Admittedly, I haven’t kept abreast of the news in the past 2 weeks so I was shocked when someone told me to turn the TV on and watch the riots in Baltimore. 25-year-old Freddie Gray died from injuries he suffered while under police custody and some of the protests morphed into riots. So once again we have a case of a young black male detained, brutalized, and murdered by police officers. We have another situation in which protests are necessary to demand justice in a system that holds no value to the human lives of black people. Our anger is valid and completely justified. It’s a deeply rooted anger that owes no apologies and demands justice.
Yet, instead of protesting and bringing attention to the atrocities, there are some who have chosen to lash out in anger and burn down or loot businesses that serve their neighborhoods. It sounds very revolutionary, militant, and reminiscent of the days of Angela Davis and Huey Newton but the reality is that violence only begets more of the same. It doesn’t effect change.
The anger that has bubbled over in Baltimore and all over America is not about Freddie Gray. It’s about a system of racism that has infested the very heart of the black community. The police have no respect for blacks but the problem isn’t them. The problem is at the top. The officials who continue to cover up and protect rogue cops. The commissioners, district attorneys, mayors, and others who refuse to do the job they were elected to do- serve and PROTECT their constituents. The problem is us– the ones who continue to vote blindly (and that includes along party and racial lines) to keep these people in office. Why should they care? What message have we the people clearly given them at the polls? Why work harder and with integrity when they know that they will either run unopposed in the next election or voters will punch “Democratic” or “Republican” regardless of their level of service?
Instead of educating ourselves on how the government works and finding out who to put pressure on, we sit back and wait for Freddie Gray to happen so that we can jump on our laurels and protest on Facebook and other social media. We want heads to literally roll and would rather burn down viable and needed businesses in our own backyards than to figure out how we can individually and collectively make a difference.
Of course CVS is insured and will build again. But will they rebuild in the area where they suffered the loss? Blacks have lived in some of the most disenfranchised areas in this country. I get it- we are the “throw-away” people. Brought here and abandoned after we no longer served our original purpose. Our neighborhoods are full of entire blocks of abandoned or burned out structures, pot-holed streets, liquor stores, and low-valued housing. We step outdoors and see emptiness and despair. So in our minds how will a few more fires take away from what is already a bad situation? I challenge you to ask yourself “how will continuing to destroy it help rebuild it?”
What did burning down a neighborhood CVS pharmacy do to help the community? It removed a convenient location that your 70-year-old neighbor walked to for her medication. That’s what it did. You see, not everyone has a car. The bus stop is not always within walking distance for an elderly or otherwise physical restricted person. Sure, something will eventually take its place but how will that help those who need it now? Will the masked young men who are out there rioting and protesting knock on her door and offer a ride to the next closest pharmacy?
As the mother of a black man who has seen more than his share of unjust interaction with police, I am angry. I want to break something and scream at the top of my voice “enough!!” But that won’t make a difference. What makes a difference is putting pressure where it needs to be:
- Protests – non-violent shows of solidarity
- Vote responsibly- show them that if they don’t do what they promised, they’re fired
- Businesses – support black-owned businesses. Stop supporting Nike and the like
- Finances – teach our children to stop “flossing” and become financially responsible
- Petitions – Pressure officials to enforce policies and create ones that protect everyone. Force them to create “enforceable” standards, become tougher on hiring, disciplining, and FIRING of officers
- Education – Refocus our goals in educating our children in business, politics, and finances early on
- Community – BRING THE VILLAGE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
Yes, I’m angry but how can we be “heard” or taken seriously when we’re burning and looting our own communities? Why does every protest have to be violent and distracting? Sure, it gets attention but who really hears us? It’s easy for us to debate this on Facebook and other social media from the safety of our keyboards. We need to come together and effect REAL CHANGE. The stark reality is that this will die down eventually–just as it did with Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, and the countless others before and since them.
Another young man is dead—dying a painful and brutal death. Let’s find a way to use that to get him justice. Burning down the city is not the answer. Huey Newton had no room for God while he was running the Panthers but even he finally had to say: “As far as I am concerned, when all of the questions are not answered, when the extraordinary is not explained, when the unknown is not known, then there is room for God because the unexplained and the unknown is God.” Violence is not the answer- Martin Luther King taught us that and he influenced change.
When the dust settles from this riot all that will be left are more abandoned structures and lost businesses – in black neighborhoods—and NO solutions. Angry people fight. Angry thinkers find ways to change it. Let’s find a way to change the tide and stop throwing gasoline on everything.
(c)2015 Kim Woods All rights reserved