In 2015, the media focused on how Mr. Gray's death connected him to ongoing issues of race and violence between African-American men and law enforcement. However, if we claim any desire to be engaged citizens, we will take this opportunity to develop our human literacy by thinking critically about Mr. Gray's connections to other issues connected to the reality of his death. Mr. Gray was one of the thousands of adults are victims of lead-poisoning as children.
Collins reports: "In 2008, Gray’s family filed a lawsuit against Stanley Rochkind, the owner of a home they rented for four years, arguing that the children’s exposure to the substance played a significant part in their educational, behavioral and medical problems...Lab tests conducted in the 1990s showed that he and his two sisters had levels of lead in their blood nearly double that of what the state of Maryland defines as the minimum for lead poisoning."
The residual payments from a lawsuit Gray's family won (if paying children for permanent physical and brain damage can be considered a win) did little to address the lifelong effects lead-poisoning imposed on his life.
Collins also writes, "Officials in Baltimore have been in a mission to improve the living situation of their most impoverished residents."
In 2013, "owners of homes built between 1950 and 1978 — the year Maryland passed its own set of laws — had to register with the state and prove the absence of peeling, chipping, or flaking paint that infants and toddlers could easily digest. They also had to notify residents to report deteriorating paint to the state." It is important to note that Freddie Carlos gray was born in 1989, eleven years after Maryland passed lead paint laws and to include rental properties.
Unfortunately, Baltimore officials proved themselves limited in the realm of mission making and completion. Asking property owners to register and prove their rentals are absent of lead poisoning dangers is reasonable. However, relying on them to notify residents is as absurd as asking a madman to inform the people he has imprisoned in his dungeon that his actions are wrong and to provide them with a phone to call for help (this statement assumes that many of the affected homes are rental properties - which is usually the historical situation).
So, where do we go from here? What will the media focus on when, say, former childhood victims of Flint, Michigan's water poisoning find themselves in similar "gray" situations as adults?
Repeating history is optional. There is no reason to read headlines like "Before The Police, [Insert Name Here] Was Attacked By [His/Her] Own Water." These are our children, poisoned by lead, growing up to become headline ready adults. We don't consider that their childhoods were slaughtered by Governor Snyder, who willfully abandoned their long-term healthcare and educational needs. We forget the reality of that abandonment when we encounter them as adults because we never intended to remember. When we are ready to remember history - instead of repeat it - politicians like Synder will stand accountable.
Sam P. K. Collins
Dana Ford, CNN
Grossman and Slusky
- The effects of an Increase in Lead in the Water System on Fertility and Birth Outcomes: The Case of Flint, Michigan
Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun