May 15 – Volume 16, #5
“Cause and Effect”
“Nigga for this shit, I need you to get violent….” Jay Z, “D.O.A.”
I had previously committed this space to hip-hop for the next six months. And to be sure, there will be a commitment to hip-hop whenever I write because I can’t help but to be moved by the culture that helped raise me whenever I put ink to paper. And there’s been a lot going on in my world personally that certainly has inspired a whirlwind of emotion in me.
But I would be derelict in my duty as a writer, a sociologist and the nympho of info if I didn’t address the latest police killing, the response of the good people of Baltimore and the idiot media’s response to their response.
I barely know what to say about the latest police homicide. For one, there’s still –somehow at this late date- so much that is unknown about the nature of Freddie Gray’s murder. And by the time you’re reading this, much has been said already on why there continue to be Freddie Grays. And Tamir Rice’s. Michael Browns. Tyree Woodsons. Sean Bells. Victor Whites. Yvette Smiths. And Rekia Boyds. All of these citizens, and hundreds of faceless others, have lost their lives at the hands of the boys & girls in blue that took oaths to protect them.
The inept and aloof media has finally discovered that police-sanctioned murders of black men has continued unabated while they were busy celebrating Obama’s post-racial America. The talking heads, and their know-nothing interview subjects from the political world, have volunteered several quick-fixes.
The solution to end this madness is that we just need more black police officers, some will say. No, we need more diversity training. Body cameras seem a practical answer until one considers that Eric Garner’s execution at the hands of his judge and jury was caught on video. Plenty of others have blamed the victims, who are unable to defend themselves because they were killed in cold-blood. This moronic line of thinking has oscillated between suggesting that running from the police and having a checkered criminal past are sufficient justifications for someone to lose their life in the purported international beacon of democracy. Few original ideas have been brought forward for a centuries-old problem.
Sadly, being subjected to state-sponsored violence isn’t anything new for black America. The only thing that is new is that technology is capturing more of these atrocities, which have sometimes been mistakenly described as public lynchings. While local and federal government officials often turned a blind eye to violence against black men in the decades after the Civil War, what is happening today is far worse because it is the people who are actually hired to protect black people who are killing them. Back then, by-and-large, the lynchings were organized and carried out by private citizens. Afterwards, to be sure, the state gave them a pass for their transgressions. However today’s spate of murders are categorized, it is non debatable that the lives of black men have been treated as disposable for generations.
So it strikes me as quite odd that in the immediate aftermath of the latest wave of violence (not the fuckin’ riots that mainly resulted in damage to poverty, but the police violence that resulted in an actual death) that white media and timid, bourgeois negroes talk of the need for the black pockets of west Baltimore to serve as example to white America that black communities can be peaceful in the face of injustice. Prior to the indictment; in expectation of the police getting away with murder once again, it had even been suggested that the violence could take away from the investigation, a positively silly idea. The investigators had a job to do and nothing short of Armageddon should have distracted them from it.
Another narrative that picked up steam from the idiot box was that peaceful protests are a symbol to America that most of the black community don’t support mindless violence. But it’s not black people in America that need to demonstrate that we can coexist peacefully with white folks. Never has been, never will.
We aren’t the ones that are killing innocent, unarmed white people that we are hired to protect and serve. We generally aren’t the ones serving on juries that ensure that murderers like the cops in New York City and Ferguson never are brought to justice. It seems to me that it is white America that needs to begin to show that they are outraged by the mindless violence taken against their fellow citizens. And many white folks of good will have. Just not enough of the white people in power. And certainly not enough people of any color in uniform.
For the media to promote this line of thinking that it is black folks that need to quell their violent tendencies is not only insulting, it’s incorrect.
Before I proceed, let me be crystal clear. The best and most effective way to combat the systemic police-state executions of black men is true education. Not that bullshit cultural diversity training that police officers have slept through for years. What I mean is a true education that starts from the womb. The hatred of black people –manifested by people of all races in this country- produces subconscious acts like those of the Baltimore police. Your teachers can’t teach you not to think this way, your parents have to. It isn’t that all pigs are actively hating black folks, it’s just that they’ve been taught from day one that black lives actually don’t matter. This makes it far easier to take levels of force that police officers generally wouldn’t dream of taking with white lawbreakers.
And make no mistake, these deaths aren’t merely a police problem. It’s just the police that get to carry their guns around legally and have the best alibis for killing black men. These deaths are a symptom of a larger white supremacy virus that has infected all of us in varying degrees. Retraining the police and improving the technology is a waste of time. We gotta retrain and improve America. There are cameras in police cars now because Rodney King got his ass beat on tape 20 years ago. And shit is worse now than it’s been since the start of the 20th century.
Laws have been changed. Police have gotten so much sensitivity training that they could be mistaken for Drake. Occasionally, rogue policemen have been brought to justice, though not nearly enough. Books have been written, documentaries produced. Protests have been staged. Black bodies continue to pile up.
It is essential that these strategies; and others that can take advantage of the advances and accessibility in technology, continue to be used. However, to pretend that violence is not a viable option in bringing a more expedient resolution to this problem of the color line ignores history. This is especially true of American history, a nation that has never turned the other cheek in the way that the media and political establishment of the nation demand of the black community.
I’m not pro violence. I prefer peace, like most black people. But best believe, if my personal peace is disturbed and I am unable to reason with you, violence is surely going to be an option. Not the first option. Perhaps not the fourth. But American foreign policy has shown us well that if you remove the threat of violence from the table, you quickly find yourself turning into a pussy. Or worse yet, France.
I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Black, white, brown or purple. But I’m not going to pretend that I’ve lost any sleep over some of the officers that were hurt in Baltimore when bricks and rocks were hurled their way. Those officers are casualties of the war that has been declared on the black community and not by the black community. Those who have declared this war don’t get to also set the terms of engagement. Frankly, the news story should have been the Christ-levels of restraint exercised in black communities across the nation in not repeating that scene much, much more often.
Instead, the talking heads attempted to say that the focus should be on Freddie Gray rather than “opportunistic” violence. And that’s true. Gray’s family, and the future Freddie Grays among us, deserve transparency in this case.
But part of the problem is that we view these isolated incidents as isolated incidents when these state-sponsored murders absolutely are not. These murders are part of a systemic, often subconscious mechanism that is designed to destroy black men. Like automatic ATM fees, they no longer require a thinking, conscious human being to enact them to cause harm. They are already programmed into the matrix and operate automatically. Baltimore is a black city with a black mayor. And Freddie Gray was killed at the hands of several black officers. In my experiences, there are few who hate black men in this society more than black cops. Hiring more white-thinking black men to be on the police force isn’t going to bring more justice and peace to the black community. Nor will hiring more police officers of good intentions. The system is broken even if we fix a few people.
Intent isn’t what matters. Harm is. And this system brings disproportionate harm to black men. If we don’t come to grips with that fact we’ll be back here again soon enough. So yes, by all means talk about the specifics of Freddie Gray’s murder.
But the media should have a wide enough attention span and intellectual dexterity to focus on his case while also examining the structural, macro-level issues that cause this to happen again and again and again and again.
And if more black men continue to be killed, more violence will ensue. And it should. And know that if you are in uniform, you’ll be viewed much in the same way that a U.S. soldier would in Vietnam, the Gulf War or any war. Once the soldiers arrive in enemy territory, the natives make no distinction among aggressors. There is no survey to find which solider has a new, doting bride back home. Or which one has a special-needs kid that is really relying on dad’s salary and health benefits. Or which one is actually an advocate of the people he is invading. Those who are threatened only see that they are under attack and do what humans are designed to do: go into self-preservation mode.
The bitch-made media has a short memory, so as the fires burned in Baltimore, it was easy to forget exactly what turn of events lead us to this point. It was another episode of violence against the black community. They isolated Freddie Gray’s death as if we hadn’t been seeing black people killed on TV, literally just about every week.
With this consistent level of carnage, it is not crazy for me; or others, to think that a war has been declared on our community. Shit, frankly for any totally independent and objective observer of the situation, it would be completely irrational to think otherwise. Peaceful protests and diplomatic measures are important negotiating tools in any conflict. But when war is declared, that single-file, target practice shit played out with the British Red Coats.
What the media and other politicians don’t get is that the anger that spurred some isolated violence in Baltimore isn’t just about Freddie Gray. His individual death is about all of us. How can it not be if you’re a conscious black person living through these times? Clearly it is open season to kill any black person at any time for any reason.
Those black kids who pelted the police with rocks and bricks weren’t just randomly attacking the police and other establishments. Theirs was a rational response to actual threats.
Perhaps this response may make much of America very uncomfortable and that’s fair. But any rational person will know that scenes like those are only set to increase if the police killings continue at this rate.
For my fellow black Americans, we must be very careful not to adopt the mindset of those who wish us harm. Many in the black community, including our president, seemed to show more outrage against the kids throwing bricks than the officers who actually took lives. They were labeled thugs, troublemakers and opportunists.
Well I’d like to add one more label: freedom fighters.
This environment has made it where black people all across America live in an uncomfortable environment. Maybe it’s time that white America begins to feel a bit more uncomfortable too. Picket signs and chants that occur hundreds of miles away from white communities can do well to make liberals feel good about themselves. But they aren’t doing much to make the white establishment uncomfortable. Those cats throwing bricks did do that, regardless of what you may think of their tactics.
Consider this, the Baltimore Orioles were so concerned about the safety of the good consumers who drive from the Maryland suburbs to see their ballclub that they chose to cancel two games, play another before an empty stadium, and outright cancel three other home dates. That’s a lot of beer concessions and overpriced parking to sacrifice. Many other businesses followed the Orioles’ example. And while it is too early to tell exactly how much this cost the city, it doesn’t take an econ major to guess that this was a significant hit for an area that isn’t exactly Silicon Valley. For a week, just a few kids throwing bricks paralyzed the economy of a major U.S. city.
There are many good reasons why violence should not be the primary strategy used by the black community in our ongoing effort to stop police riots. The main reasons are simple. We don’t have enough guns, resources or bodies to win that fight.
But the media isn’t trying to discredit the violent freedom fighters because they are concerned about the welfare of Baltimore. They are doing so because they are concerned about the welfare of capitalism. A few pigs suffered some broken bones and that’s a shame. Cry me a river. But the river cried over those officers does not amount to the oceans-worth of blood stained on the hands of dirty cops; and those that protect them, from sea to shining sea.
The only casualty in Baltimore last week was commerce. Businesses have been afraid to set up shop in the ghetto for generations for fear of being the victims of random violence. For a few days at least, much of Baltimore was like a ghetto, a place that people were afraid to venture into. Maybe the solution to the problem posed as the beginning of this prose is to make more of America feel the way greater Baltimore did last week. Maybe if everyone is forced to live like black people have for generations, maybe then, black lives will truly matter. Peace and God bless,