When it comes to the situation in Baltimore, Hugh Hollowell, my brother from another mother, has said that white people should “Shut up, and amplify minority reports and black voices.” And, he’s right, that’s what we should do. But, the truth is, a lot of people won’t hear what those black voices are saying because it doesn’t fit with their version of the way things are/should be. On the off-chance they might listen to one of their own, a straight white man from the south, I offer the following commentary:
Once again, a young black man has died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody. And, once again, people are so pissed off about it, they’re rioting. Sadly, some white folks have chosen to respond by saying ugly things about those pissed off people. They’ve called them “thugs”, “animals”, “savages”, etc. They’ve claimed that the protesters don’t really care about their city or their neighborhood; that they only want to burn and loot. Now, to be fair, there were criminals out there taking advantage of a golden opportunity to ply their trade, but blanket statements like that are almost never accurate and, frankly, they’re pretty fucking offensive to majority of people involved. So, why do normally caring, sensitive people sound like such callous assholes whenever we have this conversation? Maybe it’s because they don’t understand what’s really going on.
When I hear people saying this kind of stuff about the protests/riots, I hear good people who can’t comprehend the anger of the black community, an anger born of centuries of systemic racism and abuse. Anger born of seeing yet another young life snuffed out by the very people who are sworn to protect it. Anger born of the knowledge that the person who took that life will not see justice. Anger born of seeing that murder justified with the statement, “Well, he’d been arrested 18 times” or, “He shouldn’t have run” or “Don’t want trouble with the police? Try not breaking the law for a change.” Anger born of growing up trapped in poverty and being told you don’t deserve any better when you ask for a wage you live on or some basic health care. Anger born of being called a “race baiter” every time you ask to be treated fairly. Or, of being called a “thug” or an “animal” or a “savage” when your anger finally boils over at the injustice that impacts every aspect of your life. Really, these riots are our African-American brothers and sisters are saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
I have been told that the media is responsible for these protests and, yes, they do bear some responsibility. But, let’s be honest here: blaming the media is a cop-out, because the underlying problems existed long before people started tearing shit up. And, the media, always hungry for ratings, is only showing us what they know we want to see.
Yes, what’s happening in Baltimore is wrong. Rioting is not the best way for the people of Baltimore, or Ferguson, or New York or any other city where these actions have occurred to be heard. But, rioting seems to be the only way these folks can get our attention. So, maybe, instead of decrying these acts of violence, we should instead ask ourselves why white America only seems to give a fuck about what’s going in these communities when people start burning shit up.