Baltimore: Why We Need To Empathize And Not Criticize

Fibonacci Blue
Flickr / Fibonacci Blue

While I don’t support the actions of the rioters in Baltimore, people need to realize that some members of a disenfranchised minority have hit their breaking point. Yes, property has been damaged, but what about the lives which were lost which galvanized these protests? Is a drugstore worth more than a human being’s right to a fair trial by jury? Since when are police officers allowed to be judge, jury, and executioner?

To begin with, when a people recognizes that law enforcement and the government as a whole have repeatedly failed and betrayed them, they’re going to stop caring about what is legal and what is apropos socially. Civility goes out the window, and survival of the fittest takes over. Dr. King himself is credited with stating, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” These riots are certainly getting the attention of the nation. Perhaps there are better ways, but I don’t presume to be in a position to criticize those who have experienced hardships that I haven’t.

Specifically, people have questioned why “there are only protests when a Caucasian shoots an African-American”. First of all, that’s not even an accurate way to frame this situation. This isn’t about White-on-Black crime per se, this is about White officers vested with the responsibility of civil authority taking the lives of Black American citizens, and getting away with it. This is about the government oppressing a segment of it’s citizenry in a highly systemized and historically precedented way. Secondly, appreciating context is of the utmost importance to understanding what’s going on.

Did some of you somehow miss the hundreds of years of oppression that minorities, especially dark-skinned Blacks have suffered throughout the centuries? This isn’t about a random incident here or there, there is a verifiable pattern. Lynchings and Jim Crow may have been legally prohibited, but we’re are not out of the woods of racial tension just yet! Why are Blacks still being disparaged with racial slurs and being compared to monkeys? (Also, being called a “cracker,” which I do not condone by the way, is by absolutely no means equal to that six-letter term which has been used to crush the collective Black psyche for more years than any of us have been around.)

Why are African-Americans still facing discrimination and a wage gap in the workplace? Why are there still parents who won’t let their precious White daughters date Black men? Why are Black men and women still statistically considered the most unattractive? Why are there fraternities gleefully chanting the n-word in offensive songs? I mean I could go on and on. Why is this difficult? It’s not about being bitter about the past. This is going on right now. Not to mention the more abstract results of African-American subjugation; such as the fact that many White families are rich off the free labor of Blacks, and of course White Privilege in general. Black people have a right to be angry! Stop policing our justifiable emotions!

Additionally, thousands of people have shared an image of CNN statistics, on various forms of social media, which claims 414 Caucasians were killed by Police in comparison to 233 African-Americans in the year 2014. These people then ask why Whites aren’t rioting, possibly hinting at their belief in the superior calm and responsible nature of White people. One look at a recent census (2013), along with some quick work on a calculator will demonstrate why Caucasians aren’t rioting.

African-Americans make up 13% of the population yet their deaths account for an astounding 20%! That means 1 out of every 5 people killed in America is Black. Conversely, 77% of the American populace is Caucasian, while only 37% of these deaths are White people. That’s the problem! That’s statistical proof for why White people aren’t rioting! White people are killed 1/3 of the time, when they make up over 3/4 of the population! If I was White, I wouldn’t riot either!

By the same token, to those who argue Black people killing each other is a bigger issue, and the African-American community needs to focus on that: I ask if they believe social ills cancel each other out? Young Black men killing each other in the streets, often as a part of gang violence, is certainly a problem, but it doesn’t negate other concerns. The existence of one type of injustice, does not mean other forms of crime shouldn’t be offensive. Why don’t White people go worry about their tax-evading cousins on Wall Street, and let Black people deal with the problems in their neighborhoods?

Yes, some Black people sag their pants, mug people, and rob stores. Some White people shoot up schools and go on mass murder sprees. Yet Black people are labeled “naturally criminal,” while America recognizes all White people are not the same. The respectability politics that assert that Black people need merely to obey the laws and conform to White America, demonstrate and perpetuate the idea that Black people in general deserve being treated as second-class citizens, and are definitely part of why people are so angry in Baltimore and all over the country.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen people make statements all over Facebook that makes it clear they have preconceived notions that Black people are trouble-makers, difficult, or generally civilly disobedient (and not in the Thoreau sense of the term). Did anybody else see that, “Well, if they obeyed the cops, and were upstanding citizens, they wouldn’t be getting killed”, line of thought? That type of “they deserve it” thinking can be dangerous! Take that kind of logic and insert it into the mind of a police officer. Hopefully, he’ll respect the correct routes of justice and be fair. By and far, most cops do. But what if he’s a racially frustrated White guy walking around with a gun in his belt?

Discriminatory arrests and confrontations are bound to happen. Then Black people, who recognize the unfair bias they’re facing, are going to react, perhaps negatively; which will reinforce the concept of their inherent animalistic nature to the minds of the prejudiced. It’s a vicious cycle, and people who judge without thinking are helping no one.

Furthermore, regarding the teenagers stealing from corner stores: there’s always going to be selfish people who use protests for their own gain. Their actions do not speak for those who are genuinely seeking justice. Again, I don’t necessarily support rioting, but people need to stop looking at the situation in Baltimore from their own privileged perspective. We haven’t walked in the rioters’ shoes.

Honestly, I wish everyone would just respect each other and try to empathize. Obviously, it’s going to take a while to get over the racial history. Slavery is a big deal, and it had a massive impact, even if some people like to deny that. But I really think that America is almost there. I look to a day when arguments about the legitimacy of Black people’s rage will be laughed at for being bizarre and archaic.

I truly believe my generation is going to change society. In a perfect world, the rioters and the police officers would stop, sit down, and sincerely apologize for wronging each other and society. And everyone would cooperate and aid one another in cleaning up the mess, prevent future conflicts, and moving forward to a better tomorrow. Let’s work together to make that dream a reality. TC mark

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