That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.
It has been another trying week as a black man in the U.S. This morning the state’s attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed charges against six Baltimore Police Officers. “Officer Goodson was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault and misconduct in office. Lt. Brian W. Rice was charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment. Officer William G. Porter and Sgt. Alicia D. White were each charged with manslaughter, assault and misconduct in office. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller were charged with assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.” I was happy to hear this especially since Marilyn is a sister who spoke with such conviction that my week got a little brighter yet at the same time I understand that this is much bigger than Freddie Gray. I’ve talked about this again and again discussing how police brutality is a symptom of the larger institutional racism at work. I’m happy for Prosecutor Mosby but one of the glaring things about Baltimore in comparison to Ferguson is that Baltimore’s leadership is black with the mayor and the police commissioner. So what does this say my critique that systemic racism is still to blame? A person might question “your argument about Ferguson was the lack of representation but look at Baltimore” to which I would reply: Oh poor confused [white] person, it is not that simple. You see systemic racism can take many forms. One is where the representation and police force does not reflect the community and as a result their biases bleed over into their interactions with the black people i.e. Ferguson PD’s policing tactics. Another form allows for accurate representation but because of the system being built on laws that are discriminatory, black officials are unable to enact change i.e. President Obama and his defense of the law and his race neutral rhetoric. Nonetheless, the murder of Freddie Gray is just as unique and complicated as the previous ones. I have to commend the youth in Baltimore for not backing down even when people tried to preach respectability politics.
So on Monday April 27, while the family of Freddie Gray laid his body that had been broken to rest, teenagers fed up with their situation allowed their anger to be unleashed in what many (myself included) are calling the Baltimore Uprising. Of course the mainstream media was fascinated by this one event and chose to focus on the looting and fires, completely ignoring the decades of inequality that created the Baltimore when Freddie Gray was searched without probable cause. (I will not recount how Baltimore was created but I will post a reader tomorrow with all the articles produced this week that did an amazing job of this.) Of course many people responded to the Uprising with the usual “Why are they burning down their community and their businesses” and “Violence is never the answer” or use some quote about non-violence from Dr. King. The idea that violence never accomplished anything is a lie because if that was true the U.S. would never have thrown off the yolk of British colonial rule. If it had not been for the Haitians casting off their shackles in the late eighteenth century, who knows if and how slavery would have ended. What people, white and black alike, are ignoring when trying to discredit the Baltimore Uprising is the value of a life in order to protect property which can always be replaced. This is why Black Lives Matter is so powerful because it is seeking to affirm the value of black lives in spite of a system intent on destroying them. During slavery, property was always more important than the life of an enslaved person (fyi I’m sure those slave masters were mad that their sugar cane fields were burning but in the end we got the first black independent republic so I think we can say the ends justified the means). I have talked before about how the media reservs “riots” for black people who have been subjected to racist policies all while ignoring how white people who burn cars and cause damage after their sports team wins or loses are always described as revelers so I will not devote anymore time to this. At the same time, the hypocrisy of this moment is startling. If the Baltimore Uprising was occurring in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or even some countries in Europe the same people made at the “rioters” would be applauding the people for choosing democracy (then the US would offer assistance in crafting a transitional government which always seems to end badly). Councilman Carl Stokes saw behind the use of the word “thug” to really be code for “nigger” and he rightfully called Erin Burnett and even President Obama out for it (Tell ’em Carl!!!). Also, to address the point about the “riot” activist DeRay McKesson checked Wolf Blitzer who kept focusing on the violence by saying “You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right?” *sips teas* Many other protesters checked the main stream media such as this lovely woman. Last but not least, Councilman Nick Mosby just wasn’t having it with Fox News and its attempt to peddle a racist dehumanizing narrative to its viewers. If the brother had a mic he would have dropped it before he walked off!
However, aside from the other examples of mainstream media being told off, this week was a startling example of how the racial state employs police violence to uphold the status quo. In addition to the rhetoric designed and used, even by our own first black President, to paint the protesters as thugs, the police response is very clear that a police state is upon us. The tactics used to “arrest” community organizer Joseph Kent who was participating in civil disobedience staying out past the curfew. Then there is Kevin Moore the man who recorded the video of the police officers dragging Freddie Gray to the police van, who himself was arrested which is all too similar to the case of Ramsey Orta who recorded the choke hold death of Eric Garner. This does not even scratch the surface of the racial politics that were at play this week including the lie that the bloods and crips had teamed up to kill police which members spoke out against saying they were there to help the community. The image of two long standing rival gangs coming together is powerful for a number of reasons. One, it takes away the black on black crime card that is always played when black people start demanding that police stop killing us in the streets. Two, the unification helps the black community as we can see what happens when we all unite behind a common goal. The media and especially the police did not want this because it posed a threat again to status quo.
Then you have the NYPD’s reaction to the scheduled protest this past Wednesday at Union Square which was to protest the murder (yes I said murder) of Freddie Gray. I attended wearing my Like a Black Legend shirt but left early before everything went down (BTW a woman had the audacity to tell me she liked the shirt but didn’t like that Malcolm X was listed on it to which I replied…okay and went back to looking at my phone). I knew something was wrong when I went to the park early to meet up with a friend and saw a lot of police and a lot of barricades. When I was leaving, I found out that the police had enclosed the entire park with the barricades, which I never saw at the other protests, leaving only a few ways to get out. When I got home, I heard that they started to play an ominous warning over the loudspeakers about the Riot Act and then protesters were met with police armed in riot gear when they tried to leave the park. Hearing this makes me think what would have happened if I stayed and what is going to continue to happen going forward with these protests.
Though there were white people at the rally and protest, they are still a minority as most don’t see a problem with how black people are treated in the great U. S. of A. (and the woman who disapproved of Malcolm showed that not everyone at a rally against the state-sanctioned violence against black people is there for black people). After all you had people trying to discredit Freddie Gray’s injuries by saying that he did it to himself to which I asked In what alternate reality can someone sever their spine 80% AND crush their own voice box? Luckily, we have people like Jesse William ready to put his training as a teacher to good use to educate the ill-informed and racist. Yet at the same, time we still have a problem, we haven’t fixed the system that is killing black people without hesitation. Yes we have Prosecutor Mosby on the job who seems to have selected the charges very carefully but we have a number of examples of the system overcoming the smart and passionate lawyers who seek justice for black lives time and time again. After all the police union is still sticking by the six officers. We can’t keep tackling the system from individual cases because that does not stop the next Freddie Gray or Rekia Boyd from being killed. So I end this post still a cynic but now thinking what can we do to REALLY bring change because this change has been taking too long to come. But luckily this is just the beginning of Black Spring so let me not give up just yet.
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