Misinterpretations about the Baltimore protests
By Jay Chary
Here we are, yet again, discussing race relations in the United States due to another life unjustifiably being taken away at the hands of the police. Here we are, yet again, seeing cops walk free (or at worst receive a slap on the wrist– paid leave or desk duty) from situations that would leave any other citizen in prison.
This is the same force of people that leaves one demographic feeling protected in their presence, while the other demographic feels threatened. When will it end? It seems like every other day, a police officer, security guard, or self-appointed protector of who-knows-what is killing an unarmed black person.
These crimes committed by police are then swept under the rug when officers recite the same script: “I saw them reach for something,” or “I thought I saw a weapon,” or “something was pointing at me,” or “I was threatened.”
Even after crimes like these are committed, some citizens will still defend police, saying things like, “Cops are human, too!” While this sentiment could be argued, this one can’t: cops have chosen an occupation where they should be held in a higher position of scrutiny in respect to the law. At all times.
Mainstream media has painted a certain image of Baltimore by looping the same clips of a handful of looters and vandals. Isn’t it great that the media now has a scapegoat to shift their attention away from the real issue at hand– decades of systemic oppression? Isn’t it great that white people, the same people who transformed the peaceful protests into riots by taunting the protesters and calling them racial slurs, now have another way to veil their closet racism?
They refer to black people that are filled with justifiable anger as animals and “thugs” (2015’s rendition of the N-word) because they took down their local CVS. When Fox News interviewed Baltimore Councilman Nick Mosby, he tried to speak on the larger issue at hand, but all Fox News could focus on was a liquor store being looted.
The demonstrators have been told to remain calm and act rational. Where were these remarks when riots due to sporting events– events with no truly life altering effects– have taken place? Peaceful protests are meant to win over sympathy from privileged members of society in hopes that they will help, because they are the only ones who can help. But what do you do when the privileged refuse to help? The only option is to try to take down the same systems that have continually oppressed you throughout history: the political, economic, legal, real estate systems, and so on.
Why should these people remain peaceful in wake of the police’s complete abandonment of all thoughts related to peace? Things can be replaced, lives cannot.
People have been praising the “Hero Mom,” Toya Gray, for the videos that have surfaced of her disciplining her child for participating in the protests. She has come out and spoken on video, and has said that she does not want her son to end up like Freddie Gray. The video that so many people are praising her for is really a video of a black mom’s sheer worry for her son becoming yet another statistic on police violence against black people and adamancy to protect him at all costs. Not because she’s upset about their local CVS, too. This is where you close the case.
There are other people trying to disenfranchise the rationale of the protests by bringing up Gray’s arrest record. There are certainly SMU students with arrest records ranging from public intoxication to possession of drug paraphernalia to driving under the influence. If one of these students with a history of arrests were shot and killed by the police or taken into police custody and had their spine broken, thus causing their death, how different do you think this conversation would be?
Finally, it is necessary to directly address a point made in the original writing:
“It doesn’t take being a black man to understand the emotions that these protesters – violent or otherwise – are feeling; it only takes being a human.”
Actually, it does. No one, unless they are a black person in the United States, will completely understand the emotions that are possessed by these protesters. This statement completely undermines every bit of struggle and strife that this group of people has had to undergo throughout the course of their lives.
Yes, it is essential for non-black people to stand with them as they face this event of adversity, but do not marginalize them in regards to an issue that deals with their own race.