Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. – Frederick Douglass
Just a few thoughts regarding the latest in protest and violence in America post what strongly appears to be unchecked police brutality.
I’ve had conversations with friends, African-American friends in particular who voice either in word, social media and otherwise their frustrations and disdain for looters and folk who are burning buildings in Baltimore. They’ve praised the mother who went Ronda Rousey on her son for participating in the riots. They say, “I hate what I’m seeing on TV! This is NOT the answer!”
What occurred to me was the history of the world, the history of this country. Change from those in power to benefit those with less has rarely happened without violence and physical struggle. I think of the Arab Springs in Syria, Egypt and Morocco to name a few over the last several years. People had decided that they had enough of their oppressive and corrupt governments. I think of the history of the civil rights movement during segregation and Jim Crow. Hell, I think of the Boston Tea Party! That struggle is glorified in history books. My response to my friends has simply been to ask them, “Well what IS the answer? What should they do? Call the police? (The same police who have one of THE worst documented reports of police brutality?) Write the police commissioner? What should they do to make the difference? None could give me any answers. I sure as hell don’t have any either.
I saw President Obama this morning demonizing the looters. But he can ‘miss me’ with that until he also demonizes the police who crushed a man’s spine and voice box while in their custody for simply running away from them. Freddie Gray wasn’t wanted for any crime. The knife he had in his pocket was of legal. His downfall seems to be that he didn’t possess NFL first round wide receiver speed to escape his killers. The President isn’t the only using all of his vitriol against those in rebellion. Mass media and the direction or misdirection of narrative shaping is solely focused on the fallout from Gray’s death instead of the original sin of Gray’s death. The truth of the matter is, I am not willing to listen to anyone who is not nuanced enough to have a real discussion regarding the cause and effect of what’s going on in Baltimore, what happened in New York, Ferguson and Oakland to facilitate community unrest. I mean, how many times does this have to happen before there is a recognition of human nature; that if you keep putting a boot on people’s necks they are going to rise up? It’s easy to tell people, “Keep on taking this ass whooping and burying your friends and kin to police brutality. Organize and wait for the next election. Have a church services, pray and forgive corrupt cops and the institutions that protect them.” Historically that is not going to be a unified or sustained response. Again, just check the history of anywhere in the world! It ain’t gonna happen!
Furthermore, I am past the point of apologizing for the looters. Looting is something I have never done nor would I. I was in Ferguson and it never crossed my mind. It’s not my thing. But why should I have to own the onus of those that do when my counterparts don’t own the burden of unarmed black boys and men being murdered by police? Am I the only one (as an activist) that needs to make concessions here and take ownership? If they want to isolate and tell me that all the facts aren’t in, then I will say the same thing. Dammit we don’t know who burned down the buildings. You got a name? Have all the facts been gathered yet? Has there been an investigation of who exactly started the fires? What accelerant was used? At what point in each building was the fatal match thrown? …and by WHOM exactly? Sound ridiculous? I don’t know… Cause sure as hell we had Eric Garner’s death from start to finish on VIDEO and we saw how THAT turned out! Mr. Scarface said it best, “Black men are being hunted!”
I have always been an ambassador of sorts. I bridge gaps and intermediate many potentially explosive situations. I’ve done it all my life. It’s natural for me. I love peace. Thus I am a fan of Dr. King’s non-violent work. Yet I have always understood the need for an armed movement like The Black Panthers too. I don’t own a gun. I don’t desire to own one. But I do recognize that with non-violence it’s easy for the one oppressing you to get a little too comfortable believing no retribution is possible. Having the thought that in the back of one’s mind that he can catch some hurt if he stepped to the wrong person or set of people is just smart negotiating. In other words, Rosa Parks is going to sit on that bus, but Nat Turner may take a shovel to your dome!
Is that not how our own government deal with other countries? It goes like this: “If you don’t act right, we may use economic sanctions. Or we may bomb the shit outta you!”
Finally let me bring this point home. If something goes down at my house where I need help, I’m calling the police. I have several friends who are police officers. One is a high ranking member. If I see one of those guys driving behind me, it wouldn’t phase me a bit. As a matter of fact, I may try to flag them down and start a conversation. Equally true, is that because of my own experiences with bad police, I am scared as hell when one gets behind me who I don’t know. *Especially if he is white* I’m on the road almost every day going to someone’s basketball gym, football field or baseball diamond. Sometimes I am some very remote areas where there are rarely is any folk who look like me. And the reality is this; On any given day I could be the next Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Eric Garner or Oscar Grant. That ain’t hyperbole. That’s real! Look, I was on a field last week working a baseball game. I saw two cops approach and started watching the game. I hadn’t done anything wrong, yet I was scared. I wondered if they were there for me. At the time there was a baseball game and a track meet going on right next to the diamond. I didn’t see any faces of color anywhere. My tensions didn’t subside till the police vacated the property. And it’s not as if I am afraid of any man in isolation. But I expect danger and conflict from police who I know mostly operate with impunity. But this is my life. And the fact of the matter is, if it IS me, if I am the next to be murdered by police many detractors will believe that I somehow provoked it or deserved it. Yes some of my white friends will say, “Well, he is a fiery guy! You ever see his Facebook page? He must have went off or took a swing at them…went for his gun.” And this is how they will live with the lie that they tell themselves in NOT getting involved or using their own voices to promote an end to this bullshit! If I’m lucky, others will rally for me as I have rallied for them. I shouldn’t have to live with this conflict of having a cognitive dissidence of respecting police and their duties and yet fearing the one in the badge that is supposed to represent service and protection from REAL criminals.
So no I don’t pretend to know what black folk should do in reaction every time this happens to us. But I do know that when white folk decide that enough is enough, things will change , and change in a hurry. Folk like Baltimore Oriole’s COO John Angelos who said;
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
Jeering at protesters is low hanging fruit. Going after bad police, digging into the policies of oppression, mass incarceration and the roots of class warfare and suffering is HONEST! OWN THAT and then we can talk. Otherwise… See you after the next police led murder and cover up in a city near you.