There seems to be no issue to write about other than Baltimore, really. What is happening in Maryland has captured our nation’s attention and has been a focal point of discussion for weeks now. But to be honest, discussion it’s not. It is centered on all the wrong things — not the right ones, the constructive ones.
For example, the entire debate around rioting. One side says it’s wrong and decries the damage done, while the other claims it as a legitimate political move. But the debate should not be on rioting; that misses the point entirely. Instead, we should be asking why rioting happened in the first place. People do not riot for no reason. Sometimes they do for bad reasons, but there is a reason. It is pretty clear, to me at least, that the riots that happened in Baltimore were a result of anger. Anger at the death of Freddie Grey, anger at being victimized and anger for not being heard.
“But Dallas,” you say, “they were being heard, they were protesting for four days beforehand!” to which I reply, so what? They were protesting, but did anything come of it? Were any actions taken by the city council or mayor during those four days to assuage the public? In fact, did you ever hear any messages reported by the media, any demands by the protesters, or any response by the city? No you did not; no actions were taken, no message heard and no response given. So I cannot blame the rioters for destroying what they did, because nothing was happening anyway.
And you know what happened after the riots? Results. All six of the officers were charged with their crimes, the driver with murder in the second degree, while the others received anywhere between involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and false imprisonment. Yet people continue to condemn and scold the rioters in Baltimore for being violent, for not staying peaceful. Still there is no acknowledgment that the violence worked, no acceptance that maybe violence is a means to an end.
However, I am not condoning violent protest. It should never be the first action taken, nor should it be something that is popularized. But violent outbreaks will continue to happen if we do not learn from what happened in Ferguson, what happened in New York, and what is happening in Baltimore. The lesson to learn is that people do not want to be singled out by law enforcement, they do not want to be treated like criminals when they have done nothing wrong. I use the word “people” to be more inclusive and to not single out the black population because the issue is not just about race (even though it plays a large factor), but also about class. It is the poor, the uneducated and the disenfranchised that suffer most from police brutalization and these “hard-on-crime” policy initiatives. It is not the middle-class father of four who is getting caught stealing from a store, it is the unemployed twenty-something who ends up arrested. The reason is not because the police will turn the other way for the middle-class man—but because the middle-class man does not need to steal since he has money.
Money is the root of the problem here as in the other cases. It is a fact that African Americans have a higher rate of poverty, higher rate of unemployment and a higher high school dropout rate than whites do. Crime is a result of one’s surroundings, and when you live in a poor neighborhood with deteriorating homes, a lack of job opportunities and idle hands, it’s no surprise that the poor commit and are victims of crime. So it should be no surprise to anyone that blacks are disproportionately targeted by our criminal justice system when they are also disproportionately poorer than their racial counterparts. These facts are relevant to Baltimore for the fact that it is the touristy inner harbor of the city that has been renovated and fixed up, and not the wasting neighborhoods and defunct school system. The money has gone towards businesses and tourist attractions, benefiting the white population, while the poorer black population has not seen much development.
Which brings the discussion back to the riots. The riots were a result of the community’s voices going unheard and the people feeling left out. And they should have felt that way, because they were left out. What good is a new tourist attraction downtown when you are out of work, when your kid’s education is lackluster and when you cannot rely upon your representatives to help the community, and not individuals? The fix to the criminal justice system is economic opportunity. More money needs to go towards community building, more programs need to be offered to help get the poor out of poverty and more funds need to go towards making college affordable. All of these are plans that require a reform in how we govern, as they require more government spending. This will upset the status quo for some, and some will cry out that it is racist, ineffective and too expensive–that responsibility should be put upon the black community to help themselves. And to answer this charge, I turn to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom … is the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”
A final thanks to Lucas Tully and Blake Gibney for helping me form my ideas by fixing my terrible grammar, thx guys. Also, a shout-out to Emma Laurent of the Hillary Clinton campaign. If any of you have an interest in becoming politically involved over the summer, contact Emma at 563-262-5542 or by email at ELaurent@hillaryclinton.com. Have a great summer. DuHawks!