The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on Tuesday slammed the decades of neglect that led Baltimore to erupt in protests and violence over the past week, suggesting that the crisis was decades in the making but went ignored by media and public officials until rioting began.
"This seems to indicate the issue in our city emergency alert systems: there appear to be two points on the scale — 'normal' and 'on fire,'" Stewart said. "Clearly, Baltimore was belching smoke far before Saturday."
As Stewart suggested, the problems in Baltimore go way deeper than just the death of Freddie Gray, who died on April 19 from a fatal spinal cord injury a week after an allegedly brutal arrest. Neighborhoods like Gray's, for example, have languished with populations in which more than half the residents aren't working and one-third of residential buildings are vacant or abandoned, according to a February 2015 report by the Justice Policy Institute and Prison Policy Initiative. At the same time, local police have engaged in such brutal tactics that they had to pay $5.7 million in settlements to more than 100 people since 2011 over allegations of abuse and beatings, according to a September 2014 report by the Baltimore Sun's Mark Puente.
"Maybe a more nuanced alert system could allow for a more productive intervention beyond, 'You have 10 seconds to disperse,'" Stewart said. "Or we can agree to keep ignoring the roots of how systemically, historically disenfranchised many African-American communities still are — only paying attention to them when we fear their periodic, fiery ball of anger threatens to enter our airspace like some kind of Alex Haley's comet and, once again, breathing a blissful sigh of forgetful relief when it's another near-miss."