What's Really Hood

Via Ezra two rather amazing stats about my old town. This:

Baltimore is, statistically, the second-deadliest city in the USA; only in Detroit are you more likely to be murdered. Last year there were 234 homicides in the city, which has a population of 650,000. It was a 20-year-low, but still meant that one in every 2,700 people was murdered. In Britain, that figure is about one in 85,000.

And then this:

One columnist at the Baltimore Sun recently described Baltimore as a city of two worlds. It is in the "other world", the one populated by drug dealers and gangsters, that most murders occur. Those not involved in the drug trade are apparently as unlikely to be murdered in Baltimore as they are in any other civilized city in the world.

Figures seem to suggest that is true. Of the 234 murders last year, 194 of the victims (82 per cent) had criminal records and 163 (70 per cent) had a history of being arrested for drug offenses.

That second stat is amazing, but not very surprising. It's one of the many reasons why a "dangerous neighborhood" often feels more dangerous to outsiders. I'm not discounting the innocent bystander--it certainly happens. But a lot of the "survival" that goes on in the neighborhood involves who you hang around, and where you hang within that neighborhood. Everyone there knows certain blocks are hot, and certain young fools are even hotter. 

That, of course, is the trick of being young--the 16-year-old with the 24-year-old drug dealer boyfriend sees the car, but doesn't necessarily get that she's raising her chances of being murdered. The 16-year-old boy wants to be up in the mix and the excitement, even if he isn't really a crook. He doesn't know that by merely hanging out he's playing with his mortality stats. Or maybe he does, and that's the point.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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