing and the rise of mass incarceration are to blame. Others argue the problem lies with a culture of dependency that holds African Americans back from upward mobility. We look at the causes and consequences of urban poverty and racial strife, in Baltimore and beyond.


  • Kevin Rector Reporter, The Baltimore Sun.
  • Isabel Wilkerson Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of "The Warmth of Other Suns."
  • Emily Badger Covers urban policy for The Washington Post's Wonkblog.
  • Sheryll Cashin Professor of law at Georgetown University; former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and adviser to the Clinton administration; author of "Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America."
  • Allen West President and CEO, National Center for Policy Analysis; former Republican Congressman from Florida; retired Army colonel.


  • 10:06:54

    MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News sitting in for Diane Rehm, who's having a voice treatment. The curfew in Baltimore ended yesterday and officials there say national guard troops will be leaving the city. Six police officers have been criminally charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

  • 10:07:11

    MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANJoining me in the studio to discuss the latest developments in that case and the causes of a cycle of urban poverty and racial strife nationwide, Sheryll Cashin, professor at Georgetown University Law School and Emily Badger of The Washington Post. Joining us from a studio in Ashville, North Carolina, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson and from Dallas, Texas, former Republican congressman and retired army colonel, Allen West.

  • 10:07:38

    MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANBut first, joining us from Baltimore, Maryland, is Kevin Rector, reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Kevin, bring us up-to-date on what's happening there. All six police officers have been charged and they're out on bail. What's next for them?

  • 10:07:50

    MR. KEVIN RECTORWell, since Baltimore state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, announced charges against six officers on Friday, the gatherings and protests in the city have been much more celebratory. There were about 46 arrests on Saturday night, which was the last of the curfew. The curfew was lifted yesterday. The ACLU and bars in the city and other organizations were happy about that curfew being lifted.

  • 10:08:23

    MR. KEVIN RECTORAs to the six officers, they have been charged. They are innocent until proven guilty, obviously, and the union, the police union, has been defending them saying they did nothing wrong and did not have a role in Mr. Gray being injured. We've yet to see any ultimate timeline for that legal process to date.

  • 10:08:50

    LAKSHMANANSo with the curfew last night lifted, the National Guard troops have begun leaving the city on Sunday, correct? It would take them several days to all leave the city?

  • 10:09:00

    RECTORYeah, they are drawing down. The governor has said that that will take several days. Baltimore County even put out a release yesterday, I believe, that said, you know, folks should expect some traffic impacts of these caravans moving out. So we'll be watching that over the next several days.

  • 10:09:25

    LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, let me ask you, you point out that, of course, the officers charged are innocent until proven guilty, but meanwhile, a teen, who turned himself in for breaking a squad car window, is being held on half a million dollars bail, which is more than the bail that was asked for any of the officers. How do protestors feel about this? Do they think justice is being served or is there perception of a double standard, even with that?

  • 10:09:47

    RECTORI think one of the reasons why folks have felt inclined to be back in the streets protesting through the weekend, despite the charges being brought, is because they are skeptical of the process. I heard it raised multiple times, both on Friday when I was up in the neighborhood close to where Mr. Gray was first arrested, that they're upset about the fact that people involved in the rioting on Monday had received much higher bails than the officers who were charged.

  • 10:10:24

    RECTORI heard it again on Saturday when there was a large gathering at City Hall that then marched up to that neighborhood. So the sentiment is certainly widespread among folks in Baltimore that, you know, they aren't quite sure whether the charges being brought will bring them the outcome that they seek, which is to see all six of the officers behind bars.

  • 10:10:53

    LAKSHMANANWell, what about law enforcement's view? I mean, I am sure you've talked to police officers. What are the different reactions you're hearing from them?

  • 10:11:00

    RECTORWell, specifically from the police union, they have said that this was a rush to judgment. They've raised questions about the process by which state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, concluded what she has concluded. All six of the officers, again, have been charged. These charges range from second degree, depraved-heart murder for the officer who was the van driver, to manslaughter second degree, assault, misconduct in office.

  • 10:11:37

    RECTORThe police officers in the city are, or have been, quite busy dealing with the protests. I overheard an exchange between officers and some protestors on Saturday in which the officers were saying, look, we're worn out. We're tired as well. We'd like things to get better and improve. But I think there is some degree of frustration among the police force as to how these charges were brought.

  • 10:12:14

    RECTORI know that there is an internal investigation in the police department that is ongoing, which is to say they are still looking at the facts of the case and trying to figure out what exactly happened. And even with the announcement of charges from Mosby, the state's attorney, there are several factors at play that are still a mystery in terms of Mr. Gray's treatment from when he was first arrested until he was pulled out of that van on (word?)

  • 10:12:44

    LAKSHMANANAll right. Just very quickly, Kevin, are there more protest marches planned for the coming days?

  • 10:12:48

    RECTORYou know, I've not seen any scheduled events, but there were some yesterday and I would not be surprised if there were some more moving forward.

  • 10:12:57

    LAKSHMANANOkay. Thank you so much, Kevin for joining "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:13:01

    RECTORAbsolutely. Take care.

  • 10:13:03

    LAKSHMANANTurning to our panel now, Emily Badger, you wrote a piece for The Washington Post Wonkblog called, "The Long, Painful and Repetitive History of How Baltimore Became Baltimore." Is there one event that has fueled the poverty and despair in black neighborhoods in Baltimore and cities like it over the last 50 years?

  • 10:13:20

    MS. EMILY BADGERYou know, to me, I think the single most important thing for us to recognize right now is that the ghetto in Baltimore or any American city is not some naturally occurring urban phenomenon. These are places that have been manufactured over the years by public policies, by decisions that have been made on the part of the local government, the federal government, banks, all kinds of institutions.

  • 10:13:41

    MS. EMILY BADGERAnd the big problem is that it's not one single event. It's this whole cascading series of them. It's the fact that in the 1930s and '40s, people who lived in these communities were denied mortgages. Banks refused to help them buy homes. You know, that prevented families who lived there from building wealth. In the 1950s and '60s, we built highways through these communities where we tore many of them apart.

  • 10:13:59

    MS. EMILY BADGERWe literally sort of destroyed the fabric of these communities. You know, in the '60s and '70s, we started to do urban renewal were we were literally just bulldozing places that we considered slums in the name of slum clearance. And just over the decades, there have been just, you know, one after another sort of wave of really damaging things that have happened to the same communities over and over again.

  • 10:14:18

    MS. EMILY BADGERYou know, this includes the rise of incarceration and the drug war. This includes, you know, the subprime mortgage lending crisis as recently as the last 10 years or so and it's always the same communities who get hit over and over again and over time, these communities have become weakened economically, socially. You know, this is part of the reason why there's so little opportunity in these communities.

  • 10:14:40

    MS. EMILY BADGERAnd I think a lot of what we're seeing in Baltimore now is sort of, you know, the failure of the city and the failure of the country and federal policy to sort of reckon with this really long history of damaging these urban black communities over and over again over decades.

  • 10:14:52

    LAKSHMANANNow, Isabel Wilkerson, the issues that we're talking about have their roots in an even earlier time, right, dating back to the Great Migration that you wrote about in "The Warmth of Other Suns." Remind us why African-Americans left the South for northern cities and what happened when they got there.

  • 10:15:06

    MS. ISABEL WILKERSONYes, one of heartbreaks of what we're seeing today is that these are people who fled the repression of the Jim Crow South in the early part of the 20th century and into the middle part of the 20th century only to find a kind of mutation of the same conditions that they fled, seeing them now in the 21st century. So these are the children and the grandchildren and now great grandchildren of people who fled the South at time when lynchings were common.

  • 10:15:36

    MS. ISABEL WILKERSONEvery four days, an African-American was lynched in some part of the American South during the early decades of the 20th century for some perceived breach of the caste system that as in effect there. And there were limits and restrictions in everything that they could do and so they fled and went north in the same ways, looking for the same thing that any immigrant from any other part of the world was looking for, except they were having to do this in their own country.

  • 10:15:59

    MS. ISABEL WILKERSONAnd then, they arrived to discover restrictions and hostilities and violence and over-policing and diminishment in so many ways, so many eras in which they are now reliving part of what they were fleeing to begin with. It's a tragedy on so many levels.

  • 10:16:21

    LAKSHMANANSheryll Cashin, we talked about how these -- how African-American urban communities developed in the 20th century, but this outburst of frustration that we saw in Baltimore is really painfully familiar and not just from Ferguson, last year. There are echoes of the Rodney King riots in 1992 and the outpouring of anger in cities across America after Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968.

  • 10:16:44

    LAKSHMANANIn some ways, it kind of feels like a feedback loop, even in communities with African-American leaders. Why are we still failing?

  • 10:16:52

    MS. SHERYLL CASHINWell, because we have the enduring structure of the American ghetto, which, as Emily pointed out, it's a produced result. Since 1970, the number of census tracks with 40 percent or higher of the people in poverty has grown tremendously, places like Sandtown-Winchester. And if you are -- and the people who live in what I call ghetto census tracks have been stuck there for years. It's a third, fourth and fifth generation of people.

  • 10:17:24

    MS. SHERYLL CASHINAnybody who can leave these high poverty places do. And what daily life is like in these places, this concentrated poverty, it facilitates a kind of militarized policing that is never done anywhere else, that, you know, it's a situation where people face, you know, sick buildings, violence, absence of grocery stores, an othering from the rest of society. And so frustration comes out when you're mistreated and othered and have little opportunity.

  • 10:18:00

    LAKSHMANANAll right.

  • 10:18:00

    CASHINAnd we haven't undone those structures.

  • 10:18:02

    LAKSHMANANAfter the break, we'll have more on the roots of poverty and racism in Baltimore and across the country.

  • 10:20:01

    LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm. And joining me are Sheryll Cashin, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and an adviser to the Clinton administration, Emily Badger, who covers urban policy for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, on the phone, Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Price-winning journalist and author of "The Warmth of Other Suns," and also on the telephone, Colonel Allen West, the president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis and a former Republican Congressman from Florida. Colonel West, I'd like to go to you next. Do you feel that young black males like Freddie Gray are being treated unfairly by police?

  • 10:20:45

    COL. ALLEN WESTWell, it's a pleasure to be with you ladies as the only black male that grew up in an inner city. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the Old Fourth Ward, same neighborhood as Dr. King. You know, the thing about being, you know, treated unfairly, I think that one of the important things that we have lost in the inner city that I grew up in is a respect and regard for authority. We've seen a breakdown of the family. I was taught by my parents, my mother and father, and my older brother who, after his return from Vietnam, was a police officer in Atlanta, that if you had nothing to fear or nothing to worry about, if you were doing something right, the police were there to protect and serve and guard your community.

  • 10:21:23

    COL. ALLEN WESTBut when I do a comparative analysis of Freddie Gray, who was 25, and myself as a 25-year-old black man, you know, in 1986, you know, I was already a commissioned officer in the United States Army. I was a first lieutenant. I graduated from the University of Tennessee. I had made the commandant's list at the artillery officer basic course. I had lead a fire support team of soldiers and I was the assistant operations officer in an airborne battalion in Italy. So I think that one of the important things is that we have to have those visions of success in these communities.

  • 10:21:55

    COL. ALLEN WESTYou know, when I grew up and I walked down Auburn Avenue because my elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, was across the street from Ebenezer Baptist Church. As a young man, I saw success. I saw, you know, small businesses that were owned by blacks. I saw doctors' offices and lawyers' offices. My mother, who worked for the Sixth Marine Corps District Headquarters in Atlanta, that office was in the Citizens Trust Bank Building. That was a black-owned bank. So I think one of the most important things that we have to have is the restoration of the policies that promote opportunities.

  • 10:22:26

    COL. ALLEN WESTBut also we have to have those positive role models and visions and the restoration of the, you know, the black family, which has been decimated over the past 50-some-odd years to the point we have a 72 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate. So those are the key things that I think need to happen.

  • 10:22:40

    LAKSHMANANSo you're saying that there was something -- you're saying that there was something different about Atlanta in the 1960s and '70s when you grew up that allowed you to succeed. You're saying that the family was stronger and the policies were different.

  • 10:22:50

    WESTThe family was stronger. The families were stronger. There was small business engagement and involvement. And the most important thing, you had a black church. You had the faith community involvement. You know, I remember, you know, even though I played sports in my high school and my elementary and middle schools that I grew up in, there was also the summer church leagues, being it basketball or baseball. There was also, you know, church retreats that our church had. And when you talk about the breakdown of race relations, you know, my church, Fourth Street United Methodist, which is right there on Boulevard, had a partnership with a white United Methodist Church that was out in DeKalb County.

  • 10:23:30

    WESTSo that gave us that commonality of something as far as our principles and values where we could find that bond. And so, you know, we would go out and participate in their services. They would come in and participate in our services.

  • 10:23:41

    CASHINIf I could interject.

  • 10:23:41

    LAKSHMANANSheryll Cashin, you wanted to respond to that?

  • 10:23:43

    CASHINYes. Colonel West is describing his childhood. Even in poor communities in the '70s or '60s, they tended to be economically integrated. The Sandtown-Winchester and these high-poverty census tracts today are not economically integrated. Everybody who can leave has left. They've been depopulated.

  • 10:24:05

    WESTSo why does that happen? I'm saying, why did that happen?

  • 10:24:05

    CASHINWait a minute, let me finish. What had happened -- it's a lot easier to thrive in an economically integrated setting where you see models of success. But most of the Freddie Grays of the world who live in ghetto communities are stuck in a closed loop of systematic disadvantage because of high poverty, limited employment, weak schools with inexperienced teachers, distressed housing that makes children sick, violence, few or no grocery stores with healthy food, reduced opportunities for the kind of recreation and parks you're talking about.

  • 10:24:38

    CASHINSo you're assuming that Freddie Gray had all of the kinds of structures of support that you had.

  • 10:24:47

    LAKSHMANANNow, Colonel West...

  • 10:24:47

    CASHINAnd there are public policies that concentrate poverty. And that is the problem, concentrated ghetto poverty that we are not addressing.

  • 10:24:57

    LAKSHMANANNow Colonel West.

  • 10:24:58

    WESTSo, well, let me bring up this point...

  • 10:24:58

    CASHINYes, please respond.

  • 10:25:00

    WEST...because we're having a nice debate. So when we go back and we look at 1965, 50 years ago from right now and when we started the Great Society Programs and we started the war on poverty. I think the honest question we have to ask ourselves is did this improve things in the inner city or did it exacerbate and make things worse. That's all I'm saying. We have to identify what is different from the world and the inner city that Allen West grew in, in Atlanta from the world and the inner city that Freddie Gray is growing up in or many other young black men and women are growing in? And that's where we have to start looking at what is different? How do we solve that?

  • 10:25:35

    WESTBecause it was not an economically integrated community that I had. I just said, we had small-business ownership by blacks, doctors and lawyers and things of this nature.

  • 10:25:45

    CASHINThat's economic integration.

  • 10:25:46

    LAKSHMANANColonel West, let's give Emily Badger a chance to respond to Allen West's point. Are Democrats and their policies to blame for what's happened in cities like Baltimore? Or were the same things happening under Republicans?

  • 10:25:58

    BADGERWell, I think it's easy to say, you know, the war on poverty hasn't been successful but that's not entirely true. I mean it's certainly the case that some of the things that we've tried to spend money on have been incredibly helpful to families. I mean having food stamps is incredibly helpful to families. Housing vouchers helps families, you know, afford to have a place to live if they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford shelter. But the problem is that at the exact same time as we've been trying to invest in the war on poverty, we have continued to pursue a lot of these detrimental programs that are happening at the exact same time.

  • 10:26:26

    BADGERAnd one of the other things that Colonel West brought up that I think is really important is, you know, this issue of family breakdown. This is one of the things that's different in these communities today than 50 years ago. It is true that, you know, there's been a tremendous amount of family breakdown. Children are much more likely today to have only a single mother, to not have a father present. And that's incredibly influential in determining what happens to that child over the course of his life. But why has family breakdown happened? It's happened for a reason.

  • 10:26:50

    BADGERYou know, the rise of incarceration has contributed to the fact that, you know, dramatic numbers of black men have either been in prison, are in prison, can't get a job because they've been in prison in the past. You know, that makes it a lot harder for black women in these communities to find men who are worth marrying, who could be stable partners. You know, the decline of industrial jobs, good blue-collar jobs that could support a family if you don't have a high education, you know, that's been a big part of decimating families and helping them break down as well.

  • 10:27:16

    BADGERSo while I think it's important to talk about the role of family and family structure, you know, again, we have to go back to the beginning and say, what are the policies that contributed to that process in the first place?

  • 10:27:25

    LAKSHMANANNow, Isabel Wilkerson, life expectancy in some of these poor neighborhoods like Freddie Gray's are dramatically lower than in more affluent communities in the same city. How did this happen?

  • 10:27:37

    WILKERSONWell, I -- before answering that, I would like to say that today actually is an anniversary of the death -- the shooting death of Walter Scott who was killed on April 4, which is stunning to think that all of this is happening at such a rapid rate that it's actually hard to keep track of all of the names of people who have been killed in these, you know, horrific circumstances. And I'd like to say that because of the rapid nature of this season of assaults that we're seeing on inner-city residents, that it calls into question what really would protect these people?

  • 10:28:14

    WILKERSONI'm also reminded of Jonathan Ferrell and how whatever programs that may be in place would not have protected this man who was a college graduate. He was a football hero from FAMU. He was about to -- engaged to be married. He was in a horrific car accident. And instead of getting help -- this was in North Carolina -- instead of getting help from the officers who arrived, he was actually shot and killed. And so, you know, this is a much larger question in our country about the hierarchies, the enduring hierarchies that devalue the lives of some Americans over those of others and in which people are judged on the basis of what they look like.

  • 10:28:51

    WILKERSONI'm thinking about Tamir Rice. I'm thinking about Eric Garner, John Crawford. These are all people who we saw, as a country, killed before our eyes. And that means that it is something far beyond Democrat and Republican, far beyond city versus rural, far beyond just merely class and economics. There's something much deeper, a deeper soul-reaching issue that we have yet to address.

  • 10:29:15

    LAKSHMANANYeah, it's a really long list if we just think about the black males killed in questionable circumstances by police in the last nine months alone, like you started to say: Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown. So do black males face an assumption of guilt today as they did in the Jim Crow South? And have police and the judicial system criminalized black communities, Isabel Wilkerson?

  • 10:29:37

    WILKERSONI believe that what has happened is that we have enduring hierarchies that were set in place many, many generations ago, which all of us have inherited. This has led to sort of unconscious bias. This is a term that scholars are now using to help us to understand how and why people in certain groups are being targeted. Why, when people of the exact same experience levels, presenting the same resume, but one has a name that's identifiable as black, another has a name that's identifiable as more likely to be white, that the black job applicant is not being called back?

  • 10:30:18

    WILKERSONThere is something really deeper going on. And I think it goes beyond even just the term that is often used, such as racism. It's something that is an unconscious understanding and unconscious stereotyping and assumptions that run very deep in our history that go back to the time of Jim Crow, go back to the time of segregation and that we are still living with today.

  • 10:30:39

    LAKSHMANANSheryll Cashin, you wanted to respond to that?

  • 10:30:41

    CASHINWell, actually, there's a very modern stereotype that gets incubated in these high-poverty census tracts and it's this thug stereotype. And I'm saying stereotype, but it's a degree of othering. I'm telling you, people who live in ghetto neighborhoods are othered from the rest of society. And it's the swagger of thug life. But that is a deep stereotype that is now in the subconscious of most Americans.

  • 10:31:11

    LAKSHMANANEven President Obama used this term.

  • 10:31:11

    CASHINAnd it gets associated with blackness. And it's a sticky stereotype that sticks now to all black males. It's amazing the amount of fear that's around black males. And it's incredible that, you know, there are only 2,800 ghetto census tracts in this country. But they loom so large in what people associate with blackness. And it justifies this fear and othering. It justifies a militarized policing that no other, you know, affluent neighborhoods wouldn't stand for that kind of policing. It justifies or it facilities, you know, a predatory response to, you know, low-income black males but it affects race relations largely -- at large. And Isabel is absolutely right.

  • 10:32:01

    CASHINAnd it also clouds our judgment and moves us away from making sane public policies based on what actually works, right? You know, integration in schools and neighborhoods works for kids. But because of our fear, it's hard to get people to support inclusionary zoning.

  • 10:32:23

    LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We want to hear your thoughts about the situation in Baltimore and inner cities elsewhere in the country. If you'd like to join, call 1-800-433-8850. Or send us an email to Follow us on Facebook or send us a Tweet. We do actually have some comments already. George, who has posted a comment on Facebook, says he hopes that one of the panel members will discuss how the war on drugs has adversely affected these communities, resulting in the over-policing -- to which Sheryll was just referring -- high poverty, and as a result of that, you see police brutality today. Emily, would you like to take that?

  • 10:33:06

    BADGERThat's a great point. And it reminds me of a really startling statistic out of New York City. There were some researchers at Columbia University a couple of years ago who identified what they called million-dollar blocks. And these are blocks within New York where the state -- and this pattern recurs in several other cities as well -- where the state has spent more than a million dollars incarcerating people who come from that one block. And if you just think about the policy priorities that are inherent in that number, you know, what if we were spending a million dollars educating children who lived on that block, investing in early childhood education or, you know, putting health clinics on that neighborhood?

  • 10:33:40

    BADGERI mean the fact that we are spending that much money pulling people, disproportionately men, out of these neighborhoods -- and so much of that is driven by the war on drugs -- that's just hugely disruptive to these neighborhoods. And when -- a big part of the problem here is, you know, it's an economic problem. It's the fact that people don't have good jobs, they don't have access to jobs. If you have a criminal record, you really don't have access to a good job. And you know, once we have a lack of good jobs and you're a man or a woman living in one of these communities and you're looking around trying to figure out, how am I going to make money? How am I going to support a family?

  • 10:34:11

    BADGERYou know, it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to think, maybe I can do that by selling drugs. You know, this is a viable way for people to make money when we have removed so many other viable ways for people to have a livelihood. And that's just sort of, you know, part of the feedback cycle that we've been talking about. And so I think, you know, part of the reason why it feels like we're having, you know, the same record playing over and over again is that we have never thrown solutions at these problems that are at the scale of the problem themselves.

  • 10:34:36

    BADGERAnd if we want to start talking about that, one of the first things that we could do is talking about dialing back the war on drugs, talking about, you know, reforming some of our incarceration and our sentencing policies so that we're not spending so many resources pulling people out of these communities, locking them up. We're spending money instead investing in them where they live.

  • 10:34:54

    LAKSHMANANSheryll Cashin, how much of this is race and how much is income disparity? Do poor whites face a lack of opportunity and mobility as well?

  • 10:35:04

    CASHINWell, yes. The poor -- poor people generally face a lack of opportunity and mobility. But statistically, if you are poor and white, you are more likely to live in a middle-class setting where you can access opportunity. Most African-American and Latino kids in this country live in -- are exposed to poverty, live in non-middle-class settings where poverty is a feature of life. And the hardest place to pull yourself up is in concentrated poverty. But you know, I want to underscore for your listeners that this is not a hopeless problem. Five to ten percent of American jurisdictions have on their books a law called inclusionary zoning that encourages residential integration.

  • 10:35:59

    CASHINJust today, in the upshot in The New York Times, they featured the difference between Montgomery County, Maryland, and Baltimore. If you're fortunate to be -- if you're black and poor, you'd rather live in Montgomery County than in Baltimore. There's not a single concentrated poverty census tract in Montgomery County. That's not accidental. Montgomery County has had on the books for nearly 40 or 50 years an inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires that any new residential development above a certain size be mixed income. Montgomery County also has, you know, the same public policies that encourage integration in schools.

  • 10:36:40

    CASHINSo, you know, they have a lot more social mobility, the kind of social mobility that Colonel West was talking about, that makes it easier for people of all races to live in a diverse setting and thrive.

  • 10:36:56

    LAKSHMANANComing up, your calls and your questions for our panelists. Please stay with us.

  • 10:40:01

    LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me are Colonel Allen West, President and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis and a former Republican Congressman from Florida, Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Warmth of Other Suns," Emily Badger who covers urban policy for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, and Sheryll Cashin, a professor of law at Georgetown University. We are talking about the root causes of poverty and racial strife in Baltimore and other cities across the nation.

  • 10:40:34

    LAKSHMANANNow, we have a comment here from Brian, who emailed in to say about bad schools, that this, that one of our guests was talking about bad schools in Baltimore. He says that Baltimore ranks third in the nation in terms of dollars per pupil. He says the schools have money and that he used to drive through the riot neighborhood that was on his way to graduate school in Johns Hopkins and this was 47-years ago and it was a mess. He's saying all the money and the talk have not made a difference. Colonel Allen West, what is your response to that?

  • 10:41:07

    WESTWell, that's one of the things that I think is very important. I know that a lot of people are talking about the influx and everything about drugs, but it starts with good quality education, because that opens up an opportunity. You know, the, I think I read recently, there's like a 46 percent truancy rate in Baltimore. But I think that all of us can agree, because, like I said, I think it's important that we isolate the point where things starts to turn in the inner city from that which I grew up into and to what we have today.

  • 10:41:36

    WESTAnd I think that we can all agree that one of the horrible unintended consequences going back to the Great Society Program of Johnson when he said that the government would give a check to a woman who has child out of wedlock and would continue to do so as long as they kept a man out of the house. Now, when we talk about the mass incarceration of black males and things of this nature, you know, we remove the black male from being responsible. You know, as I said, I grew up in a household with a father and mother, and that's what I saw on my street, Kennesaw Avenue.

  • 10:42:06

    WESTBut when you remove that responsibility, which is the basic thing about taking care of your own children and being a part of a family, I think there are many other things to come from that. And, you know, I just wish that we would also have this conversation, not just on these nine instances that a lot of the guests have talked about, but what about the hundreds of black males who have lost their lives on, you know, black on black crime in places like Chicago? We need to address that as well.

  • 10:42:32


  • 10:42:32

    WESTBut we continue to throw money at this situation. And let's talk about, you know, Mayor Bill de Blasio, when he wanted to cancel the charter school programs in New York City. One of the best performing schools in New York City is located in Harlem. It's Success Academy. And the people who complained to Governor Cuomo were single black mothers, because they realized that the Success Academy was giving an opportunity for their children to break this incredible cycle that we see in the inner city.

  • 10:42:59

    LAKSHMANANOkay, so that was an example of a success story. Emily Badger, how do you respond to Colonel Allen West's point that some of this is creating a culture of dependency?

  • 10:43:08

    BADGERSo, I think that there's definitely a place for personal responsibility in this conversation, but my feeling is sort of the exact opposite of Colonel West, which is that if we focus too much on personal responsibility, what we're doing is essentially absolving all of the rest of us of having any role in fixing this or even acknowledging the role that all of us have played up until now. Acknowledging the role that banks have played in denying people mortgages, acknowledging the role that governments have played in intentionally disinvesting in these neighborhoods.

  • 10:43:34

    BADGERYou know, we need to sort of have everyone involved in contributing and taking responsibility for these neighborhoods. And when we turn this conversation into one about how, you know, moms need to take responsibility for their own babies and, you know, these communities need to take responsibility for their own, we're essentially sort of absolving all of us from playing some role in solving this. And to the point about education, you know, one of the things that research has taught us is that a poor black child is really going to benefit in a classroom from having peers who are different from them.

  • 10:44:02

    BADGERFrom having peers who are middle and upper income, who come from different types of families. You know, you can throw all of the money you want at that poor black kid in that classroom, but if every other child in that classroom is also poor and black, you know, that child faces such higher odds of ever being successful. And if we really want that child to go to school with children who are different from them, then this comes back to the point that Sheryll raised earlier, which is that we need to be integrating housing.

  • 10:44:26

    BADGERWe need to be integrating communities if we want to have integrated education.

  • 10:44:28

    LAKSHMANANOkay. Let's go the phones. Rose in San Antonio. Rose, you are on the air.

  • 10:44:35

    ROSEHi. My question is, or my thought is about our attitude about the way that we view them as them. I think that that's really, probably the major problem in there. We talk a lot about what they need, what they should do, you know, what they need to do to get out of their situation. But the thing is is that we still consider them them. We don't consider them part of us. And to me, it's similar to the view that we had with the Vietnam vets coming back, where we mistreated them very badly. And we saw them as them and we reacted to how they were -- they handled some very horrible situations, they were in a war.

  • 10:45:21

    ROSEWell, now we've learned our lesson from that, and we're very inclusive of our vets, but these people are also part of our society, and we need to include them as part of our society and we need to remember that, that it's not a they problem, it's a problem for everybody.

  • 10:45:37

    LAKSHMANANOkay. Thank you, Rose. Isabel Wilkerson, can you respond to that, this notion of othering, us and them?

  • 10:45:45

    WILKERSONI think that that's central to our moving forward as a country. One of the most disturbing aspects of some of these cases that we've seen, again, we've been able to see the videotaping of people who have been -- who have died in police custody or at the hands of police, and one of the disturbing aspects of it is that these, these, sometimes the response or the moments after the attacks are as disturbing as the attacks themselves. In other words, it's chilling to realize that some of these people might have lived had they been viewed as human.

  • 10:46:17

    WILKERSONIn other words, the dehumanization distances people from the plight of their fellow human being, so that many of these people, if you look at the situation with Eric Garner, for example, people, there was not this rush to actually help him. We can see that on the videotape ourselves. The same went for Tamir Rice. And so what this speaks to is a larger question of empathy. A larger question of compassion. A larger question of seeing ourselves in people who may not look like us, may not be from the same standing as we are, but they are our fellow human beings.

  • 10:46:53

    WILKERSONAnd so these are questions of not just how an officer treats a resident, but how one human being treats another and how we all treat and view each other as whole and as part of the same community, the community of our country.

  • 10:47:06

    LAKSHMANANSheryll Cashin, let's talk a little bit about solutions. In the aftermath of the 1960s riots, there were Blue Ribbon commissions that were formed that blamed the lack of education and jobs. They blamed institutional racism, called for new programs. 20 years later, Ronal Reagan said no. In fact, the cause of all of this is the welfare state. Either way, the same problems persist now, 50 years later. So, what has worked and what hasn't, in terms of public policy to turn around troubled urban areas?

  • 10:47:36

    CASHINWell, integration works where it is achieved. You know, there is a great deal of difference across communities. Some communities, like Montgomery County, like West Hartford, like Raleigh, North Carolina manage to facilitate through public policy choices more integration, on the ground, in residences, and in schools. And, you know, these are difficult problems, but the places that are more integrated tend to have more civic engagement and coalitions on the ground where they are organizing.

  • 10:48:18

    CASHINThere are people -- there are a lot of people in this country that believe in diversity, like it, want to move toward it, want to be in it, and want their children to have it, but that constituency is not always organized. Where it is, in like the Hartford metro area, there's chef movement, a bi-racial movement of urban and suburban parents who have been behind this lawsuit that's created 40 plus magnet schools. And enabling black and brown kids from low poverty settings to access high quality magnet and charter schools, Colonel West, decoupled from where they live.

  • 10:48:59

    CASHINSo, you know, we know what works. Integrated schools work. Integrated residences work. There's 40 degrees of history of research showing that only one percent of high poverty schools succeed. Right? So, these are some of the solutions. Magnet schools, inclusionary zoning, but you have to organize to adopt those policies.

  • 10:49:22

    LAKSHMANANAll right, let's take a call from Baltimore. Rachel is calling us from Baltimore. Rachel, you are on the air. Rachel. All right. We might have lost her. We had a comment from Phil from Indianapolis, who talks about experts saying that urban poverty stems from a lack of education resources in cities. So, why, if there is so much money coming from business and property taxes, why are urban schools still struggling for funds?

  • 10:49:55

    WESTYou want me to take that?

  • 10:49:57

    LAKSHMANANSure. Please. Colonel West, go ahead.

  • 10:50:00

    WESTWell, after I retired from the military, I taught high school at what was classified as an urban, inner city high school, Deerfield Beach in the Brower County. And what I see or saw happening is that a lot of these funds are being focused on the bureaucracy of education and it is not getting into the classroom. Another one of the things that I see happening is something that I do not agree with with this sense of these mandatory tests and things of that nature, which are supposedly tied to better funding.

  • 10:50:31

    WESTBecause I taught, you know Honors American History and World History and what happened during the time period of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests. The students were taken away so that they can get immersed and get test taking preparatory training and we saw what happened in Atlanta where, you know, several teachers were arrested for falsifying the test results. So I think that what we have to have are dollars that get into the classroom. We need to have better public private partnerships.

  • 10:51:00

    WESTWe need to be able to, you know, create the next generation of, you know, critical thinkers and productive members of that will go into the local communities and be able to produce. And be able to be able to be part of the economic engine of that community. Right now, that's not what's happening in our schools. We're teaching kids how to take a test and most of these kids that I saw at Deerfield Beach High School, at the age of 16, if they failed the test, they believed that, you know, they did not have a future.

  • 10:51:26

    WESTAnd they ended up dropping out of school. And I just talked about that 46 percent truancy rate that is in Baltimore and I wonder what the drop-out rate is. So, again, the dollars have to go, you know, where the rubber meets the road, if I can put it that way. And what I continue to see, in my time up in Washington D.C., is that too many of the American tax payer dollars are going to bureaucracies and they're not going where they can make the best effect.

  • 10:51:52

    LAKSHMANANSo, you're actually talking about problems caused by programs like No Child Left Behind and you know, sort of...

  • 10:51:58


  • 10:51:58

    LAKSHMANAN...standardized testing that's requiring schools to comply with that.

  • 10:52:02

    WESTAnd I'm not saying that testing is not important, but we should have testing that is based upon, you know, a more of a hands on approach. You know, let's let kids understand what are the reasons why we're teaching these things? You know, landscape architects and designers should be able to come in and talk to them about why Geometry is important. Not just teaching them the Pythagorean Theorem. So that's what I mean. We need to have a revolutionary change in the education process.

  • 10:52:30

    WESTSo that we marry, you know, teaching subjects with exactly what you can do and go out into society and use that with. Not every kid is going to go on to college, but every kid should graduate with some type of hands on productive skill.

  • 10:52:43

    LAKSHMANANOkay. Emily Badger, where do you see the solutions to the problems that we've been talking about all hour?

  • 10:52:48

    BADGERSo, a really good idea for what a solution to this might look like actually came from a Republican about 40 years ago. George Romney, Mitt Romney's dad, was the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the 60s and he had, what was at the time, this really sort of radical idea that, you know, he believed, as a lot of these earlier commissions that we talked about suggested, that integration was incredibly important, that segregation was incredibly damaging. And that if the federal government was going to encourage communities to recognize this and pursue integration, then it needed to use the leverage that it had.

  • 10:53:19

    BADGERAnd so what he wanted to do at HUD was say, you know what, Baltimore, if you're gonna stand in the way of integration, if you're gonna further segregation, then we're gonna withhold grant money from you. You know, we're gonna withhold federal dollars from you. You need help building a sewer system. We're not going to give that to you. You know, if you live in a suburban community and you've created exclusionary zoning policies that make it extremely difficult to build affordable housing for low income people, we're gonna withhold federal dollars from you, too.

  • 10:53:43

    BADGERAnd this would have been a really great way for the federal government to exert some influence in how local communities actually try to create integration. But, you know, as you may realize, we've never heard very much about this over the last 40 years because it never actually came to pass. Because Mitt Romney's ideas were basically sort of set aside.

  • 10:53:59

    LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Isabel Wilkerson, tell us, how much do you think is public policy and how much of this is attitudes? You've talked somewhat about the comparison between the Jim Crow south and today's northern urban ghettos.

  • 10:54:15

    WILKERSONI think they're interconnected. I think one feeds the other and I think any solution that will ultimately help us push through all of this would have to involved the people who -- the people themselves who are suffering under this. The people who are living under the conditions that we are describing. It would also require a recognition of the history that has led to the exclusion, historic exclusion, but also even current day levels of exclusion and disparities in education and over policing and housing and job opportunities.

  • 10:54:48

    WILKERSONThat all of those things have to be understood, cannot be corrected unless we know what got us to this point. And then, finally, I believe that it calls upon all of us to have empathy and compassion and to put ourselves in the place of people that we're talking about. You know, our discussion, and the discussion overall about these issues have seem to have been, primarily, top down. And there needs to be the involvement of the people who are living this, the involvement of the people who are enduring all of this.

  • 10:55:14

    WILKERSONAnd our, all of us, to recognize what it might be like for us to be in that situation and to see ourselves and these people as a common humanity.

  • 10:55:24

    LAKSHMANANI'm gonna try to take a very quick call from Jay in Raleigh, North Carolina. We don't have much time left, but go ahead, Jay.

  • 10:55:31

    JAYI want to say that I grew up in a bad, very bad neighborhood. I was able to get out and I went to college. When I came back to contribute, what I noticed was that all the programs that existed in Brooklyn, particularly, were all wiped out. These kids have nowhere to go, no extracurricular activities. They have no one mentoring them. And I received that. And these children were smart. I mean, intelligent. Stuff like programming, anything I taught them, they picked up in a heartbeat. Children want to learn.

  • 10:56:07


  • 10:56:08

    JAYThe problem is they don't have an outlet. And there's nothing available anymore.

  • 10:56:13

    LAKSHMANANOkay, good. Sheryll, can you respond to that? Give us some parting thoughts about some solutions that would help with this. Is it politicians, is it policies, is it attitudes? How do we bring this together so that cities like Baltimore can rebound?

  • 10:56:27

    CASHINWell, I think, immediately, one policy solution is to stop with the militarized dehumanized predatory style of policing in high poverty neighborhoods. With police training. I mean, it's -- can we imagine a policeman who locked eyes with Freddie Gray saying, young man, can I help you? What's going on? Rather than assuming he's doing something wrong and giving chase. And the silver lining I see in this movement is we're beginning to humanize people like Freddie Gray.

  • 10:57:06

    LAKSHMANANThank you so much. Sheryll Cashin, Emily Badger, Isabel Wilkerson, Colonel Allen West, the hour went too fast. But thank you for all your thoughts. I'm Indira Lakshmanan sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening. Stay with us for the next hour.

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