Baltimore has faced struggles in recent years, with a high homicide rate of more than 300 killings for four consecutive years, per the Associated Press, but historian Paige Glotzer says that Trump’s comments touch on a number of misconceptions about the city. Glotzer, a former Baltimore resident and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose research has included looking into the effects of housing segregation, spoke to TIME about how a long history of discrimination and segregation has contributed to effects still felt today.
TIME: Given your research on the city of Baltimore, what was your initial reaction to President Trump’s tweets about the city?
GLOTZER: This is a tactic we’ve seen Trump use before, but also inaccurate in a number of ways, including one major thing, which is the misconception that areas in Baltimore that are majority-black have to have terrible conditions. It’s untrue and that flattening is really interesting, in that policy makers have done this for a long time.
What should people know about Baltimore’s history to understand the situation there today?
Going back to the 19th century, there’s a long history of Baltimore officials trying to cordon off what areas of the city black people could live in. A lot of policies grew out of that, like where roads, highways and schools were built. The split in how such services are provided has been one way where inequality has continued, where highways are a big geographic divide and performances are highly uneven in public schools. There are some areas with a higher asthma rates and fewer trees.
Housing segregation set Baltimore up to be one of the hardest hit cities in the subprime housing crisis. That was because a lot of the lending that spurred the crisis was predatory, based in long-time policies of housing segregation. That meant cities such as Baltimore had many areas that had very high foreclosure rates. Especially after the recession, the city really did lose a lot of its tax baseand people not only lost their jobs like so many others across the country, but also lost their homes. We’re still dealing with the impact on having so many people, especially African Americans, have their wealth wiped out through foreclosure and housing segregation. The response to that, especially from federal and state government, a lot of people in Baltimore have felt that’s inadequate.