Today we are rooted in place….
It’s like holding your breath. Sooner or later you have to let it go.
The high tension wire that was the city of Baltimore appears to have snapped. There’s been rioting and looting and injuries. All playing out in front of the cameras. The world watches. All pass judgement. None more so than those who do not call Baltimore home. And those who are white.
(of course, when young white people riot, we call it “disruptive behavior”….and it’s usually over hugely important things like their favorite hockey team losing….but never mind that for now…)
If allowed to fester long enough, fear can turn into anger. And a peaceful crowd can be turned into a lawless mob if leaders emerge….as they most always do.
Leaders can do good and bad things, of course. All leaders ain’t oratorical geniuses. Sometimes it’s just the guy willing to throw the first bottle that gets to be the head of the snake.
So, once again, what was a story about possible police malfeasance is about to become un-done, hijacked by photographs of 16 year old kids in $150 sneakers laughing while they throw stones, stopping only long enough to allow looters balancing cases of Pampers on their heads to cross back into their lines. All of this brought on by a small minority of people who didn’t care about Freddy Gray when he was alive and don’t give a shit about him now that he’s dead. If you look like you’re having fun during a riot, you probably are. And this makes it difficult for outsiders to believe your heart is in it. If you get my drift.
The legitimate problems that led to the protests in Baltimore….namely….issues of race (and class…always class) that plague just about every decent sized city in the country….are lost in the smoldering flames of burning CVS stores and on-the-scene reporters trying to file their stories before being overwhelmed with tear gas…thereby becoming the story. The news is not always what’s on the news.
If your contention is that cops are oppressive, and that you can remedy this by throwing rocks at their heads, you probably need a plan B. If in your old age you want to sit with a grand-child on your knee and tell him or her what you did to further the cause of civil rights in your own neighborhood, here’s hoping you can brag about more than stealing a pair of sneakers from Thom McCan. If you are a Baltimore cop, I hope you’re not the one CNN caught on camera throwing a rock at protesters. Mobs don’t do heroes very well.
The anger is undoubtedly real. When white cops are stopping black males for broken tail-lights and, minutes later, shooting them in the back, multiple times, in full view of camera phones and their own dash-board cameras, something is fucked up. When a cop kills a black man and uses the excuse that he shot him by accident…confusing a service revolver with a taser…something is fucked up. And when a black male is arrested for unknown reasons, and is tossed into the back seat of the car healthy…….and comes 30 minutes mortally wounded…..something is fucked up.
But then again, something has always been fucked up. This isn’t a new thing. The fact that these incidents between black males and the police seem more prevalent these days of course doesn’t mean they are. In the age of smart phones and facebook and twitter, just about everything seems more prevalent. If you look closer, however, you’ll find that the only thing increasing is public awareness. The numbers have been a flat line for a long time.
Sooner or later….these things come out. Like life itself, they find a way.
(Or one can….you know….just look at the make-up of our nation’s prison population….if that’s your thing..)
We are loathe to admit it….but when history teaches us that violence doesn’t solve anything, history is a lying bitch. That doesn’t make it any less repugnant while it’s happening….but it is so.
Only the most deranged Fox-watcher can still pretend that justice is color-blind in this country. Something needs to be done. I have no idea what that something needs to be. There are layers upon layers that need to be peeled back and deciphered. Anything but business-as-usual is progress. To stand still is to sink.
A state of emergency has been declared. The National Guard has been called up. Smoke lingers. Sirens wail. We’ve seen this all before.
But surely we’re better than this. We’re better than back-seat beatings and riot shields and pilfered diapers and thug-mugging for the cameras. On the day that Freddie Gray was laid to rest, his memory was besmirched, largely by the very people who claim him as their own very own. But the true tragedy is that he appears to have died in vain.
Nothing is gained in all this. Absolutely nothing. To stand still is to sink? Today we are rooted in place.
I’m not sure how Freddie Gray feels about this, but I’ve a feeling his first few hours in his new locale have been every bit as painful as his last few hours in the old one.
In a bit..
— Tom Flannery