I am not pretending that I have all of the answers, or any for that matter. However, I do have an opinion that I feel compelled to share.
The way people have reacted to the recent events in Baltimore and even going back to the events in Ferguson is beyond ugly. Now, given the sample size of people who I see on social media, you may be nodding your head in agreement but I am not talking about those that are rioting. While I don’t agree with their method of protest, I am not at all surprised by their actions.
Unfortunately the ugliness comes from the small-minded people of Facebook and Twitter that use this as an excuse for sharing racist opinions but think it’s okay to share them because the news coverage that they have seen focuses on the protest and not the issue that sparked the protest. And what happens? The real issue is buried and it becomes all about race. It is so sad.
First of all, how are we surprised by this behavior as human beings? People can only be backed into a corner for so long until they revolt, whether it be violent or peaceful. We have numerous examples of both violent and peaceful protest across human history. Unfortunately, given how stagnant our government has become, peaceful protest seems to be an ineffective option. Again, I am not saying that I agree rioting is the best way to set the wheels of change in motion but I can see how it feels like the only option.
What really gets me is people referring to people rioting as “animals.” I have seen this in various Facebook posts and articles. The racist undertones are prevalent and it is largely due to the fact that most people don’t understand or are unwilling to acknowledge that the reality is scary for a large portion of the African-American community. I don’t pretend to know what their lives are like as I have lived a more privileged life than most. and I only fear the police when I have been speeding.
People also attempt to reduce the issue to “don’t break the law and things like this won’t happen.” On the surface this is true, but I think that if we look at the situation rationally we will all see that this issue far more complex.
Unfortunately, what is less common is to see people being appalled by the behavior of the police officers. Once they have someone apprehended and restrained it should be expected that their next priority is to ensure safety of that person. Now, we don’t know what the circumstances lead to Freddie Gray needing medical attention. We learned from the events in Ferguson that we should wait until the story plays itself out. The difference here is that the police officers failed to get Mr. Gray the medical attention he needed and deserved as a human being.
Freddie Gray was murdered.
This is not to say that all law enforcement is bad, largely I believe that law enforcement follows the law and does the right thing to help their communities. And if we can agree on that, then we can agree that the actions of all the people rioting are not representative of all people in Baltimore or the African-American community.
This isn’t a white vs. black issue. I wish people would realize this. It is a socio-economic issue that happens to affect an enormously high percentage of the African-American community. They have been put into this position by our country’s past and are stuck in a vicious cycle.
Rather than condemning people for the violent outbursts, we should examine what is causing them and remedy those issues. Instead, the pattern is further alienation that results in further distrust of the authorities, and who can blame them? Every week we hear about law enforcement using excessive force. As history is written, we have an opportunity to look at this situation rationally and make change that can strengthen our entire national community. Let’s not be a part of history that future generations look back on in disgust.