As I sat glued to the telecast of the Baltimore riots, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of gloom and hopelessness.
The hopelessness sprang forth like a river bursting at its banks following the torrential downpour of persistent injustice. The sense of gloom was borne from the mounting inhumanity facing young and old, the educated and mis-educated, those screaming injustice from the tops of their lungs and those searching for a coherent voice. Injustice has historically plagued our communities, neighborhoods and families and it seems that this injustice has found a home within our very souls.
Persistent questions remain as we enter into the uncharted territory that is the violence experienced by our tormented community. It is becoming more and more apparent that we as a nation are facing a seemingly insurmountable racial divide – a divide born of the evil that is the continued killing of unarmed African-Americans; an evil produced by the hands of the very officers charged with our protection and enduring servitude. What should be a community’s response? Should we peacefully coexist with the continued slaughter of our people continuing? This can no longer be accepted. It is thus our charge, as a community, to reign in the unrelenting chaos that has been so bitterly inflicted upon our people. We are dying in cities across this country at a rate that should no longer be tolerable. From the travesties found in the murders of Black men such as, Johnathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and countless others, a pattern of inhumanity projected onto Black males is evident. Although it may be apparent to us, it seems invisible to many in the white community. A clear racial divide has been established between white and Black America – a divide magnifying the growing gap that these two differing America’s have on the racial injustice and slayings, perpetrated by law enforcement. An overwhelming percentage of whites express a great deal of confidence in the ability of police to treat whites and Blacks equally. It would be a challenge to find many Blacks with the same sentiment. It is apparent we are living in two very different Americas.
How will we reign in the police brutality that engulfs our community? Who will fight for the rights of those that have been trampled upon? We continuously hear that the murder of our people is justified. We are told over and over that if we were only to adhere to the commands of the police, no harm will befall us. I wonder what it is that Trayvon Martin did that was egregious enough to cause his murder. I’m curious if Eric Garner’s misdemeanor offense of selling loose cigarettes on the street called for his demise. Did Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old, guilty only of holding a BB gun, deserve to be shot to death by police, merely two seconds after arriving on the scene?
I was taught long ago by a mentor that whenever possible we must learn to be warm with our anger. This writing and my associated curiosity is an attempt for me to be warm with an anger that yearns to be white-hot. Our community must find a way to stand as one unified body, with a fused voice demanding that we will no longer tolerate the unremitting abuse of our people. At the same time we must ask ourselves, what we have done to allow these officers and other individuals to see us as standing targets. We must realize that it has become open season on the Black and Brown populations of this country. Let us come together to abruptly close this season and the accompanying license given to those that would do us harm.
The visions of a burning Baltimore represents the result of a people that have become fed up with a sustained injustice. This injustice is rooted not only in the senseless killing of Black and Brown citizens but also in a deep sense of deferred hope. The Bible speaks of this deferred hope as one of the causes of a sick heart. The heart of the Black community is, and has long been, sick – sick with the disease of racism and poverty … sick with an educational system that has long mis-educated our people. We are sick with unemployment rates that are almost double that of other communities. We have a sickness that infects us with housing atrocities disproportionate to our rightful sustenance. We have deferred hope since the African’s arrival in this country. Our ancestors were forced to defer their hopes with an anticipated optimism that the following generations may see the light of freedom. Even with the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and Voting Rights Bill of 1965 only a stillborn freedom was actualized. The hope of our ancestors has yet to be realized. The dim light of freedom is but a flicker from the candle of hope. How will we as a community re-kindle this flame?
So many of the young people that we watch damaging property and vehicles in the Baltimore Revolution (as it is a revolution not a riot) do not see themselves as part of this American Dream they have heard of but never seen. They do not see a legitimate future on their horizon. It is a fundamental understanding that human existence is merely a by-product and representation of the given socio-political context. What context have our young Brown and Black brothers and sisters come to know? Is it a context full of discrimination, not-belonging, rejection and inferiority, relegated to an almost certain permanent status, as the wretched of the earth? Is it to live in a land where you are existentially alienated to the unbearable darkness of a future that is almost unendurable?
Given that so many in this country are living a life of humiliation, dehumanization and persistent marginalization, it is not a surprise to see what has occurred in Baltimore.
I offer no canned solution in this writing. What I do hope to ignite is an awareness and consciousness amongst our communities, neighborhoods, families and individuals.
We cannot stand idly by hoping that the predominantly white police force will miraculously see the light and begin to treat our people in a more humane fashion. We can no longer be dependent upon others to do right by us. We must do right by ourselves and those that have agonized before us. Let us stand together in solidarity, with a consciousness that will no longer allow us to live under this long shadow of death and suffering.