Baltimore Riots: History Repeats Itself, And Still We’ve Learned Nothing

Watching the Baltimore riots, it’s easy to sit in the comforts of one’s own home with a loop of violence and destruction on the television, and completely ignore the raw feelings of injustice. However, it is not only these feelings of injustice that are ignored, but also the very actions that incite such a rage in the first place.

Meanwhile, the focus shifts – you can blame the media or the people who consume it. No longer is the suspicion placed on the possible police perpetrators, but rather the (mostly) high-schoolers who are afraid and angry and hopeless. We will place the blame on the reaction, which is reflective of society’s lack of action and healthy dose of apathy.

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If you don’t think racism and socioeconomic status fuel this type of violence, you are fooling yourself and YOU are part of the problem. Acknowledging the desperation that is obviously felt and experienced by a segment of our citizenry, and holding police accountable when they play cop, judge, jury, and executioner, would be a start. Modern day lynching shouldn’t be accepted by anyone, and the desperation depicted in anger-filled streets by our youth shouldn’t be a surprise. The anger is justifiable. We should have had this sorted out within the last century, at the very least. But, this isn’t an isolated problem.

These illegal indiscretions are deeply rooted in a much larger issue. Yes, the police brutality that takes place is absolutely atrocious but the horrible crimes carried out by men with badges are a symptom of a much larger disease. Racial inequality impacts in ways not recognized by many people in our country, and THAT is the problem. From quality of education to job opportunities to housing to what kinds of groceries one can buy in the store — all dependent upon where one ranks on the socioeconomic ladder.

Cases of police brutality are no more frequent now than they have ever been – we just hear more in the Information Age. Hell, we are just now working towards an official process to track instances of lethal force at the hands of law enforcement. Currently, we don’t have accurate and inclusive statistics to even correctly quantify the issue. Racism never went away, we just stopped talking about it (and began making jokes about anyone that attempted to call it out for what it is. The ignorance card does not, and should not ever trump the so-called “race card.”)

The fact is we have failed to honestly and fairly address the inequality and oppression that has carried over through centuries in our country. This isn’t something we can ever brush under the rug and unfortunately, that is what many of the populace wish to do. Consequently, we will continue to live in a country of great injustice and strife until we collectively grow some metaphorical balls and face our demons.

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I’m not saying rioting, burning, looting, and violence are actions to be employed, nor condoned. We see images of innocent people, small business owners – neighborhoods – all experiencing a devastation that is not easily overcome, emotionally nor economically. But, a little understanding of the causes would go a hell of a long way.

Willful ignorance is especially easy if one has not lived a life of poverty and systematic oppression, which has lasted hundreds of years, impacting generation, after generation, after generation.

For over 300 years the oppressed have been fighting for equality in the United States. 300 years! Since the first recorded slave uprising: The New York Slave Revolt of 1712, the legal reaction of society has been to continue to limit the rights of African-Americans. At first, it was blatant laws limiting gatherings, earning money, growing food, and even learning to read. Now, it’s in the form of underfunding schools in urban areas, criminalizing poverty, the war on drugs, racial profiling, and the skyrocketing incarceration rate.

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How much longer must it be shouted before the message of equality is actually heard? The slow progression that has taken place is the transition from the breaking wheel to nooses to guns and brute force. We went from slavery to segregation to just plain poverty. How many more centuries must pass before true equality, true civil rights, true liberty and freedom come to the United States? How much longer should our citizens sit, uncomfortably placated, before finally saying enough is enough?

Featured image via Twitter/Occupy Wall Street

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