As riots rage in Baltimore, let’s be abundantly clear about the following:
- The death of Freddie Gray was and is nothing short of an abomination. No one–no one–is supposed to die in police custody. In particular, no one is supposed to have his/her spine severed while in police custody. It is bad enough that Freddie Gray died; it is even worse that he should have had to die so horribly.
- It is beyond obscene that we have yet to hear any kind of cogent explanation as to why Gray died. The police have not exactly been forthcoming with information. Thanks to police silence, Gray is being dishonored in death.
- It is beyond obscene that in Gray’s death, we have yet another data point in favor of the horrible proposition that the police exist not to protect African-Americans, but to hunt them down.
- It is beyond obscene that there is mass rioting in Baltimore. The killing of Freddie Gray–the murder of Freddie Gray–is bad enough, but to endanger more lives, to destroy property, to wreak such havoc that innocent people (many of them minorities) will be put out of work thanks to the destruction of their places of employment; all of this will only serve to exacerbate tensions and harm more people. I agree with Elijah Cummings, who in the linked story states “[w]hen we see policemen being hit, stores being broken into and burned, that’s not who we are. I’m asking people to refrain from that. This is our city. After all the cameras are gone, we still have to live here.”
- It is beyond obscene that there will be some people who will only notice the chaos and destruction associated with the riots, and not think about the conditions that led to the riots. I do not condone the riots in any way, shape or form. They need to stop, and if they are not stopped, they need to be put down in a manner that is consistent with the best traditions of policing. At the same time, one would have to be a fool to not realize that repeated instances of police brutality will serve to antagonize and militarize those who are targeted by brutal police practices. The riots have to stop–on that issue, there can be no doubt. But the conditions that lead to the riots have to be addressed.
- I don’t expect too many white people to put themselves in the shoes of African-Americans, many of whom actually do feel as though they are being hunted and persecuted by the police. But perhaps if all sides made more of an effort to relate to those who see police not as protectors, but as potential killers, we wouldn’t be in this mess.