I’m an idiot for posting this. My only request is, if you read this Baltimore opinion, you take the time to read it straight through and process some of the twists and turns. I hope you find it constructive rather than destructive.
You will find that this opinion on the matter addresses and validates points on both “sides.” I phrase it in this manner because it appears, as it so often does with social and political issues, that people are trying to group themselves on one side or another, doing their best to solely support their viewpoint while discrediting or ignoring opposing points. This opinion touches upon rights and wrongs within both of these worldviews, and combines aspects to form my thoughts.
Here we go…
It is entirely possible to condemn the violence and looting happening in Baltimore while acknowledging the legitimate reason that it is occurring. Let me first start by expressing my view on the rioting: violence never has been, and is currently not the solution. Everyone who is causing such destruction should be condemned and held responsible for their actions. What some of these people are choosing to do is despicable and contrary to the principles one of greatest civil rights activists in the history of the world, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid forth.
We must question why this violence is occurring. Anyone who thinks this is solely because of one murder is shortsighted and is missing the point. Freddie Gray was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Could so many people be inspired to violence, to chaos because of one single act? What is happening in Baltimore is a result of the frustration that comes from systematic alienation and discrimination. These people grow up in neighborhoods that are viewed as separate and lesser by society. They are not given the same educational or career opportunities. Their culture, pattern of speech, and values are looked at as lesser. Many of these people have lived through countless acts of prejudice and discrimination, large and small. Many cannot conceptualize just how dehumanizing and infuriating it must be to receive looks or hear comments on almost a daily basis. I have heard and seen so many awful things….and that’s just what I have witnessed. I cannot imagine how often some people have to deal with rude looks, comments, and assumptions, all of which that tell them they are “different.” They are put in a box and judged because of their looks. They are grouped in with the negative stereotypes the media portrays. How does that make them feel about society, about the ruling structure? Do they feel they have a voice? That they are represented? That who they actually are is cared about? That they are cared about when their schools receive no funding, when their infrastructure is crumbling?
You take people who have that lived experience in a nation with a rich history of racial violence and discrimination and one thousand percent get why they are out there rioting. They are sick of people like them being targeted by police because of how they look. They are sick of excessive force more often happening to the African American population (which, statistics say is true). They are sick of being treated as second class citizens, as less than people, and as being disposable. This is occurring because these people are fed up over years of systemic oppression and they don’t know what to do. They are mad as hell and they don’t want to take it anymore.
Because I think I understand why this is happening does not mean I condone it. Some of the people out there may be the troublemakers and vandals, just looking to take advantage of the chaos, but I suspect even most of the criminal actions are rooted in a sense of anger at the powers that be, a sense of alienation and hopelessness. We are different, we are treated as less, and we’re sick of it. We don’t know what to do besides release our anger.
This is a symptom of a broken system, of a nation that has to look in the mirror and see we still have so much progress to make. Their still isn’t equality in this nation. There still is institutional racism. We have made progress, but that doesn’t mean the work is done. There is still a long ways to go to equality in this nation. But here’s the kicker folks…
Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. The media is the devil in this situation. The media portrays the only cops who use excessive force and cause deaths and rarely the vast majority who protect and serve and promote harmony. The media portrays the rioters, looters, and criminals, instead of the black community members protesting peacefully and working to clean up the city in the wake of all of this havoc.
And do you know what this does?
It continues this fucking vicious cycle that our nation is stuck in. Because people who support the system as it is and the police see images of rioting blacks destroying their town, see images of senseless violence, and use this to affirm their preconceptions. Other people see images of police officers killing black citizens and use this to affirm their preconceptions about cops and white society.
The media portrays the extremes for ratings. There is no moral obligation. Two fighting sides and two opposing viewpoints draw ratings. Shock value brings viewership.
And this is fucked up. You know why? Because we’re people. We’re Americans. So many of those cops and so many of those protesters are people with families that just want to make a living and be happy. So many of them aren’t racist and don’t hate each other, but the media focuses on those who do, and the rest of us, who aren’t involved in the situation (and may not be involved in many situations involving race) come up with armchair quarterback opinions and misconceptions based upon these portrayals, as if we can understand the plight and viewpoint of another population raised in an entirely different socioeconomic situation…
MLK set an example of how to bridge racial relations, of how to lay the groundwork for cooperation and equality through dedicated protest but nonviolence. We need more leaders like him, in both the black and white communities in our nation. Leaders who are willing to reach out and understand other viewpoints and lived experiences. Leaders who are willing to rally people of similar life experiences to help foster understanding, cooperation, and joint growth. Because what’s happening in Baltimore is a travesty. The actions of the rioters are not only unacceptable and horrid, but they only further the divide and make the cause of equality more difficult to obtain. People who are unable to see or understand the plight of the African American in this nation will see these images and they will affirm their prejudiced viewpoints. I’ve already read and heard horribly racist, dehumanizing comments using the footage as “evidence.” What’s sickening about that is how it reveals the level of racism that still exists (even among whites who are not actively attempting to oppress African Americans, but still hold preconceptions) but it also shows how so much of what we think about people is based upon a skewed view of such a small segment of the population. Those rioters, those ones causing that damage, they are a product of a troubled environment rooted in a flawed system. They are not right in what they do but we must understand they don’t represent all African Americans.
So my point, put simply, is this: I do not condone the rioting occurring in Baltimore, but recognize that it’s existence indicates the failure of our social political system to ensure inclusion, opportunity, and equality for all. Violence is not the answer, and those people causing that property damage are only making this entire situation worse. They must be stopped. However, we cannot let the portrayals of these people by the media divide us further as people. Do not let images of rioters confirm racism. Do not let images of rioters undermine the real struggle faced by African Americans today. Support and love black lives and blue lives, because there are countless African Americans and police officers who enrich our great nation and make it a better place to live daily.
We are all people, but we’ve all lived in very different situations. We all have lived through different struggles and developed our own unique lenses. Take a moment to try to understand how society looks to someone raised in a different area with drastically different experiences. I’m not asking you to agree with the actions or even the opinions of these others, but I’m asking you to try to understand why these beliefs and actions occur. Once you’ve taken time to do this, don’t list reasons why people who disagree with you are wrong, instead ask yourself this:
What can I, and society do as a whole, to fix this? How do we better America? Because everything is is self serving argumentative bullshit aimed at validating one’s self and viewpoint. So many of us would rather be “right” and have the other side be “wrong” than make any tangible progress towards peace, civility, dignity, and a just society. So before you go spewing hate rhetoric towards either side or viewpoint, ask yourself if you truly have a conception of how other people are thinking, why they are acting as they are, and if you’re at all apart of the solution, or just one of the many talking heads spitting out opinions that continue to keep us divided and far away from the potential this great nation has.