Mayor of Two Cities
Jim Baker wants everyone in Wilmington to believe in its—in their—greatness. There’s just one small problem remaining to be solved…
(page 8 of 10)
“You can’t solve the problems of the streets from research data,” Johnson says. “You need to talk directly with the burglar that got away. If we’re serious about making change in this city, we’ve got to stop talking to professionals and get the data from the guy who has warrants out on him.”
Baker says the delay in results is due to a difference of philosophies. “The problem with the professional side is that they always want to be right,” he says. “The people representing the street say that action is needed now, but that action doesn’t produce long-term results.”
Which leads to another thought: “The only part of my tenure I haven’t enjoyed has been watching the destruction of the African American community in this city.”
There are vast differences between the black youth of 1968 and the youth of today, he says. He sees a generation of African Americans severing all connection to the mainstream and building their own coalitions.
“When we were fighting for civil rights, we were all behind the grand idea of freedom. Today the young people in these communities are moving inward. Their anger is not at the system but at the mainstream, and I don’t have a way of reaching them. A rapper communicates better to them than we can. The films they watch, the music they listen to, their message is that it’s OK to be a crook, that it’s OK to be a thug. There is no moral fiber running through it, no theme of good and evil.
“In the ’60s we lived in an age of we-ism, but now we live in age of me-ism that says, ‘If you don’t let me through that door, I’m going to create my own world,’” he says. “On that side, you have different rules and punishment for violation of those rules.”
On January 20, something happened Baker thought he’d never see: A black man was elected president of the United States. With chief of staff Bill Montgomery and his wife, Baker stood in the cold to witness Barack Obama sworn in as the nation’s 44th president in Washington, D.C. Crushed against an onrush of celebrities, the three retreated to their hotel, where they watched on television.
“Listening to Obama speak, you felt so good for the country,” Baker says. “There have been four presidents whom I have felt done that to me: FDR, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and now Obama. Many presidents say words, but not great words. These four have.”
Page 9: Mayor of Two Cities, continues...