Meandering Thoughts on the Baltimore Protests

April 25; I get a text from my best friend saying that if I see anything on the news about the Baltimore riots, she and her coworkers are all safe. She works on the historic ships at the Inner Harbor, and they are close enough to smell the smoke through the ship’s walls. But they are locked up in the Taney, behind steel doors, and they will be fine.

April 26; I check in to verify that she is okay. She is, and we talk about woolly mammoths for a bit. Apparently there were pocket populations that lived until after the pyramids had gone out of fashion. We both love this fact.

April 27; There are helicopters and the national guard and a 10 pm curfew is instated. Lots of places are closing down, including potentially the museum. Among her coworkers, places to stay are offered so everyone has the opportunity to sleep where they feel safe. My friend will be coming home for the time being. I’m happy for her; sad for all the people who can’t come home to safety, because their homes are where the rioting is happening.

April 28; My friend has entered the stage of ranting about the inaccuracy of the coverage, partly from the news but also from the world of Facebook and Tumblr. I decide its time to begin seriously researching what has been going on. I am aware of the basic facts, but I have deliberately kept myself from learning details for the time being. This is not from callousness; just the opposite. I sometimes find myself too affected by events in the news, particularly when I have no ability to change them. I like to wait a bit and prepare myself; rather like someone waiting to read a book until the whole series has come out so they don’t have to wait on a cliffhanger. For a long time this oversensitivity has kept me out of the news world entirely. I’ve been working on changing that.

April 28-May 1st; I immerse myself in information. My sorrow is amended; I am not only sorry for those who live in the rioting, but those who have lived in fear and frustration and anger for so long before the protests ever began. Intellectually I am aware of not only the murders of young black men, but also the problems of poverty the African American community has faced for so long, but sometimes the heart needs to be reminded of old news. I become angry at the news on the one hand and Tumblr on the other, who both seem determined to fixate on the rioters, a split-off minority of the protesters. Peaceful marches formed the bulk of the action, yet the media fixates not on the murdered young man they were marching for, not the damage and neglect the people in the projects have been living in, but on this one instance of angry outburst.

This video seems to sum up the problem, as Deray McKesson eloquently tries to redirect people’s attention to the issue, while Blitzer asks him to apologize, over and over again, for the property damage, even after he already has acknowledge that he does not support it.

On the flip side, activist-minded people, white and black, speak as if the fires and damage were nothing but a righteous crusade and nobody was affected but wrongdoers. My friend supports the protests completely, and was still locked up, with her black manager and several other black coworkers and friends, all terrified together. My friend passed a CVS and a 7-11, all smashed to pieces, where she knows the employees to be almost entirely young black men. This was not District 11 attacking President Snow’s peacekeepers. The rioters were not heroes targeting nobody but the damned.

And yet, perhaps sometimes you need a little broken glass to make your point properly heard. McKesson, in the video above, says it well. Broken windows can be fixed when broken spines cannot. You don’t have to condone something to understand it.

Humans love simple situations, but life rarely gives them.

Today; as I’ve researched all of this, a question keeps running through my mind. What can I do to stop this? How can I help?

I don’t have an answer that I like. I don’t have the ability to snap my fingers and end racism. I am neither a police officer nor anybody with any authority over the police. The only thing I can do is express my sorrow and desire for change. This feels incredibly inadequate.

Still, as I read more and more, I realize that even though its inadequate, it is what I can do, right now. I know that the essence of protest is simply people expressing their sorrow and desire for change, and change does come from protest. And I realize that I have a blog, small though it is, and I have yet to publicly speak on this issue that I truly do care about. I’ve been stopped because “I don’t think I’m very important” and “I’m white so I don’t have the right to speak” and “I don’t have anything original to say.”

Well fuck that. Sometimes there’s nothing original to say because the truth is painfully obvious. So here it is.

In our country, human beings are dying, unarmed and defenseless. They are dying because they resemble our popular stereotype of a criminal more than their murderers do, and they are dying without receiving any justice after their deaths. This is fucking wrong, and it needs to stop.

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