A Few Thoughts on Baltimore
My friend Reginald Hall wrote what I felt was a well thought out piece of commentary on the events of Baltimore over the last few weeks. Whatever view points we have and however we all may feel, I believe that it’s important that we all share thoughts and learn to understand each other’s perspectives and make strong attempts to see through each other’s point of view. If we all can’t learn to to do that than we do not allow ourselves a chance at getting to the crux of what are still multiple issues surrounding Race Relations in America. This piece below is a great example of dissecting and explaining why incidents such as Baltimore and other unfortunate happening (such as Ferguson) happen, have happened in the past, and will keep happening until everyone, not just black and white, understands why.
A Few Thoughts on Baltimore by Reginald Hall Jr.
I rarely post social commentary on Facebook because – usually – I’m communicating with people who share a similar worldview, which can lead to a virtual circle-jerk. At worst, I learn which “friend” holds a viewpoint that’s racist, sexist, or homophobic. That’s always disappointing.
But Baltimore is on my mind and I want to unload a few thoughts that, if nothing else, don’t have to occupy room in my head.
Now is an opportunity to acknowledge the U.S. school system needs to teach children a more detailed and more accurate version of America’s complicated and messy history in regards to race and class. In the past week I’ve heard questions and statements like:
- “Why would people destroy their own community?”
- “Today’s black people don’t know how to protest peacefully like in the 50’s and 60’s.”
- “I have no sympathy for people who behave like animals.”
Better education would give insight into why riots happen and the mindset of those involved. This understanding might even spark the EMPATHY needed to propel people to change the conditions that inspires people to riot.
First – the majority of people in Baltimore protested peacefully. Don’t overlook this. Unfortunately non-violent protests don’t attract eyeballs to television screens or sell newspapers as much as violence does.
How do things like riots happen? Well people much smarter than me like Martin Luther King Jr. and Michael Eric Dyson explain this well.
But picture this. You, you’re brother, your sister, your parents, their parents, their parents’ parents have been told that they are – and will always be – less than. You’re poor, just like most of the people around you. Still, you try to follow the dream America sells you – with enough hard work you too can be happy and wealthy. All you need is to earn an education, gain new skills, and market yourself or perhaps start a business.
Except your school is understaffed and underfunded. Your peers carry unresolved emotional and physical trauma. Lendors pray on your community’s lack of financial literacy. Politicians use the injustice you face as a platform for their own agenda. Police, the people sworn to protect you, view you as a potential threat instead of a human life with value. Large portions of the general public believe you’re responsible for the injustice you face.
As much that mental burden weighs on your psyche, you resolve to make your way to a better life. But one day – once again – the police murder your neighbor with little remorse. This is not the first, or second, or third time.
How would you feel? What would you do? Would you write a letter to your local councilman? Would you call the police or other law enforcement?
No, most likely you wouldn’t. These institutions have already failed you, your family, and your peers for too long.
So what good would rioting do? What good would destroying parts of your community do?
The actions would give you a feeling foreign to your typical existence – empowerment. For once, you’re in control and dictating action instead of being acted on. You also benefit by attracting attention to your grievance. For most of your life your struggle is either invisible or overlooked by the people with the influence to help you the quickest. In a riot, for one moment in time, your plight would be finally be the utmost priority of all of the people who ignore and overlook you – media, police, government. For once, somebody with clout is going to notice you're hurting and angry and not going to let it happen anymore.
I’m not advocating for rioting. I’m pointing out that the violent images you see flash inside your TV and computer screens are the result of intense frustration – and that if you were put in the same situation, you just might do the same thing.
Our education system glosses over the intertwining factors that have systematically contributed to the circumstances of the poor and non-powerful. It's frustrating because if we took more time to investigate and listen to the stories of people facing injustice and their attempts to overcome it, we'd be better equipped to prevent similar injustices from happening.
If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay. (And if you want to constructively explain why, I welcome it). I just hope the next time this happens you consider all of the factors at play and not just the end result.