Watching the events play out in Baltimore is an education to some, to others, it’s a why question. Why didn’t this happen sooner? The fact is whether you like it or not, life in the inner city is purely shit for the average African-American citizen.
Every deck is stacked against the individual trying to survive. Poor schools, no jobs are just the beginning. We see nothing less than a systematic attempt to herd “unwelcomes” into small enclaves and then devote all our money and energies to “other interests.”
We not only condone racism in this country but we grow it.
We demean people even when we give them the pittances we do, by making them take drug tests, and defining what food stamps can be used for, and attaching so many rules and regulation to any sort of assistance that you end up in the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario.
And when people rise up out of anger and frustration and disgust at the injustices they endure, we blame it all back on them and their “fatherless” homes, where unfortunate black youths learn no morals or sense of obedience to authority. Above all that, they have no respect for their betters.
One young man fairly told Geraldo Rivera to take his white ass and get out of town. They recognize Fox for what it is, purveyors of hate upon their heads. Geraldo, the youth said, you are only interested in filming what you call “thugs” rioting. You and Fox haven’t been interested in coming here to report on the daily injustice that we face.
To those of us who have engaged in the criminal justice system in this country in large metropolitan cities, we know all too well of what the young man speaks. As Alan Dershowitz explained in his Rules of the Justice Game, “almost all police officers lie about whether they violated the constitution in order to convict guilty defendants”, (rule IV) and all prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys are aware of rule IV. Worse, they look the other way. Like it or not, it’s true.
The recent public exposure of these cases of police overreach, abuse and lying comes as no surprise to us. I recall a dear friend of mine, a street cop from Detroit, whom I had argued with good-naturedly about whether police could do their job and still tell the truth. He was called to testify on an arrest and to make his point to me, told the truth. The case was dismissed for lack of “probable cause”. He grinned at me, as he walked from the courtroom. “See what you get when you tell the truth?”
We understood it, and we accepted it as a the way life was. We knew that in most cases the officers were at least sure they had the right guy.
But there is a segment of police officers within each department who do not care. They figure one black body is as good as any other, and they have ambitions, and a host of emotionally based reasons for throwing their authority around and not caring who gets caught up in their game.
Therein lies the problem.
And a solution comes from an unlikely source:
The gangs of Baltimore.
The major gangs have declared a truce, and apparently are devoting their time and efforts to helping their community respond in a politically helpful way to the recurrent injustice visited upon them in general and in the Freddie Gray case in particular.
It boggles the mind. Young men hell-bent on killing each other, and unfortunately any innocents that get in the way, have come together and agreed that for now at least, they will stop the violence against each other, and help organize their community to stop police violence against them all.
This is no small thing. Thinking, educated, above middle-class men and women only a few miles away, encased in a glorious white facade of sandstone and marble, are unable to agree upon even the most basic of things because screwing the black guy in the White House seems paramount.
Yet these young men have agreed to set aside their differences and work together for the common good of their community.
And the gang has a good deal to offer should it choose to actually follow through. Long the center of loyalty, and business acumen (albeit illegal) it mirrors many good traits that the young can well adopt. Strong Black men, helping their community? What’s not to like here. They teach loyalty, respect, and how purpose can bring about change. Somehow in their matriarchal upbringing, they have managed to become quite savvy at things they aren’t supposed to understand at all.
They in a real sense complement their environment, reflecting an honest if not legal response to the tremendous burdens and disadvantages heaped upon them since birth. They have the ability to encourage the younger kids coming up at least in the character requirements of making their way in a racist world while still standing firm for dignity.
No one argues that gangs are stellar examples to our youth. They have not been since the days of the Irish gangs, the Puerto Rican ones or any of the others. But all ethnic groups plagued with the criminal element within have always managed to take those good attributes and bettered themselves and their communities. And the Black community is no different. It too learns the right lessons along with the less savory.
Larry Wilmore, on his show The Nightly Show, did a most important thing on Thursday. He sat down with gang bangers in a diner and just talked. And they were articulate, and politically aware, and sincere. And that matters and should matter, and should make us hang our heads in shame when we cannot expect better from our paid politicians, and we cannot seem to expect more of ourselves in insisting on our own justice from the tyranny of big money and big K Street influence.
Perhaps it will be the gangs of Baltimore that will lead the way in helping us to see that we are not without recourse in our own struggles to retake command of our government. We need merely to stop focusing on our differences and agree that we are not being heard. None of us, for anything. And it’s time to change that. And if it takes a gang to explain that to us, well, more power to them.
And that’s a compliment in case you didn’t realize it.
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