Equity Challenges Remain as Maryland Becomes Highly Diverse State

Maryland has emerged as one of the most racially diverse states in the U.S., but racial inequality continues to be a challenge that must be addressed if the state is to be a model of diversity, experts said at an event hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee on February 24, Racial Equity and Social Justice: The State of Diversity in Maryland. The event, Racial Equity and Social Justice: The State of Diversity in Maryland, was moderated by Jason Newton, News Anchor, WBAL-TV.

The inequities facing Maryland extend into education, wellness, wealth accumulation and other indicators of social integration and success, noted Dr. Janelle Wong, Professor, University of Maryland, of the Departments of American Studies and Government and Politics. She was one of three diversity experts that spoke at the GBC event.

For example, said Dr. Wong, while Prince Georges County is home to some of the wealthiest Black neighborhoods in the nation, the value of those properties is depressed compared to homes in predominately White and Asian neighborhoods in Montgomery and Howard counties.

Racial segregation and barriers to equality can have long-lasting effects, she noted. For example, a January, 2022 study by the University of Maryland found that life-expectancy “continues to be bad” in neighborhoods that had been “redlined” decades ago. Redlining involved banks and other institutions marking entire neighborhoods, often predominately Black, as too risky for mortgages and other financial services.

Building coalitions and other long-term action steps are needed in Maryland to address these and other challenges, Dr. Wong said.

Dr. Lawrence T. Brown, an equity scientist and author of “The Black Butterfly – The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America,” said racism is not only about the domination of people, but also “the domination of space.”

He noted during his presentation that the domination of space as a tool to control racial groups has a long history in Baltimore and Maryland, including slave trading, banking, public housing and urban renewal. He noted research by Zillow.com found that home values in neighborhoods that had been redlined in Baltimore continue to have much lower property values than other areas in the city and continue to be considered risky for mortgage lending. Businesses, property owners and others in the historically redlined areas are likely to see financial applications denied, said Dr. Brown.

The ramifications of redlined maps of Baltimore “80 years ago are still with us today,” he said.

Another example of space domination affecting minorities are maps dating back to 1940 that show public housing in Baltimore having been concentrated in Black communities. That has led to a concentration of working poor in those same areas, said Dr. Brown.

During her presentation Dr. Karsonya Wise- Whitehead, Associate Professor of Communication and African and African American Studies, Loyola University, Maryland said that to address the racial inequities in Baltimore City specifically, the focus needs to be on individuals, neighborhoods, companies and universities.