I’m not from Baltimore & I don’t live in Baltimore, but I live close enough and have spent enough time there that the destruction and terror in the city is truly and completely heartbreaking. Today, I’ve gawked at Facebook, watched CNN, read articles…none of it makes any of the madness any more logical, but it certainly makes you think a little harder.
I strongly feel that regardless of race, gender, level of education, sexual orientation, or milkshake flavor preference, we are all human. Not equal, but human. The problem with equality is that so many of the people fighting for it don’t understand it. They don’t truly want equality, they want equity, and far too few people know the difference. I came across a meme while in one of my education courses that describes it pretty simply:
Equality only functions when everyone is starting from the same place. In that case, it’s extremely effective because everyone is given the same thing in order to be successful. In today’s world, equality is near impossible because everyone is born into completely different situations. We love to spout inspirational quotes about the possibilities of greatness regardless of your starting point, but in total honesty, those who are born into poverty or other harsh situations face an immense struggle to rise out of them. Equity, on the other hand, gives everyone access to the same opportunities for success. Equity, then, is what our society should be truly striving for. Without equity, equality is simply a dream.
All of that being said and defined, let me express this in the most civil way I can:
There have been a lot lives cut short in the last year. Several of them have been young black men whose lives were taken by police officers. None of those young men deserved to die. Their deaths are tragic and some have been a terrible vision into the abuse of power and excessive force that police officers are capable of. However, all of the young men I’m referencing were also young criminals. They all had a (fairly lengthy) criminal record & an arrest history with local police. That unfortunately means that they’re all part of a category of citizens that inherently attracts more police attention–criminals.
So many people keep addressing the issue of abuse of power or police misconduct, and I am not here to tell you that isn’t happening. I know there are officers out there who use their powers for evil instead of good. I know there are cops who get a big head and think they run the world. The problem here is two-fold:
1) Not all police officers are bad guys. In fact, I’d say 99% of them are really great human beings, who are out the make the world a safer, more enjoyable place for everyone.
2) Too often, the people complaining about the deaths of those at the hands of police force ignore an important pretext–which would be the aforementioned criminal history. These two things are incredibly codependent, and can’t be separated and analyzed individually. I read an article earlier this evening by Matt Walsh that asks how anyone could “think that the two facts are mutually exclusive and unrelated, as if cops are randomly strolling up to black patrons waiting in line at Starbucks and executing them for the hell of it?” At the moment, the chances of me being involved in a violent police interaction are ridiculously minimal. I’m an innocent looking young white woman and my criminal history is a blank sheet of paper…but if I had the arrest record Freddie Gray had, the chances of that violent interaction skyrocket. Not because I’m white, not because I’m a woman, but because I’d been arrested 18 times in a few years. Race and gender aside, Freddie Gray had 18 arrests on his record when he died. He had a negative history with police, and that history certainly didn’t help him during the incident that caused his death.
During the riots that occurred yesterday, Baltimore’s mayor requested that the frustrated rioters and looters be given “space to destroy.” Let’s jump back to equality and equity real quick–if a ton of angry white people took to Baltimore and started smashing in windshields, chucking bricks at cops, stealing, and setting fire to senior centers, would they be given “space to destroy”? Forget race or skin color, what about the LGBTQ community, which has been struggling to even gain the legal right to marriage? I imagine they’re pretty frustrated. Can they have some “space to destroy” as well? Instead of giving them space to destroy, why not remind them of Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought day after day for civil rights, not by bashing windows in or looting a CVS, but by peacefully protesting to share his message with the world? MLK Jr.’s peaceful protests have been remembered for years. I honestly doubt these riots will be a focus in history classes of the future, nor should they be.
It all boils down to this:
Freddie Gray’s death is a tragedy. It’s horrible. Regardless of his race, regardless of his criminal history, regardless of the circumstances. It’s just as tragic that those people who chose to peacefully protest over the weekend and through the last few days were overshadowed by a group of idiots who saw an opportunity for public outrage. Those people who were protesting peacefully had every right to–at this juncture, no details have been released regarding his death, and there’s just as good of a chance that there was “foul play” on the part of the officers involved as there is that the officers were innocent and his death was an unfortunate accident. The investigations into situations like these take time, and peaceful protest is a wonderful and beautiful way to demonstrate the frustration that people must be feeling with the police force after so many incidents. But I am angry with those who have used Gray’s death as a springboard for their own personal looting spree. Rioting, attacking police officers, setting fire to buildings, stealing–none of it is protesting, and all of it is illegal. All they are accomplishing is further perpetuating negative images and creating even more violent and criminal activity. It’s an embarrassment to Baltimore and it’s an insult to the Gray family, who specifically spoke to the fact that they do not condone the riots.
I want to challenge everyone to stop posting the photos of the flaming cars, the looted stores, the smashed in windshields. Those things suck, but continuing to spread anger and hate isn’t helping the situation. Find images of the positive–the thousands of people who participated in peaceful protests over the last few days, the reverend who opened his church to children who didn’t have school today to teach them about civil unrest and productivity and then took them to the streets to clean up the city, the incredible outreach of local citizens who jumped into action to provide water and meals and snacks for the officers, firefighters, and first responders handling the whole shebang as it went down. Share those images on your Facebook. Don’t give the few idiots more attention than they deserve, and certainly don’t make them into celebrities.
#BlackLivesMatter #CopLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter #ThinBlueLine #PeaceForBaltimore