1 our fellow Americans1 our Baltimoreans

^ Our fellow Americans protesting what we too would protest were it done to us

—- —- —- —-

For a few days I have held off writing this editorial because I did not want to rush to judgment. i wanted to ponder to think, the other side, to confirm myself. i have done that now. My view is, if anything, more committed than it was at first.

This was injustice. It was indifference to life. It was a violation of Freddie Gray’s civil rights, from beginning to end. There are no shades of grey in it, it is black and white.

That people rioted, that they destroyed much property — of their neighbors and maybe even family — wasn’t a rational act or an excusable one. The President rightly said so. But it was violence grievously understandable. I cannot say that, were I in the position of the Baltimore angry, that I would not have thrown a nutty. I think i would have. I get angry when I am disrespected.

The dignity of self requires, sometimes that one not turn the other cheek, not retreat, not go quietly away.

The riot was a sign of life in people who generations of police indifference — or worse — have left maimed at the fringes of living, bruised mentallly, beaten in the soul. The riot proved that bruises may maim the soul but do not have to crush it.

Did selfish ones exploit the burst of anger, to loot and burn ? Yes they did. Them, I condemn. They are enemies of the people.

And so, the people. Are these Baltimoreans not Americans every inch as American as you or me ? They are. Does the poverty that many live in put an asterisk on their American-ness ? It does not. Does the violence that plagues one of America’s most crime-ridden cities defray their Constitutional and civil rights ? It does not.

One suspects that the police — including two who themselves are Black — who arrested Freddy Gray without cause and who thereafter treated him like a bag full of empty tin cans as they bumped the van along Baltinmore streets, stopping several times, ignoring his cries for medical assistance did all of that because that is simply how they do. It’s the custom. It makes the citizens of dangerous neighborhoods afraid of the police, who experience has taught need to be feared, or else.

Lawyers for the six indicted police assert that t.hey did nothing wrong. I have not the slightest doubt that they fully believe that. The six did what they always do. Freddy Gray was not, when the incident began, known to the police. He was just the usual suspect. Running ? Up to no good. Screaming about being manhandled ? Don’t they all. Requesting medical assistance ? Hmmm, he’s preparing a lawsuit.

Then all hell broke loose.

This is how it happens. This is how decades of civil rights abuses and police terror get called to account. Not by a superstar but by a man utterly ordinary. As one protester said : “there are a lot of Freddy Grays in this City.”

There’s an even larger lot of Freddy Grays in the nation, our nation, our experiment in black and white. The age of smartphone video cameras has made clear just HOW many. Too many. A whole lot of people who by the color of their skin incite fear in those of us who look upon people with dark skin as dangerous thereby. And not just dangerous. People of dark skin carry entire placards of negative stereotype on their shoulders. We have put those placards o them. Dare we now deflect the bad consequences ?

The President said that the nation needs to do a lot of soul searching : that this problem “is not new.” It is not new. It is in our soul and if we search it there, we will find it, the problem, the stereotype, the injustice as a matter of conscious policyl of intimidation.

In Court the six officers may avoid conviction. Criminal cases demand a high standard of proof, and the defense for these six writes itself : we were simply following procedure.

It is high time that police departments change that procedure.

It is also way past time that we searched our souls. search and destroy the badass we find inside us. It is time we reform our poloice departments, reorder their priorities, embrace people of dark skin color, and in poverty, as folks like us. Because, believe me, no one wants more to be part of us than those we have put out of the home that belongs to all of us as Americans.

If you were listening to what was said by actual Baltimoreans during the events, you heard exactly that, spoken with urgency that i applaud. I am not sure that we deserve their wanting to be part of us. Let us work to deserve it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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