Tears for Baltimore

I am pissed.

I’m supposed to be talking about the new Avengers movie (which I’ve seen 3 times already) or even that wack-ass Mayweather-Pacquaio fight (I REALLY want my $100 back) or even talking through Netflix’s amazing Daredevil show. But I can’t. There’s bigger fish to fry.

And pissed doesn’t even cover it. Pissed is when you step in dog shit or drop your $600 iPhone or when your kid forgets their clarinet after you’ve driven 20 minutes to school in a Florida torrential downpour and they don’t let you know until you just walk back in the door. That’s pissed. It’s an inconvenience. An unfortunate turn of events.

I am angry. And I’m angry at this:

If you don’t know, that’s Baltimore. At the time of this writing, the city of Baltimore is closing out a week of protests, riots, curfews and a full-blown state of emergency that saw 4000 National Guard troops brought in to quell the disturbance. Some 200 business were destroyed, community centers and local shelters burned, 486 arrests made, and more than 100 officers injured.

And a man is dead, his spine severed. Six police officers are charged with his death.

It’s easy to blame the victims in all of this. It’s easy to point fingers at those protesting and rioting, easy to question, “Why destroy your own community?” or call those involved “idiots” and “thugs”. It’s easy to sit on our computers and phones, healthily removed from the fray and tweet or craft memes that poke fun or share Huffington Post articles about the right and wrongness of it all. It’s easy when you’re not there, when you don’t have to be there, when you don’t actually have to get your hands dirty, and pretend to be enlightened and judgmental and then turn from coverage to watch the 2-hour finale of Grey’s Anatomy or rush out to the Thursday showing of the Avengers: Age of Ultron (I did—I am complicit as well).

It’s easy to be the rest of us.

But a Black man is dead—again. In a poor community—again. And police are to blame for his death—again.

It’s the “again” that bugs me and the ambivalence the rest of us can hold in the face of such a tragedy. That part is troublesome. We don’t care because we don’t have to. We don’t care that this is a community with more than 50% unemployment, nearly 10 times the national average. We don’t care that this community closed multiple rec and community centers, depriving its youth of positive outlets and activities. We don’t care that the Baltimore public school system has an active school-to-prison pipeline, accounting for 90% of Maryland’s juvenile justice system referrals.

We don’t care. And that’s the problem.

No one cares.

When the school systems or government agencies fail you; when your community organizations are unable or unwilling to provide the resources you need; when your federal government stands a whopping 45 minutes down the road and chooses to turn a blind eye; when generational poverty becomes the norm and you see opportunity after opportunity denied to you; when you continually see those who look like you become victims of those who are sworn to protect you—it only takes a little push to see that powerlessness and frustration spark into a violent outrage, a marching, yelling, screaming, looting, burning maelstrom of human emotion.

I’m angry that another Black man is dead. I’m angry that the police are complicit in the death of this man and we have to go through this stupid exercise, with bated breath, to see if justice will actually be done. I’m angry that people have found a CVS to matter more than Freddie Gray, more than the lives of the residents in Baltimore. I’m mad that the news only chooses to show Black rioters and protesters, that it has the audacity to call them idiots and thugs while glossing over the white rioters looting for the sake of looting. I’m angry that these same news organizations flash past the gang rape on the beaches of Florida over Spring Break or the fraternity members spitting on Wounded Veterans, but are perfectly comfortable calling people who look like me, who feel powerless like me, names. I’m angry that the mother who beat her child into making better choices, who chose to parent her kid on national television, is subject to character assassination on the O’Reilly Factor and is the target of a CPS investigation. I’m furious that fucking Facebook REALLY wants me to give to earthquake relief in Nepal but seems oblivious to the emergency on our own shores.

And I’m angry because a man is dead, the police are charged for his murder, and, now that the curfew is lifted and the National Guard is leaving, in a week, no one will care.

8 thoughts on “Tears for Baltimore

  1. Condolences from the UK. It’s saddening to see history repeating itself & another community torn appart by hate, oppression & prejudice.

    There’s still good out there Chris. I hope you don’t lose all faith in humanity, despite the same bad things that seem to happen over & over again. No matter how many times you get derailed, I hope you find the strength & faith to get back on track.

    I don’t really know what else to say or if this message is any help, I just pray you & everyone else effected by these events can stay strong.

    • And you’re right, unfortunatly about in weeks time everyone else will have moved on. So much shit gets put in the “news” (Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez break up for the 13225th time or Miley Cyrus shaves her bush in the shape of a mohawk or other stupid bullshit) that is irrelevant, that people get distracted from the real things that happen in the world. People are so bombarded with crap & are stuck in their own comfort zones that they do tend to forget there’s real issues out there that need to be talked about. I admit even I get distracted from time to time on pointlessness, but I try to stay away from that sort of media as much as possible.

      I’m glad that people such as yourself are keeping me in the loop about these issues. I read & hear these sort of reports in the mainstream media, but to read it from someone who has been personally affected by it, it gives the story life. Instead of being reported on by a person who probably doesn’t care about it, is only reporting it to make money & makes the report sound like it’s just another day in the office for them, I hear from you what really makes a incident like this a real issue, an issue that I SHOULD care about. I hear your anger & frustration Chris & glad that you’re willing to make your voice heard. It makes people like me want to start paying attention to these incidents more.

      • Sorry, forgot to mention I just saw the Facebook page for Heaven Falls. I’m not on Facebook (had a bad experience with it & I gave it up). But I really appriciate you putting up the Man of Steel post & mentioning me & the conversation we had about insperation. It’s definatly given me more of a drive to write.

      • Thanks Joe. This one got me–my family is from the DC area, I have cousins in Baltimore. I’m tired of seeing the same cascade of images–black man dead at the hands of the police. This situation, like all of them, is more nuanced than what the news portrayed and what I snapped about.

        I think there is room for joy and simple stupid shit in the midst of real issues and real shit. I think finding the balance is what is important and endeavoring to make that balance happen is what is important.

        Thank you so much for continuing to read, to comment, to give a shit. It means a lot.

      • Insperation is at it’s best when the 2 people involved both end up benefiting from it. Yeah, to really get through life, balance is definetly the key (I’ve had to learn that the hard way with certian things).

        It’s been my pleasure to read & to comment & to have you reply back (I still can’t get over that). When you become the next big author like J.K. Rowling & your books have been adapted by Joss Whedon into legendary 3 hour long movies with mind blowing effects of epic proportions & are smashing box office records, don’t forget about me (LOL – seriously though). Can’t wait for the next blog.

  2. While I’m pissed about Baltimore too, I’m more pissed that police kill people all the time (as in, several times a day – the count is currently at 404 for 2015 according to http://killedbypolice.net/) and no one even notices unless there are riots. Even when condemning the rioters as “thugs,” at least people are still aware that something is happening. (Fun side note – on the Monday of the riots, Baltimore cops shut down the local metro stop after school and were pulling kids off buses because of rumors they were going to act out The Purge – when you have cornered, scared teenagers, what do you expect them to do??)

    About a month ago, cops in my neighborhood responded to a call about reported shots fired. They chased a black male suspect through back alleys before finally fatally shooting him about four blocks from my house. It was the same story – black guy with a criminal record in a perceived bad part of town allegedly aimed his gun at the cop (because they always do, even when there’s video evidence to the contrary). Local media reported on it the day after it happened, talked to a couple neighbors, and then moved on. Same thing last summer when local cops responded to a call about a knife-wielding guy; he was white but he was poor and in a bad neighborhood, so no one cared.

    No one I talked to – coworkers, classmates, local community members – even knew this had happened, but they also didn’t seem concerned. If people don’t know or don’t care about this happening in their own backyards, how can they care about it happening in someone else’s city?

    • Holy shit! ED, you’re right, it happened and no one knew about it. I didn’t know about it. And you’re right about the larger issue–there does need to be a change in how we address these issues, that we actually care about these issues enough to demand change. It seems to take fires and looting to get attention. That’s the unfortunate part. That’s the thing that makes me sad for each person killed and their families.

      The ambivalence is frightening. Black or white, we are watching, and participating in, a culture where control over the disenfranchised is prized over human justice and dignity, regardless of the cost. We’re letting it happen. It reminds me of that Niemöller quote about WWII:

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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