Maryland State Attorney announced recently that six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old black man who died after suffering a mysteriously severed spine after being arrested, would be charged. The charges include manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and second degree assault. After seeing the latest in a long line of young black men killed by police, this is welcome news. However this comes after some disturbing rioting took place. It is unfortunate that what will be remembered most about the protest isn’t the vast majority of people peacefully, but passionately, demanding justice but people burning and looting. We can criticize the media’s focus on that as much as we want but they are what they are. Many suggest that the indictments came as a result of the rioting but I disagree. We have a prosecutor who, unlike others in similar cases, seems to have a desire to see justice done and yes the attention brought on by the protestors surely helps but the mayor, the police chiefs and numerous local black clergymen and Nation Of Islam members have made it clear that rioting is not the way to go. Now that the wheels of justice appear to be turning, at least for now, let’s keep the attention on our people there.
Baltimore is a 65% black city with a black mayor and black police chief but like every other major American city, it has black underclass issues with poverty, drugs, unwed pregnancy and poor education. Those who defended the rioters cited those as root causes but haven’t we done enough of that already? While we should very well demand accountability from society for it’s part in our quality of life, it’s not any government’s responsibility to uplift a community, it’s ours. by now many of us are familiar with the image of the black woman going upside her rioting son’s head. While most of us would agree with what she did a few “blacker than thou” types chided her for playing into the hands of white supremacists and that is way way off. While some may legitimately disagree with the way she went about it, it was apparent that she did it out of fear of him ruining his life doing something stupid which is welcome in a society where too many defend their children, right or wrong, and make excuses for them. If a parent is not supposed to demand accountability from the child or make clear what is acceptable and not acceptable, who is? Getting back to the “It takes a village….” way of thinking would go a long way in giving our community leverage in the “Black lives matter” movement. Let’s raise out own in a way that lets them know that their lives do matter.
Whenever we have “the conversation” with our sons, it’s not only about how to act when approached by the police but how to carry and conduct themselves as black men. We consistently remind them that there will always be the racists among us who will never see them as equals or as worthy of the same rights and respect that they have but the better they grow up to be, the better they’ll be able to deal with it. They are both avid readers, even better than myself or their mother, and that is always refreshing. Remember, books cost a lot less than overpriced sneakers. Our sons also each have savings accounts and while they still have a lot to learn about the value of money, at least they’ll have their spending priorities in place by the time they earn their own money, or at least we hope they do. You better believe that Society Simmons won’t be so easy to oppress.
As despairing as Freddie Gray’s death is, I do see glimmers of hope. I hope that these police killings have at least sparked a sense of getting ourselves together among many of us. Over the last two years a few black teenagers made news by being accepted into more than one Ivy League institution, two into all eight. The common denominator is that they came from homes where education and community service were emphasized. That’s not to say that we can, or should, raise a whole generation of Ivy Leaguers but it goes to show what a difference emphasizing education and service can make. Let’s hope that the enthusiasm and passion shown by the peaceful protesters in Baltimore and elsewhere spills back into the communities they come from. Even if you can’t get your n eighbor to clean his backyard, remember, you still have to keep yours clean.