Identify two or three primary frameworks through the documentary: "Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one framework that is evident in the documentary is the paradigm of consensus and conflict based narratives.  This framework is predicated upon the presence of dualistic and, quite often, competing stories.  For example, the opening of the documentary asserts what the consensus narrative wants to project.  The United States' “Homicide rate is stable” and this is reflected in the words of the Baltimore mayor, who affirms that the city is safer “now than ever before.” The emphasis on seeking to get rid of guns from Baltimore’s streets is another example of this consensus narrative. However, the documentary also focuses on the conflict story which arises from this narrative. For example, while the homicide rate might be “stable,” the documentary opens with the reality of homicides “involving black youths have risen.”  Additionally, the analysis from Ed Burns suggests that the emphasis on the removal guns is “not the root cause” of the homicide problem in Baltimore. This is furthered with the idea that systemic institutional issues which enhance a lack of power are not being addressed. The idea that the Status Quo has replaced the “war on drugs” with the “war on guns” and a similar reality has emerged in the targeted incarceration of people of color is the result is a reflection of the conflict narrative which helps to frame the documentary. The constant tension between consensus and conflict based narrative of American urban reality is a guiding framework in the documentary.

The paradigm that Donnie Andrews offers is another structural framework which guides the documentary.  The voice of "the other" is embedded within this framework.  Andrews suggests that there is an imminent critique of the punitive measures in cities like Baltimore.  This rests in demonizing those who are found guilty of making choices that impact marginalizes them in the present and future tenses:   "How can you say we want to get rid of crime and then once the person serves their time and comes back out, you tell them that they cannot get public housing, health insurance, they can get certain jobs.  So how do they live?"  This framework which seeks to give voice to "the other" serves as a direct response to the Baltimore mayor's approach of "targeting of the most violent offenders."  The documentary's framework suggests that the logical result of a punitive approach to crime, focusing on the end product of increased incarceration, does not address the limited options that await those who are released from prison. Individuals who go to jail and "serve their time" come out to find themselves limited in what they can do, and thus have little choice but to return to a poor choices.  The documentary's framework suggests that the structure that emphasizes reductive approaches without examining "the root of the problem" does little to address the real issue of crime in America's urban setting. This imminent critique examines the logical inconsistency of the institutional policy.  As a result, the documentary's framework generates much in way of questioning and analysis behind the stated affirmation of reductively punitive policies that are widely accepted and not analyzed in an in depth manner.

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