His death occurred after he was in the custody of the police department. His death sentence was served the day he was brought home from the hospital. The same neighborhood that rose up in anger after his death, has long been a festering cesspool of neglect. Neglect that continues today. Neglect that is overlooked until images of violence appear on the nightly news. Neglect that lays heavily on the hands of those entrusted to govern us. Neglect that is left in the water that every elected official has, “Pontius Pilate like”, washed their collective hands with a reality. While people are being put on trial for “neglect” regarding the final incident in Freddy Gray’s life, hundreds upon hundreds more are receiving the same death sentence every day.
“…every elected official has, “Pontius Pilate like”, washed their collective hands with a reality”
Freddie Gray grew up in “Sandtown”. The area is just one of many blighted neighborhoods in Baltimore City. Old buildings and a large amount of non-resident landlords or property owners combine to create invisible death traps for every child living there. The same is true in “ghetto’s” in Washington, DC, Atlanta, Ga, Chicago, Il and every other large city in the United States. The neighborhood where you grow up has a strong influence on your life expectancy. Social scientist have noticed this fact. They have also noticed that since the Great Depression, the poor in the inner cities of this country have not been predominantly white. Everyone has focused on race. Everyone seems to think that race is the indicator of the future. Race is an indicator, but in many cases it is only because the color of one’s skin obstructed one’s opportunity to rise in the social/economic scale of society. Following the Civil Rights Movement, laws have been passed to prevent discrimination. Those laws address some issues, but fundamental issues are left unchanged. Poor people are legislatively bullied into the dark corners of despair. The result, the poor remain poor. Hidden, but well-known factors, contribute to the generation upon generation of perpetually poor families.
“Poor people are legislatively bullied into the dark corners of despair.”
Prior to the late 1970’s, almost every drop of paint used commercially contained lead. Lead is added to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that causes corrosion. Dried lead paint is also, unfortunately sweet in taste. When homes were being built, the faster the home was built the quicker the contractors got paid. As time passed, this wonder additive was discovered to have some negative side effects. Lead paint is hazardous to your health. Ingestion of lead paint leads to neurological damage, bodily damage and many other health problems. Now, it is highly unlikely that anyone fed their children lead paint chips. The lead paint chips just happened to be where little children spend their time. The expansion and contraction of radiators and windows and window sills caused the paint to chip. The chips, sweet in taste, became a readily available poison in every home. In 1978, the use of lead paint was banned in the United States. As far as the billions of gallons of dried lead paint in homes all across the country, well the EPA notes…”Home repairs that create even a small amount of lead dust are enough to poison your child and put your family at risk.” It is recommended that a certified specialist do any work on or around the existing lead paint. Some areas have it legislatively mandated that work can only be done by a certified specialist.
“The chips, sweet in taste, became a readily available poison in every home.”
As of this morning, a check of homes for rent and sale in Montgomery County, Md shows that there are 375 for rent that were built prior to 1978. There are 1293 for sale built prior to 1978. By contrast, Baltimore City has 343 homes available for rent that were built prior to 1978 and 3389 homes for sale also built prior to 1978. In January 2015 a law went into effect in Maryland that stated lead paint remediation must take place on rental property before a new tenant moves in. This is a small step in the right direction. There are still many cracks in the system, and the “chips of lead paint” continue to fall. If the property is being sold, everyone still receives the same bland disclosure and should receive a copy of the less than scintillating “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” EPA pamphlet. These measure allow the legislators to slap one another on the back and pontificate that they have addressed the problem. In reality, property owners that are renting units have little compulsion to make any change if the families remain year after year. To be fair, they are not breaking any law. They are just allowing inhumane conditions to exist and exposing today’s children to tomorrows tragedies, one chip at a time. The same people preyed upon with “rent to own” advertisements that feature big screen t.v.’s etc with horrific total costs have no choice but to continue living in the squalor of what easily may be called “rent to die”.
“There are still many cracks in the system, and the “chips of lead paint” continue to fall.”
Freddie Gray will be remembered for the circumstances that surrounded his death. People that dig a little deeper will discover that he and his sisters received a financial settlement from his landlord stemming from a lawsuit based on the after effects of living in a lead paint laden home. The effects of that childhood impacted every facet of his life. It impacted him scholastically, professionally, emotionally and fatally. You see, we will never know what sort of man he might have become had he the chance to grow up in a clean environment. We will never realize the things he may have had to offer. Our only societal gift to Freddie Gray was to allow Access Funding to buy out his settlement proceeds for pennies on the dollar. Freddie Gray’s story is no different that the hundreds of people who are preyed upon after they are poisoned. The Washington Post shared “How companies make millions off of lead poisoned poor blacks” . Who killed Freddie Gray? It seems rather obvious. Freddie Gray’s death was the result of systematic political and societal indifference. From the initial application of the first coat of lead based paint on the walls where he grew up, to the life long struggles he faced dealing with disabilities created by his environment, to the legal but questionable depletion of his trust account, to his final “ride” in a police van, Freddie Gray never had a chance. While some community activists want to remember his last days, I would prefer that steps are taken to make sure no child has to grow up in a home caked in lead based paint. If there is to be a memorial, let it be a law that demands all lead paint be re-mediated now. No home sells without remediation, no rent is collected without remediation, no adult or child lives in a home that has not been certified as re-mediated. None. No more. We know it is poison. We know the effects. We know. No more. No more lead paint. No more dust. No more chips. No more.
“Freddie Gray never had a chance.”