BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today released the following statement on the fifth anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray, Jr.
“Five years after Freddie Gray’s death and the ensuing unrest in Baltimore, we still have much work to do to heal our city. Despite the concerted efforts of so many to reverse the tide, daily violence continues. A critical lack of trust remains between our police and the communities they serve. Our education system remains short on resources and long on hurdles. And too many residents don’t see any possible path to success, meaning that frustration and desperation have become entrenched as a way of life.
“While we know how Freddie Gray’s story ended, we must always remember how it began. At its core, Freddie Gray’s story is about environmental injustice. As happens too often in low-income, minority communities, Freddie Gray was a victim of childhood lead poisoning. This reality closed off many opportunities to him very early in his life.
“Unfortunately, we continue to see too many underinvested communities, and especially communities of color, face similar instances of environmental injustice. Air pollution has triggered spikes in childhood asthma rates in several parts of Baltimore. Limited access to healthy foods and quality health care means that many Baltimore residents in lower-income, minority communities face average life expectancies decades lower that neighboring zip codes. And contamination from aging lead pipes means that students still can’t drink from water fountains in most City schools.
“The contemporary COVID-19 pandemic continues to illustrate these disparities. Many of the zip codes with the highest current numbers of COVID-19 infections are those with the poorest and most dense populations. Prevalent underlying health conditions, inequity in the transportation system, and the inability to telework or otherwise socially distance are all contributing to the ready spread of coronavirus in the Baltimore communities that already face the most daily challenges.
“With Baltimore emerging as a COVID-19 hotspot, we are reminded of the need to better address the engrained conditions that derailed the life of Freddie Gray, Jr. – and far too many others. And as we ponder a new reality in which all Marylanders daily face new challenges to our health and prosperity, we must remain mindful of the need to address the many injustices that already exist for so many.
“That’s why I am working closely with my colleagues in Congress to promote full transparency at the state and federal levels, calling for the complete and continued publication of COVID-19 demographic data on race and ethnicity, broken down by zip code.
“With strong indications that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, it is absolutely essential that we have this type of granular information to educate our future actions. If we are to have our best chance at combatting COVID-19, we need full visibility into how this outbreak is truly affecting Baltimore’s communities.”