Annapolis, Maryland. World’s Capital of Inequality: By Design

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Children line up behind a fence and there is a sign that says we need a life guard.
Children in an Annapolis public housing development circa 1970. Photo: Pip & Zastrow: An American Friendship documentary film.

When I recently heard that a white condo-owner in the President Point neighborhood of Eastport called the police to make sure “four African Americans” got off their private property, I wasn’t surprised. I was sick. I was sick and tired of living in what I  consider to be one of the most racist and segregated and unequal places on earth: the beautiful, lovely, and post-card-perfect sailing capital of Annapolis, Maryland.

When I moved here in 1998 from Southern California, the first thing that stood out to me was that the complexion of everyone in downtown restaurants, marinas, and the cocktail parties I was invited to, was the same.  Topsiders and golf shirts were the standard uniform. It was like a J. Crew catalog come to life. Everyone was white. No one mentioned it as being weird.

How could this be, I wondered? I honestly didn’t know there were any black people living in Annapolis.

Then I learned a history lesson from the honorable Carl Snowden;

It was all by design.

The bulldozing of African American neighborhoods and culture by the City of Annapolis started in the 1960s, and the decimation of the black community has continued ever since. At one of the highest per-capita public housing areas in the world, Annapolis hid away its black population, made tourist maps showing all white people grinning and licking ice cream cones at City Dock. Property values went through the roof.  Tourism boomed.

Behind the scenes, Annapolis’ black population was tucked away, as Snowden describes, in dilapidated public housing units with one way in, one way out—with no services, no access. It was a trap, a “reservation” to hide the scourge of racism and inequality in an up-and-coming destination for rich whites.

As the years passed, nearly every piece of waterfront property was developed and access was cut off to people who couldn’t afford to buy a house on the water or a membership at the Annapolis  Yacht Club. “No Trespassing” signs sprouted up like dandelions in spring to keep out the riff-raff, and the Annapolis Police patrolled and protected these rich people’s “private property” in case anyone wanted to cross their manicured lawns to see the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.

I was told that some condo owners in Presidents Point are shook by the public outcry after the young men recorded the police officer reading the complaint called in about “African Americans” needing to “move along.”

They’re good people, they say. They donate to charity,  to the Annapolis poors.

These are the people who live in three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar condos they bought on the edge of public housing, and yet are as far away in their minds from poor people of color as the earth from the sun. So in Eastport, what used to be a blue-collar waterman town where former mayor Pip Moyer said that black and white people worked side by side on the water, poor black children in the Harbor House community can’t even see the  water.

But those  “African American” people were “breaking the law by trespassing,” the white folks are crying.  “They should have known better.” Because for white people, the law is a good thing. The law is always on the side of white people. The law was on their side during slavery. The law was on their side during segregation, and now the law is on their side when they don’t want people walking on their property to get a view of Spa Creek.

The police are also for white people. So much so that in the middle of a pandemic of police killing unarmed black people, white people in Annapolis are STILL calling the police because black people are walking on their property.

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m tired of the racism, inequality, of being embarrassed and depressed by these pale self-centered, greedy users of the planet who still think they are better and deserve more than people with darker skin.

I call on Mayor Gavin Buckley and all the civic leaders to change this system. Not with words. With policy. With access to the water, with public domain to make a path. With laws that prevent this complete and utter non-sensical and unequal way of living out our human lives.

If you feel like I do:

Please join me on the corner of President Street and Boucher Avenue this Sunday, June 21, Father’s Day at 12:00 PM, to fight for the fathers and their children who have been marginalized in the name of building an idyllic monument to rich white tourism on the very space where thousands of slaves were unloaded, shackled and sold to the highest bidder.

Click here for more details on the demonstration.

Victoria Bruce is the editor and producer of the Arundel Patriot and APat live. She is the co-director of Pip &  Zastrow: An American Friendship. Watch the film here.

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