Mayor Backtracks: ‘We Don’t Have Thugs In Baltimore’

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks in front of local faith leaders at a news conference regarding the death of Freddie Gray, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a w... Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks in front of local faith leaders at a news conference regarding the death of Freddie Gray, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) MORE LESS
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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) on Tuesday backpedaled after using the word “thugs” when describing the unfurling violence in Baltimore, the Washington Post reported.

“We don’t have thugs in Baltimore,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Sometimes my own little anger translator gets the best of me. … They’re going to regret what they’ve done, but it’s too late.”

Her original use of the term “thugs” came on Monday night as she talked about the people engaging in violence amid protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after suffering injuries while in police custody:

What we see tonight that is going on in our city is very disturbing. It is very clear there is a difference between what we saw over the past week with the peaceful protests, those who wish to seek justice, those who wish to be heard, and want answers and the difference between those protests and — the thugs, who only want to incite violence and destroy our city.

I’m a life-long resident of Baltimore and too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who in a very senseless way are trying to tear down what so many have fought for. Tearing down businesses. Tearing down, destroying property, things that we know will impact our community for years. We are deploying every resource possible to gain control of this situation and to ensure peace moving forward.

Rawlings-Blake reiterated this message on Twitter, again referencing “thugs.”

Her backtracking came amid a debate over the racially charged word in light of the unrest in Baltimore.

Questlove, the drummer and frontman of “The Roots,” took to Twitter on Monday night to voice his disapproval of the term.

And Morehouse College professor and activist Marc Lamont Hill held nothing back in his reproach.

On the other side of the spectrum, right-wing Twitter users championed its usage.

In a direct response to Questlove’s tweet, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin wrote:

Michael Brown, the former under secretary of Homeland Security to President George W. Bush who came under fire amid the response to Hurricane Katrina, tweeted:

And former congressman Joe Walsh tweeted:

The term, often used to describe African American men in a negative way, has often been bandied about by conservative pundits and media outlets. And, as Salon pointed out, is part of a larger lexicon employed by right-wing politicians as a coded way to appeal to white voters.

From Salon:

What is perhaps most striking about this type of language, in ample display over the last several hours, is just how layered much of it is in language that subtly dehumanizes and pathologizes the black Baltimore residents who have come out to protest the death of Freddie Gray, who was killed in police custody earlier this month.

However, Rawlings-Blake isn’t alone in her use of the term to describe the violent undercurrents that have accompanied the Baltimore protests.

On Tuesday, President Obama used the term when he blamed “criminals and thugs” for tearing up Baltimore — a fact that conservative media outlets took great pleasure in emphasizing. Obama’s comments, made during a press conference, denounced the violence and lauded the peaceful demonstrators and city organizers with good intentions.

“My understanding is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of protestors — a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.”

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