NEWS FLASH!! The death of Freddie Gray has been ruled a homicide... Charges to be filed against six Baltimore police officers.
The stories of corrupt cops and corrupted precincts are too many to ignore. It is a fact that there are men and women in blue who set out each day to supplement their relatively meager salaries with ill-gotten gains from compromised sources. It is a fact that the 'game' of "cops and robbers" is in many cases more truly a reality of cops who are robbers. Many of us don't quite understand why it is that some young men in certain neighborhoods are deathly afraid of the police. We do not comprehend why an approaching police car is enough reason for certain of these young men to flee. But if you have been robbed of your own ill-gotten gains by those "officers" you understand. If you have been brutalized and had evidence planted on you you might understand. If , like me, you have been mistaken for someone else and shot at... tossed into a police wagon... asked "where is the gun?"... told to "shut the f*ck up!"... and then left in the middle of nowhere when they realize their mistake... yes, you might understand.
As communities, and as a nation, we are witnessing in real time what has been happening with impunity in many neighborhoods for many years. The advent of the twenty four hour news cycle has brought into our living rooms and our consciousness a cruel reality that until now we only ascribed to Hollywood scripts. Well here we are, at a point in American policing when the presumed "good guys" are being shown to be as rotten as any of the "bad guys". In many places in these United States of America people are deathly afraid of the police, and not because they themselves are bad, but because of the quality of police presence they have become accustomed to.
Between 2011 and September 2014 the city of Baltimore paid $5.7 million to alleged victims of police brutality. In that time the city has been involved in 317 lawsuits alleging assault, false arrest, and false imprisonment. A city such as this is wired to explode. But Baltimore isn't unique in this respect. This ignominy is something it shares with many other metropolitan areas and also with small towns like Ferguson, Missouri. Certain media whores want to pretend as if the "thug life" is a reality unique to Black gangsters. Well we have news for them... The thuggery they so despise and want to pin on young men of color pales in comparison to the behavior of many in law enforcement. To paraphrase the character played by Denzel Washington in the Hollywood feature "Training Day".. King Kong ain't got nothing on some of our police.
We now have actual footage of police officers shooting fleeing victims in the back. We see policemen choking the life out of a man whose crime was selling cigarettes on a sidewalk in New York. We see women being held down and punch multiple times in the face by a policeman. We have 72 year old white men without appropriate training, buying their way into police operations so that they can participate in the "hunt" for men of color to shoot... Oh, he is "sorry", he thought the 357 magnum in his hand was a taser gun!
What happened in Baltimore this past week pursuant to the death in police custody of Freddie Gray is a portent of things to come. The statements describing the actions of protesters as 'thugs' feeds on the low hanging fruit of shallow analysis. It does not begin to articulate the real issues in a city that has an underclass that is vastly under-employed, subject to the brutality of law enforcement, and ignored by local and national policy makers. To call protesters who burn police cars and local businesses by derogatory names while ignoring the root causes of their discontent, is to negate the historical essence of the Boston "tea party"... It is to call American politicians and military leaders "thugs" for the retaliatory bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There is a nation within the nation in this country. It consists of the children and grandchildren of Black people who have for centuries been used and abused and denied the benefits of equal treatment under the Law. This nation within the nation is under attack. We are a people who daily witness the continuation of the slave watch. We wonder if our sons and daughters will make it home if they must pass through certain towns and states in our country given the color of their skin. We have had to put in place certain protocols for ourselves and our children just in case they are stopped by the police... Protocols to avert the disaster of living while Black in a culture corrupted by White racism. Our fears, and the fears of those who fear us, are only exacerbated when the actions of law enforcement reinforce the racist stereotypes that were used to rationalize our dehumanization during and after centuries of enslavement. The images of a burning city that our sensationalist media feasts on, are only symbols of what is destined to happen when the Law becomes lawless.