If there's anything the news networks love, it's a good riot. Well - some
riots (sports fans trashing a city after a game get a "tsk-tsk" and shoulder shrug). But for the last several days, it's been non-stop 24/7 coverage of the meltdown in Baltimore. There have been a lot of questions asked and assumptions made by the talking heads on the news outlets, but they never seem to ask the right questions, nor make astute assumptions. Everything is dumbed down, as if it could all be summed up in a simple sound bite.
But it's not a simple situation.
Freddie Gray died while in police custody due to a severe spinal injury. That much is known. That alone should be enough to raise the ire of a community, and it did. The news, however, didn't seem too interested in covering that. People marching and protesting? Meh... After Ferguson, it was going to take a bit more than that to get some attention. Baltimore delivered.
The news media jumped right in, and thus began the circus we have now.
The right-wing media - as expected - is scraping the barrel, looking for the mold and rot. As they always do, they've attempted to demonize the victim by releasing his rap sheet
. They ask: "Are they really protesting for this
If you think this is all over one guy - you're not paying attention.
The problems in that part of Baltimore are legion and decades in the making. An article in today's WaPo does an excellent job of breaking it down
The immediate trigger was the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a traumatic spinal injury he suffered while in police custody. But in a startlingly segregated city struggling with failing schools, failing infrastructure, a failing economy and a police department under federal investigation, it seemed only a matter of time before this side of Baltimore boiled over.
“All we have left, all many of us have left, is our dignity,” said Robert Stokes, 36, as he stood with a broom and dustpan at Pennsylvania and North avenues, hours after people smashed windows, looted stores and set trash cans on fire. “And when that’s stripped away, what do we have left? What do we have left except for rebellion? You look around and see unemployment. Filling out job applications and being turned down because of where you live and your demographic. It’s so much bigger than the police department. This place is a powder keg waiting to explode.”
Steven Bowmen, leader of a local gang, said at a meeting with local officials on Tuesday that much of the rage behind the rioting is rooted in hopelessness.
“Honestly, I need a job,” Bowmen said. “At the end of the day, most of the youths need a job. We just need help.”
This is where it has come to, where the leader of a local gang
is meeting with local officials and complaining that there are no jobs available. This has to be alien and incomprehensible to the white middle class who scratch their heads and wonder why they are burning down their own neighborhood. These are people with literally nothing. As Bob Dylan wrote: "when you ain't got nothing, you've got nothing to lose". These aren't "welfare queens" - they want jobs, and education, a neighborhood that feels safe, and a police force that protects them - not kills them. You know - what most majority-white communities have.
The riots in Baltimore aren't the problem - they're the symptom. It's time to fix the problems here and elsewhere so that a large swath of our fellow citizens and human beings don't have to resort to such extreme measures.