April 28, 2015


Some people are posting about how they can't understand the looting in Baltimore.

Can you understand the pain of knowing that the police in YOUR neighborhood just arrested someone who looks like you and appear to have fatally severed his spine in custody? Just for running away? I mean, with cops like that in the area, no wonder Freddie Gray was running! A cop stop of someone unarmed and charged with no crime can result in death. And not just in this one neighborhood of Baltimore.

Can you understand that there's been a nationwide slew of these deaths where officers responsible often get off without penalties? And that cellphone technology has enabled people to finally document a national horror that's gone on since on long before cell phones?

Can you understand that while the situation has improved for blacks, certain forms of institutionalized oppression have been going strong since slavery? And how furious and distrustful of the system this would make you if you couldn't fully escape such a system in centuries?

Can you understand that Maryland's governor is trying to cut education by $95 million but that prison budgets in the state increased? One ticket out of poverty is education and the government is taking that ladder to success away from the poorest while giving tax cuts to wealthy real estate developers? Can you understand the hopelessness that would trigger?

Can you understand that there is a horrific police torture tactic known as a nickel ride? The nickel ride is so gruesome that I'm shocked that it happens enough to warrant a nickname. It's when police handcuff a suspect, place him a van and drive so recklessly that the suspect is intentionally injured. Can you understand that torture is considered illegal against enemy combatants overseas, yet police meant to serve and protect are using it against US citizens before their trials? In Baltimore and Philadelphia, millions in damages have been paid to victims of these nickel rides. So this isn't an urban myth.

Can you understand that no one is suggesting that looting is helpful? Al Sharpton and other community elders and pastors took to the streets to urge calm among the youth who were looting and throwing things at cops. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "A riot is the language of the unheard." Sometimes, it's the only way to have your voice heard if you aren't a wealthy developer. I'm not condoning looters--I imagine that most protestors would agree that these opportunists are seizing on the chaos to break the law for personal profit. So the looters don't think they are helping anyone or any cause. The protestors are not all looting just because this footage runs on a loop on the news. Two different groups. Both black, but one group is protesting and/or rioting and one much smaller group is looting. But the police force is breaking the people of Baltimore. Attacking them. Taking them on nickel rides. And killing them. Their lives are in danger from police. Have they no right to fight back in the form of a riot after decades of this? I don't want to see police hurt. Nor should a minority be.

And finally, can you understand that many people were posting this weekend about a media black-out on the peaceful protests in Baltimore? Peaceful protestors asking for faster information about Freddie Gray's very suspicious death didn't snatch headlines, especially when our news is dominated with an interesting but ultimately meaningless entertainment story about a celebrity transsexual. Yet as soon as there is rioting and looting, protestors are the lead story on every news broadcast.

If you can understand any of these points, maybe you can better understand the flaming outrage coming from Baltimore. The city has declared a state of emergency. But it seems like black males in many states have lived in a state of emergency for many years.