In November I wrote about the violence that rocked Ferguson. I am dismayed to see that we are, a mere six months later, staring into the same gaping inferno. Of course it is not surprising that we are failing as a society to have a rational discussion about institutional racism in the United States. It's impossible, especially when we have the mainstream media focusing on looting and everyone else throwing one-liner opinions out on Twitter. Something has to change.
I am currently teaching an English course and we are reading the obligatory novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember reading this novel when I was in high school and I wanted to prepare my students for seeing why a novel like this is truly relevant, so we discussed Michael Brown. Little did I know that, in the span of a month, there would be three black murders at the hands of police.
Baltimore is the latest example and by far the most distressing. After the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the city demanded answers and justice. When they were rebuffed, the residents jumped into action and tens of thousands hit the streets. Despite the fact that the vast majority of those demonstrating were doing so peacefully, the media coverage has been focused on people throwing rocks, burning police cars, and looting stores. All this coverage serves to promote the idea that the protestors are all self-serving ingrates who are out to let their id go wild. In other words, the protest is unmerited.
But who are the privileged to say that the protest is invalid. Especially when the judgments are made based on the actions of the very small opportunist minority. Wealthy white Americans may have their sensibilities offended to see store fronts demolished, but let's not lose sight of why this happened.
The murder of young black men by police is pandemic in the United States. When this demographic is targeted at such obscene rates, and when there is little done by the justice system to correct it, Ferguson and Baltimore are the predictable results.
I don't want to see inequality continue to take more victims in America. From Ferguson to Baltimore, America has a race problem. Moreover, it has a problem talking about its race problem.
We don't need more Detroits - more cities hollowed out by the disappearance of opportuinties. Baltimore is speaking the language of the unheard:
"When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty, and shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up and express their anger and frustration. A riot is the language of the unheard"
We need to develop the capacity to have a meaningful discussion about what's going on in America. Because until then, there will only be more violence, destruction, and disharmony.