Watching the demonstrations in Baltimore is a lot like watching the riots of the 1960s or the Rodney King protests.
I’ve never been caught in the middle of a violent demonstration, but I can understand the fear that anyone might feel. I also understand the frustration that drives people to such drastic measures.
I don’t condone violence, but I do understand what drives it. It is a lack of hope that things will ever get better. It comes from living in fear that you or someone you live will be next.
These victims of police violence are not thugs — the cops are the ones acting as thugs when they shoot unarmed people or beat someone who already has been subdued.
There have been far too many deaths of young black men in this country. There has been far too much oppression.
The school-to-prison pipeline is real, especially in poor, largely minority communities. Teens can be sent to jail for missing school, and once they’re in the “justice” system, they’re in it for good.
Or let’s say you’re driving while black and you have a tail light out (a friend of mine had his tail light knocked out by a police officer who had just pulled him over for no reason). You don’t have the money to pay the fine and court costs because you work two part-time, low-wage jobs, so you wind up getting your fines increased and losing your license. Now you have no transportation to and from work because the buses don’t run late at night when you need them. So, you lose your job.
Since you haven’t paid your fines, which are increasing by the week, a warrant is issued for your arrest. The cops show up, and you’re headed for jail.
Now your spouse and kids are in a real financial mess. Your teenage son gets angry and starts acting out, and he’s arrested. The cops see him as a threat so they tackle him and cuff and shackle him. He shouts an obscenity and the cops start kicking him, injuring or even killing him.
With only one income, your spouse and your other child become homeless.
This happens all the time in poor neighborhoods. People are jailed for the crime of being poor, and when they finally rise up against the violence perpetrated on them, the privileged classes are more upset about the burning buildings than about the lives lost.
I worked hard for everything I have, but I’m white. I was raised in a white middle-class town by middle-class white parents. No one sees me as a threat because I’m not one of the people who has been oppressed for generations.
It’s not easy putting yourself in the shoes of someone whose entire experience is so different from your own, but it’s time we tried.
Unlike many white, middle-class people, I know what it’s like to live without hope. I’ve been there. I know the desperation.
As I said, I don’t condone the violence, but I certainly do understand it.
Before you call these black youths thugs and criminals, try to imagine what your attitude would be in their situation, and then understand that being a petty criminal wouldn’t bring the death penalty down on you.
I will defend these people against the abusive and violent system that keeps them down because Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. These police killings are no different from the lynchings of the Jim Crow era, and I understand the need of people to rise up against them. They are fighting for their very survival.
Violence begets violence. We need to remember that.