Is it August 2014? With the actions and reactions taking place in Baltimore, Maryland, and spreading to other cities, it seems like America is experiencing Ferguson, Missouri all over again. Since the death of a young black man by the name of Freddie Gray, looting, violence and arson have become standard in the city which is now under curfew. Have we learned nothing from the not-too-distant past?
On April 12th, Gray was arrested and taken to a Baltimore police station. Reports are that he didn’t resist arrest, and that the officers did not use force. Once arriving at the station, 25-year-old Gray was found to be having trouble walking, talking and breathing. He died on April 19th of spinal injuries. It is unknown how he obtained these fatal injuries, and what – if anything – happened while he was in a police van and being transferred to the station.
Any rational adult can see that questions need to be answered in regard to the incident. To believe otherwise is to be solely focused on your own agenda with no concern for the truth. However, what has transpired since Freddie Gray’s death is violent, growing in popularity, and unfortunately, becoming the go-to display of emotion in the aftermath of similar incidents.
The growing, angry crowds in Baltimore say they are fighting the injustice of Gray’s death and other black men’s deaths after encounters with police by reacting in such a way. And they wonder why the respect they seek isn’t there when they ruin their own cities? When they steal from their neighbors? When they throw bricks at law enforcement? When they set fire to cars and buildings? Why they put people out of business permanently? No, they are not fighting injustice. They are not exclaiming “we need to hear the evidence first!”. No, this is a seething rage which dismisses common sense queries. There’s a hive-mentality to it all, and a mix of young and restless black youth with those in authority (whether white or black) is a recipe for disaster. Too many moral equivalencies are bandied about as some exclaim on social media: “If white people can smash cars and light **** on fire after losing a basketball game, black folk can do it when the cops commit murder”.
Neither of these reactions is right. To say so, however, invites accusations of racism. Just 39 miles away from these happenings in Washington D.C. is the man whose election was supposed to bring about a post-racial environment. This is clearly nonsense. There has never been a post-racial anything in America, and to think so is foolish. The deep currents of racial tension were never going to disappear due to the ethnicity of the person in the Oval Office.
A recent article in The Federalist appropriately phrased a jealousy known as “Selma envy” when it comes to the gay marriage issue. The same applies to the situation in Baltimore and elsewhere. As the author stated: “…we wanted to find our own bigotry to eradicate. After years of hearing those saints sing “We Shall Overcome,” we were overcome with jealousy. We coveted Selma. We envied that march. We looked at that footage and hungered for our own cause to devour”. There is so much to praise and honor in the struggles against racism of years past, but we cannot and should not brand these current events as the “new civil rights” movement. To equate the two waters down American history by mixing the present raw violence and rage with the nonviolent resistance of previous generations. The current crisis is more riotous than revolutionary, and we must be clear on that.
Many questions still surround the incident which led to Freddie Gray’s death, including new reports that he intentionally injured himself in the police van. Regardless, a young life ended too soon, and that is tragic no matter the circumstance. We must agree on this. Looting, violence, and arson are always wrong, no matter the circumstance. We must agree on this. Finally, we must work to instill a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, the safety of one’s community, and the respect of our fellow men and women – in uniform or not – into the current and next generation. If we don’t agree on this, Baltimore, Maryland will just be another in a list of many locations in America that came to be destroyed from within.