On the Subject of Black Lives, Martin O'Malley Can Offer Little More Than B.S.

08/20/2015 05:42 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2016
UNITED STATES - MARCH 10: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighte
UNITED STATES - MARCH 10: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Presidential Forum at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 10, 2015. The day featured addresses by potential presidential candidates. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In a political season that will swirl with discussion on the value and policy-based protection of black lives, Martin O’Malley may be the most disingenuous, unqualified race-based storm chaser. The former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor is at the center of two of the nation’s biggest displays of black frustration boiling over into street violence and landmark federal litigation. 

As mayor, O’Malley instituted Baltimore’s now infamous ‘zero tolerance’ policy, a policing strategy that helped to reduce violent crime in the city by more than 16 percent, but resulted in inflamed relations between citizens and city police. 

In its heyday, the zero-tolerance culture resulted in more than 108,000 arrests in 2005, a number that critics cited as a major factor in reducing individual employability, community mobility, and thousands of illegal police stops and arrests that led to a pervasive culture of racial profiling. From the Washington Post:

A. Dwight Pettit, a Baltimore lawyer whose clients have won numerous settlements from police brutality complaints, said O’Malley’s “approach to policing when he was mayor was disregard for the Constitution.”

“His philosophy was, ‘Put them in jail and figure it out later,’ and that will solve the crime problem,” he said. “It created a confrontational mentality with the police.”

In 2010, Baltimore City reached a settlement exceeding more than $800,000 with several complainants, including Tyrone Braxton, who was illegally arrested and detained without charge for more than 36 hours in 2005. 

Just one year later, alumni and students from Maryland’s four historically black colleges and universities filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Maryland, alleging discriminatory practices in funding, illegal duplication of academic programs and negligent support for the public HBCUs. 

Federal Judge Catherine Blake ruled in 2013 that the state had, for generations, willfully duplicated programs at the HBCUs, and by doing so, purposefully created a ‘separate but equal’ system of higher education for white and black students. Then-Governor O’Malley’s response?

“We are proud of the multitude of excellent academic programs that exist throughout the state, and we respectfully disagree with the court’s conclusions regarding duplication. We are continuing to review today’s decision and are considering all of our options, including resolving the lone remaining issue through constructive mediation.”

That mediation effort, which in May produced a proposed merger of the University of Baltimore into Morgan State University, along with a plan for the creation of new and unique online and traditional degree programs at the four black college campuses, prompted the state to appeal to a federal circuit for a review of the case. The request was denied. 

And we wonder how O’Malley, who catapulted himself to national political prominence on the vote and hope of black citizens in Baltimore and throughout Maryland, can stand before protestors rallying to the call of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and counter with ‘All Lives Matter?’ 

The same Martin O’Malley, who at the lowest levels of poverty and disenfranchisement in Baltimore City, and at the highest levels of education in the state of Maryland, used policy to undercut progress for black communities and institutions, but recently called for a constitutional amendment to protect the voting rights of black folks nationwide?

That’s the Martin O’Malley the nation should meet - the former mayor and governor who perfected the art of political smokescreen in detriment to black people, who now wants us to believe that he can lift the fog of racial animus that now, all of us, can see choking the life out of the American dream.