An impromptu act for the camera in Baltimore shown in a video on the New York Times site kind of encapsulates it all about the rioting, looting, and arson overnight. A young black man stands atop a burned out car (a police car? not sure) and takes a swig of beer from a can and then dumps the rest out and says: “This beer is for Freddie Gray”… (actually it sounded to me in the video like he was saying “Buddy Gray”). What had begun as peaceful demonstrations turned into a full-scale orgy of violence. The National Guard was called in and reports were this morning that things were relatively quiet. But part of my point in this total post is that even though there is obviously a terrible problem between black people and the police in this nation, and although it calls for action now, not later, scenes like these may well tend to harden the attitude of non-black people in the nation. Part or all of the 1960s and 1970s law and order movement was the result of the urban riots of the era. Three Strikes laws in which someone who might have had one serious run-in with the law and then maybe a couple of minor ones or relatively minor, like the famous one where the last strike against a guy was that he stole a pizza, sent an awful lot of people to prison.
Oh, I suppose the violence is a strong statement and will inject some fear among the law-abiding and defenseless, but it also enrages some or at the very least causes some to simply shake their heads and try disassociate themselves with all that and move on.
There indeed needs to be justice in Baltimore and elsewhere. The perpetrators of violence need to be dealt with and at the same time those who use the cover of the police uniform to deny civil rights need to be dealt with. As I say later here we don’t know all the facts about the Freddie Gray incident, but the appearance is that he was mishandled by the police and as a result he died. Black lives matter. All lives matter, even of those of people who for some reason have a run-in with the law or who are under suspicion of doing something wrong.
And it occurs to me here that the little act for the camera I alluded to is an example of how what we used to call broadcast journalism but I guess will just now call video journalism might influence events — where the act of coverage becomes a shaper of real action. It was apparent from the whole video that the guy saw the camera and decided to do a little show. For he began to speak and someone said get on top of the car (I don’t think it was the photographer but from the crowd). Might some of the violence be urged on for the show quality? I don’t mean journalists intentionally do this, but the crowds see the cameras and use them to make a statement. I in no way would want to limit journalism. We need to know what is going on. Just an observation.
My original post follows:
Once again the lawless take advantage of a human tragedy and use it as an excuse to inflict violence, and I guess maybe let off steam about frustrations, and to rob and destroy private and public property. This time in Baltimore, Md.
Some of it is reportedly instigated by normally rival street gangs who have joined forces.
(Even LA police on the West Coast were bracing for trouble from the threat of street gangs going after cops.)
They pay no heed to the family of Freddie Gray, the man who died in police custody under mysterious circumstances, who have urged peace and have expressed dismay over the violence and have condemned it.
Now of course this is all over the ongoing rash of publicized incidents of black people suffering over encounters with mostly white police officers. So yes, there is a reason for frustration. But I think rioting and looting will only hurt the cause.
I know there are a lot of thugs out there and they come in all races, but beyond that I do not understand how anyone would think lawlessness will stop lawlessness.
I’m a white person and I guess I have it good so some will say I just don’t get it, I don’t feel the pain, the stigma, the hopelessness of being a person of color.
I lived as a child and then a teenager and moved into adulthood in the 50s and 60s, in the time of race riots — burn baby burn. Fortunately for me I was not anywhere near all that. I watched it on television in the safety of my own home in my own peaceful neighborhood.
So yeah, there is a problem. Not everyone lives in such serenity. And not everyone is fortunate to grow up in secure and intact households where there is a history of employment and no worry about discrimination. And I have been doing some reading lately that is beginning to convince me that our nation’s long history of racial discrimination, and we’re talking primarily against blacks (most of whom have ancestors brought over here as slaves), and how it has left an indelible mark on the succeeding generations.
Too many wind up on the wrong side of the law, from minor things to not so minor things, and a disproportionate share wind up in prison. In this atmosphere there is too much fear, too much disrespect, and way too much bitterness toward the law, which is more often than not represented by white police officers. Why mostly white police officers? Departments say they can’t get enough blacks who want to be connected to the despised police.
(In all of this, even successful black people complain of being harassed by police, stopped for no reason at all, and being treated with disrespect.)
But no one is helped and so many are hurt by the senseless violence.
Those who have grievances would do better to move through politics. While we hear reports and suggestions that the movement to deny the franchise to blacks is alive and well in many areas, overall most of all of that is gone.
But police forces everywhere need to become active, or pro-active as people like to say, in an all-out effort to make their departments resemble their own communities and to have citizen oversight, and to weed out bad cops.
We don’t know what happened in Baltimore, that is we don’t know how Freddie Gray met his death or why and we need to find out.
But the violence is counterproductive.
People all over the nation see this on their televisions and computers and smartphones. They assess things, and they vote.
How do you think that affects the attitude of people who may be skeptical for the need for change?
Justice will only be served by peaceful demonstrations and lawful political pressure, and of course the court system.
Gleaning the news of all of this I see that people looted stores, simply pulling up in their cars at a mall and taking what they wanted and leaving, and that a pharmacy was torched. So now their fellow citizens could be without some stores if the powers that be feel it’s not a good neighborhood for them, and what about the poor folks who need medicine?
I do feel sorry for the law-abiding citizens of color who have to live there and suffer by association with those who have no respect for civil order. I imagine that they are often intimidated by them.