Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Fire Is Here (On Baltimore - The Latest Volcano)

I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

So here we are again. Another segment of a city in revolt. Another person of color dead under suspicious circumstances by law enforcement. Another debate over property damage versus the spark of the anger.

Today it’s Baltimore. Earlier this month, it was South Carolina and Oklahoma. Last year it was Ferguson and New York. 5-6 years ago it was Oakland. What more is there really to say? The script we’re seeing this week is nothing new and it’s predictable. If you continue to be shocked, you need to wake up, smell the smoke and ask how we got here instead of why are a few idiots tearing stuff up.

Let me be clear. To only focus on those who riot instead of also those who have peacefully protested Freddie Gray’s murder - and it is murder, my readers - and the lack of an explanation from the Baltimore police department on his murder is shortsighted. 

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon from April 22 in Baltimore)
It is possible, believe it or not, to condemn the wrongs on both sides and also expect more from the state, which often demands it. It’s also easy to condemn the rioting without realizing we are surrounded by more dangerous fires that will flare up elsewhere if we do not address changes within ourselves and the state. Nobody is excusing the behavior - we’re just expanding the parameter of what’s going on.

These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Spare me what police have to do. We all know they have a difficult job. We all know not everyone can do it. You know what - my job is difficult. Telling accurate stories of what happens everyday isn’t easy because if I’m wrong, my credibility is shot. Media face criticism every day that obscures the good work but all I can do is do good and call out the bad.

Law enforcement is no exception. If politicians are worthy of criticism, if journalists are worthy of it, then certainly the protectors of our communities should be held accountable. A pattern of similar behavior means there’s a similar thread connecting these matters and while I pray no police officer loses their life in these revolts, I’ve also prayed that no more citizens lose theirs at the hands of officers and indirectly from the government that has empowered departments to police with more hammers.

And so we must still face the fact that our nation's summers of riots are caused by our nations winters of delay. As long as justice is postponed we always stand on the verge of these darker nights of social disruption. The question now, is whether America is prepared to do something massively, affirmatively and forthrightly about the great problem we face in the area of race and the problem which can bring the curtain of doom down on American civilization if it is not solved. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Dead bodies keep piling up and people will be outraged. Dead bodies keep piling up at the hands of law enforcement and only one person - Johannes Mehserle - has been convicted within the last 10 years. You can both be grateful for the police while also demanding more from them. I mean, if anything demand better because it is proven a costly burden on taxpayers.

By only criticizing the rioters, you miss the bigger picture that’s now a mural of blood and tears. You miss the bigger question of asking how are those neighborhoods safer when these cases are business as usual. By not questioning the police, you fail one of the tenets of American democracy - challenging authority. I speak coming from having lived from the 1992 riots and the riots were far the biggest problem in the city.

We can change this. We can demand more of ourselves and see the humanity in every person. We can continue to see police departments try harder to build up relations with the community. They can not feel personally offended when we demand better of the life they feel called to lead just like a pastor, judge, lawyer, politician or journalist.

But will we? I doubt it. We have scenes popping up in the same movie and the only arms race that happens is the law enforcement/elected officials reacting with harsh rhetoric and being let down by the justice system. This ain’t a scene anymore, it’s an arms race for the soul of America and right now, she is burning. Not because of criminals but because people in power and with influence continue to watch it burn without trying to fix it.

Then again, why would they fix it. America is littered with examples of crimes against women and people of color. It’s the American way to mistreat women and colored folks who dared rise against the place they were put in and while you eat apple pie and drink lemonade, the world simmers until it comes to your door.

If we -- and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others -- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time! (James Baldwin)

Freddie Gray’s spine was broken. Walter Scott was shot running away. Rekia Boyd was shot in cold blood. Eric Garner was choked out. Kendrec McDade was unarmed. Tamir Rice’s ghost lingers over us. Aiyana Jones will never see the prime of her youth. So many others are gone like John Crawford, Jonathan Ferrell or living scarred. 
The future of our country see this and wonder what world they are growing up in? This is your country. A land of great promise, lofty dreaming and oppression that reveals itself in its hypocrisy. A land of two worlds that only seem to mix in violence and opposition instead of understanding. To only call for nonviolence in Baltimore without demanding accountability from its police department symbolizes this duality. 

Yes, small occurrences of looting and destruction are bad news but can you listen to the anger? Can you hear the frustration or will you only see the results of it? Can you see the bigger picture behind the buildup? Those who cannot will do more long-term harm than those who tear up cities in anger for it is there where the solutions lie. And we need those or else we are consumed by these flames.

James Baldwin tried to warn you. Malcolm warned when he said a racial powder keg cares little for who gets hit. Martin mentioned the troubles in “The Other America”. How many more cities have to erupt before people realize they can’t ignore it or look only at the destruction? How much more history do you need to read before you realize that 1) this is business as usual, 2) it will continue later.

The fire is no longer “next time” - it is here.

“....In the midst of the hollering and in the midst of the discourtesy tonight, we got to come to see that however much we dislike it, the destinies of white and black America are tied together…..And somehow, we must all learn to live together as brothers in this country or we're all going to perish together as fools….We must come to see. . .yes we do need each other, the black man needs the white man to save him from his fear and the white man needs the black man to free him from his guilt. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  - this and other excerpts from his "The Other America" speech


  1. Smart and on time bro. Good work. A doctor said yesterday, "can you believe what's going on in Baltimore"? I shrugged it off and kept it moving. He kept pressing and I told him (a Mexican doctor who has distanced himself from being Mexican), "are you surprised, did you forget who you are and how these incidents of injustice have been brewing for centuries"? Not a peep from him, but he got the gist.

    "A land of great promise, lofty dreaming and oppression that reveals itself in its hypocrisy." <-- well said Ev.

    1. There you have it. You cannot be shocked anymore at this. The more you know, shock needs to fade into how can we prevent this and look at how we keep getting here. History reveals the answers if people want to look. Thanks big bro.