Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a lot to say about Baltimore the other day.

During his technologically shaky presidential campaign announcement on Twitter Spaces, DeSantis dismissed the NAACP’s travel advisory for Florida by bringing up us and fellow bogeyman city Chicago as places “kids [are] more likely to get shot than to receive a first-class education.”

You know what DeSantis, who was my governor for a year before I left Florida to return to my native Baltimore, hasn’t said anything about? The kids that got shot in a mass shooting in his own state less than a week later.


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As a native Baltimorean, I know there are certain experiences I can always count on: being unimpressed with most crab cakes not made in Maryland; yelling “O!” during the National Anthem; and hearing my city’s name in the mouth of outside politicians and pundits every time they want to deflect from the crime happening in their own homes.

“Baltimore is just here, minding its own business, but nobody likes pointing out the discrepancies and issues of the United States. We don’t like to talk about our own problems, so we’d rather talk about what’s going on outside, to make ourselves look better,” said Malcolm Drewery, assistant professor and chairperson of the Department of Applied Social and Political Sciences at Coppin State University. “It’s amazing, the ‘whataboutism’ you hear.”

I have no illusions about the crime problem in our city. As of May 22, 107 of our neighbors had been the victim of homicide in 2023. Forbes listed Baltimore as the third most dangerous city in America based on FBI statistics from 2021. It’s heartbreaking and not enough is being done about it.

But crime is not a competition. Why does it matter if more people are dying here if some are still dying where you are? It helps no one to yell “Hey, look over there!” so you don’t have to talk about those being gunned down where you are. I certainly don’t think the constitutional carry law that, as of July 1 allows Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit, is gonna help any either.

But DeSantis and others who live elsewhere swat away questions about their own violence by pointing at cities such as Baltimore or Chicago, which wasn’t even in the top 15 of Forbes’ list. But who cares about facts when old-fashioned fear and dog whistles will do?

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We know what’s happening here. And it’s happening where you are, too. The Memorial Day shooting in Hollywood Beach was 2023′s 15th mass shooting in Florida, according to the Gun Violence Archive. So maybe y’all wanna worry about your own selves.

That archival site, which keeps a depressingly accurate running total of American shootings, tells us that as of June 1, there were 17,741 gun deaths in the United States in 2023, with 7,711 of those being killings or unintended deaths. This is frightening not only because we still have another six months to go in the year, but because there were already more than 75 people killed or injured by gunfire that very day. If you are reading this column on Monday, that number is already too low.

This is a national problem, but as Drewery said, it’s easier for the DeSantises and the Tucker Carlsons to pile on others while staying mum about what’s happening elsewhere. “Donald Trump made it comfortable to talk bad about Baltimore. That gave permission for [people from] other places to talk about Baltimore, too, despite other cities having higher crime rates,” Drewery said.

When my family and I relocated to my native Baltimore from Florida in 2020, a friend told me that he thought we were making a mistake. “I’m so worried about you all moving to that cesspool!” he confessed, emotionally. He’d never been here, but he’d seen the news, and probably “The Wire.” I told him all the reasons Baltimore was better for us — more family, more affordable housing and more people who looked like us thriving. (Three years later, I can also add that my son’s education, first class or not, can at least include AP African American studies — unlike in Florida.)

My friend had been told that Baltimore was only crime. He did not know about the good things here, like “the architecture, or that we have some of the top schools and universities right here. What about having some of the top museums in the country?” Drewery said.

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He recalled the then-president’s “Twitter tirade” against U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, calling his district “a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess” that “no human being” would want to live in. So what does that make the residents, most of whom are Black? Not human apparently. Carlson didn’t accidentally refer to Baltimore as “a little bit of Haiti.” These aren’t just racial dog whistles. They are blaring foghorns.

“Some of those cities, major and midsized ones, like Trenton and Newark, New Jersey, have a high percentage of Black people, and there’s the description of those places as almost war-torn,” Drewery said. “They don’t outright say it, but they very much mean ‘This is a Black place.’”

Gun violence is a terrible problem here, and everywhere else. But as long as it’s easier for DeSantis and others to pretend all the bad things are in Baltimore, the violence never going to get better in Florida or anywhere else.


Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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