Where I Tell Wealthy White Cable Commentators To Eat Lead Paint
Young Freddie Gray pictured in his house with peeling lead paint
April 30, 2015

This is for Bill O'Reilly, Bo Dietl, Roger Ailes, and every bloviating white bastard on cable news standing tall and demonizing Freddie Gray and the Baltimore protesters as black thug failures being thuggish.

Eat some lead paint chips, gentlemen. Enjoy them. Wash them down with spit and bile. Then see what happens next.

While they all stand tall on Fox News telling their hater viewers what they want to hear; namely that the protesters and Freddie Gray are a bunch of lazy moochers who could succeed if they wanted to, none of them -- not one -- acknowledges what environments these kids grew up in. To a lily-white man bathed in privilege, each and every one assumes that Freddie Gray and the kids like him have a set of bootstraps and mythical boots they can use to pull themselves up.


Freddie Gray and his twin sister Fredericka were prematurely born in 1989. According to Freddie's mother, they were born two months early and had to spend months in the hospital because they weighed less than five pounds at birth.

Premature birth and low birth weight places children at risk for cognitive and behavioral problems later in life.

Strike One for Freddie Gray.

From age three to age seven, the family rented a house for $300 per month. Paint was peeling off the walls -- lead paint.

Like thousands of poor Baltimore residents, affordable housing meant settling for a roof over their head that didn't leak if they were lucky and environmental hazards that would threaten their health and well-being for the rest of their lives.

An American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry study on the effects of lead exposure on children concludes that even small quantities of lead in a child's environment can lead to "problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss." Higher levels can lead to permanent brain damage, or even death.

The owner of the house Gray's family rented was a serial offender when it came to compliance with lead mitigation laws. Stanley Rochkind, the owner, was fined $90,000 and forced by the city to remediate the lead levels in 480 rental properties, according to court documents cited by the Baltimore Sun.

Strike Two for Freddie Gray.

By all accounts, Freddie's mother Gloria Darden did her best to help her children. After the lead poisoning diagnosis, she tried various "lead mitigation" diets, and she kept the house, particularly the windowsills clean. But they were poor, and records show that Child Protective Services was alerted in 2002 that they were living without electricity or water.

Gloria had her own problems. She "was asked to leave" middle school according to one deposition, and couldn't read. She couldn't help Freddie with his homework or even understand what his needs were beyond seeing to it that he went to school. In her words, "I can't help him with nothing else but raise him."

Strike Three for Freddie Gray.

Freddie wasn't a moocher. Freddie was screwed by wealthy people looking to profit from other people's poverty. It was too much for that landlord to clean up the lead paint in his low-rent houses until finally he was forced to.

Freddie Gray isn't alone, either. While poverty was certainly a factor, the presence of high levels of lead in his and his sister's blood had lifelong implications for him, just like so many others in the same circumstances in the same neighborhoods of the same city, just like so many other cities just like Baltimore.

Until 2011, landlords were shielded from lead poisoning lawsuits, provided that they followed Maryland's requirements for mitigating exposure. Until a Maryland court overturned that shield, many children living in those neighborhoods had no recourse to compensate them for the stolen IQ points their landlord took along with his monthly rent check. The liability shield was part of a 1994 law passed by the Maryland legislature that was supposed to force landlords to clean up their properties and eradicate the lead.

Freddie Gray and his family won an unspecified settlement from their landlord in 2010, enabling his mother to buy a house, one presumably lead-free. But for Freddie Gray, it was too late.

Poverty was the least of Freddie's problems. The real problems were wealthy landlords looking for their handout from the government for the privilege of renting poison properties to needy people.

People like those white men on cable television pissing all over Freddie Gray's grave.

People like that Maryland legislator who thinks it would be just fine to starve the families of people in the streets of Baltimore protesting their abuse at the hands of police, wealthy landlords and everyone who thinks they can turn their head and pretend their plight is one limited to people of color.

This isn't about race. This is about class. It is about greed trumping a child's future. It is about opportunities stolen before these kids ever had a chance to take them.

The IQ and learning disabilities don't go away when they grow up. Those are with them forever. They stop those kids dead in their tracks, and consign them to a life where a rich fat bastard can sit in his cushy chair and call them lazy thug moochers.

In the past week, I've seen some of the most articulate young men speak out in Baltimore. They are speaking out against the powers that hit them over and over and over again while no one pays attention. They speak against Geraldo and Fox News exploiting them to stoke fear and loathing in old white people with a vested interest in keeping them in lead-laden neighborhoods so they can point fingers and call others thugs.

The next time cable news bloviators start with their pronouncements someone ought to shove a spoonful of lead paint chips in their mouths so they can experience it firsthand. Walk a mile in their shoes before standing in your ivory tower judging them from on high.

A special aside to Bill O'Reilly and Delegate Patrick McDonough: Do you know what "shanty Irish" means? If not, look it up, because both of you are living examples.

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