Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More thoughts on Baltimore

Everyone and their brother has had an opinion today--and expressed it--about the Baltimore riots last night. I've read a lot and pondered a lot, and I have a few random thoughts. One is that there were some incredibly brave black men who stood up to the rioters--I saw a man, arms spread, in front of a row of riot-gear policeman, as if protecting the police and daring the rioters to come closer; another man took up a stand, apparently with a baseball bat, to keep looters out of a 7-11. And there's an incredible video of a mother, literally beating her teenage son and herding him home, away from the trouble. These folks remind us that they are good and brave people, even in the midst of the worst circumstances.
Another reminder many of us need: those rioters weren't angry over the death of one man, brutal and cruel as it was. They were expressing years of pent-up anger, of living in poverty, in a decaying neighborhood, where it was rare for a young man to finish high school alive and without a police record. Particularly the young black men in that section of Baltimore (and others like it across the country) are the subject of police brutality. The police expect them to be bad, so they live up to that expectation, and then they are brutalized. It is a world without hope--and that's the key word. They have no reason to hope. Things will not get better for them.
Some say the riot gear police that turned out for the funeral of Freddie Gray sparked the riots--there again, it's a statement of an antagonistic relationship. Could the police, suitably armed but not in riot gear, have turned out to show respect for Freddie Gray. We'll never know the answer to that question.
It's easy for me and many of you to sit here in our safe, middle-class homes and say, "Why do they burn their own neighborhoods?" I am led to believe, from what I read today, that it's that very lack of hope, that sense of helplessness, of being caught in a system they cannot understand let alone fight.
I don't know how this country can manage a massive swing in its attitude, from antagonism to helpfulness, comradeship, joining together to make things better. Pending national legislation is not leading in that direction, and sometimes all of us are left with despair.
But I think we must cling to the hope that we can make the world better, that each of us can do our part. And maybe it will begin in Baltimore. I pray for the people of that city...and for all of us.

No comments: