Tears for Baltimore
I am pissed.
I’m supposed to be talking about the new Avengers movie (which I’ve seen 3 times already) or even that wack-ass Mayweather-Pacquaio fight (I REALLY want my $100 back) or even talking through Netflix’s amazing Daredevil show. But I can’t. There’s bigger fish to fry.
And pissed doesn’t even cover it. Pissed is when you step in dog shit or drop your $600 iPhone or when your kid forgets their clarinet after you’ve driven 20 minutes to school in a Florida torrential downpour and they don’t let you know until you just walk back in the door. That’s pissed. It’s an inconvenience. An unfortunate turn of events.
I am angry. And I’m angry at this:
If you don’t know, that’s Baltimore. At the time of this writing, the city of Baltimore is closing out a week of protests, riots, curfews and a full-blown state of emergency that saw 4000 National Guard troops brought in to quell the disturbance. Some 200 business were destroyed, community centers and local shelters burned, 486 arrests made, and more than 100 officers injured.
And a man is dead, his spine severed. Six police officers are charged with his death.
It’s easy to blame the victims in all of this. It’s easy to point fingers at those protesting and rioting, easy to question, “Why destroy your own community?” or call those involved “idiots” and “thugs”. It’s easy to sit on our computers and phones, healthily removed from the fray and tweet or craft memes that poke fun or share Huffington Post articles about the right and wrongness of it all. It’s easy when you’re not there, when you don’t have to be there, when you don’t actually have to get your hands dirty, and pretend to be enlightened and judgmental and then turn from coverage to watch the 2-hour finale of Grey’s Anatomy or rush out to the Thursday showing of the Avengers: Age of Ultron (I did—I am complicit as well).
It’s easy to be the rest of us.
But a Black man is dead—again. In a poor community—again. And police are to blame for his death—again.
It’s the “again” that bugs me and the ambivalence the rest of us can hold in the face of such a tragedy. That part is troublesome. We don’t care because we don’t have to. We don’t care that this is a community with more than 50% unemployment, nearly 10 times the national average. We don’t care that this community closed multiple rec and community centers, depriving its youth of positive outlets and activities. We don’t care that the Baltimore public school system has an active school-to-prison pipeline, accounting for 90% of Maryland’s juvenile justice system referrals.
We don’t care. And that’s the problem.
No one cares.
When the school systems or government agencies fail you; when your community organizations are unable or unwilling to provide the resources you need; when your federal government stands a whopping 45 minutes down the road and chooses to turn a blind eye; when generational poverty becomes the norm and you see opportunity after opportunity denied to you; when you continually see those who look like you become victims of those who are sworn to protect you—it only takes a little push to see that powerlessness and frustration spark into a violent outrage, a marching, yelling, screaming, looting, burning maelstrom of human emotion.
I’m angry that another Black man is dead. I’m angry that the police are complicit in the death of this man and we have to go through this stupid exercise, with bated breath, to see if justice will actually be done. I’m angry that people have found a CVS to matter more than Freddie Gray, more than the lives of the residents in Baltimore. I’m mad that the news only chooses to show Black rioters and protesters, that it has the audacity to call them idiots and thugs while glossing over the white rioters looting for the sake of looting. I’m angry that these same news organizations flash past the gang rape on the beaches of Florida over Spring Break or the fraternity members spitting on Wounded Veterans, but are perfectly comfortable calling people who look like me, who feel powerless like me, names. I’m angry that the mother who beat her child into making better choices, who chose to parent her kid on national television, is subject to character assassination on the O’Reilly Factor and is the target of a CPS investigation. I’m furious that fucking Facebook REALLY wants me to give to earthquake relief in Nepal but seems oblivious to the emergency on our own shores.
And I’m angry because a man is dead, the police are charged for his murder, and, now that the curfew is lifted and the National Guard is leaving, in a week, no one will care.