baltimore and beyond … the crisis beneath the crisis
The media coverage of the recent eruption of unrest in Baltimore, which spawned a state of emergency and the presence of over 5,000 National Guardsmen and other law enforcement personnel is an outward manifestation of a crisis of oppression that has gone unchecked for decades if not centuries in this country. The devaluing of black lives by law enforcement and state and local governments, which began with the establishment of a Constitution that did not recognize the Negro as anything other than property, is the blue print that still undergirds American juris prudence. This separate and unequal treatment of black folk by governmental authorities, beginning with the police, the courts and city governments which oversee them, are conditions that have endured through and in spite of emancipation, civil rights struggles and the passing of Federal laws designed to address them. The slow march of the Negro toward equal justice under the law has always been marked by police brutality, murder, and the ever present cover-up by policy departments and government agencies to hide and insulate them from accountability for the atrocities precipitated against African Americans.
It is only now that we’ve entered the age of the digital camera phone and the ever present eyes in the sky of perpetual video monitoring in every American city, that the injustices against black and brown citizens are being unmasked. With the very public executions of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and a host of other black and unarmed men, the systemic targeting of African Americans by police and city governments, has ignited the powder keg of simmering rage, fueled by legal and economic oppression. Baltimore, like cities still yet to blow up, was simply a time bomb waiting to explode. The violent and lawless display in Baltimore by protesters is only a symptom of the ills of inequality and oppression of black folk by a system of unequal justice and treatment under the law, dating back to the era of Jim Crow which defined and established a different set of applied rules and treatment depending on race. Although Jim Crow laws have been struck down, the spirit of these laws is still very much present in a system which is still operated and perpetuated by the great grandsons, and daughters of former slave masters. Old traditions and established perceptions of black inferiority and white supremacy die very hard, if ever.
A pot that simmers and simmers over a hot flame will eventually boil over. These young black men and women are simply rising up against a system that offers them little justice and less opportunity. President Obama, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s reference to the protesters as criminals and thugs is a poignant illustration of how the Empire and those charged with its maintenance and operation, perpetuate negative views of African American youth. How unfortunate indeed when black elected officials join the chorus of establishment voices, in the devaluation and dehumanization of some of our misguided young brothers and sisters. The reckless use of terms like “thugs and criminals” has almost become a synonym with the “n” word, used throughout history to refer to the Negro’s wretchedness. I suggest however that these terms are more applicable to the murderous white police officers responsible for the recent deaths of so many unarmed Black men. This criminal and thug stereotype systemically applied to Black men, is precisely what has been used to fuel the industrial prison complex, and the economic benefit that inures to private investors and state and local governments. These young people are only a by-product of a system of federal, state and local governments that view African Americans as a disposable drain on the financial coffers and patience of white America.
The Empire and its news media conglomerates would have us focus our attention on the “rioting” and the destruction of property, rather than the senseless killing of Freddie Gray and others. Take the example of Toya Graham, the black mother whose viral video looped endlessly on CNN, as she relentlessly and repeatedly struck her 16 year old son with an avalanche of blows to his face and head. Although the reaction to this violent spectacle was met with applause and words of praise for the single mother of six, from white and black news commentators alike, I can only imagine the feigned outrage, and public outcry that would have ensued under any other circumstance. Oddly enough there was not a peep of protest from the cable news pundits, the bleeding heart liberals, or by any of those who are responsible for taking corporal punishment out of the home and the schools in black communities. Under any circumstance other than for the protection of the Empire, its property and and its hypocritical values, such a beat down would have produced vehement outrage from white America, prompting immediate involvement by the state department of social services, and criminal prosecution of Graham for domestic violence and child abuse.
These hypocrites, who condemned Adrian Peterson in principle for disciplining his child in the privacy of his home, are the same politically correct pundits and spin doctors whose position changes depending on the always questionable objectives of the Empire and its news media minions. Where are these bleeding heart liberals who only months ago saturated the airwaves about domestic violence and child abuse, making the Black man the face of child abuse and domestic violence in the Peterson case and others? I believe it no coincidence that the nationwide assault on Black families by state departments of social services for physical discipline of our children is partly responsible for the epidemic rise of incarceration of young black men. Just another example of the Empire taking away the authority of black parents to reign in wayward youth and provide discipline of our children at an early age. Here again we have the ever present double standard by white America. Corporal punishment/ child abuse is okay when it involves protecting the Empire, but criminal when it involves an attempt by black men to discipline their sons in the home.
Although I understand the frustration of the youth, their tactics of destruction and looting of the very neighborhoods and businesses that serve their communities is misguided at best. Furthermore, this lawless behavior plays right into the stereotype and the heavy hand of an already discriminatory criminal justice system. The more than 300 young people arrested and the hundreds more that face impending and possible arrest will be dealt with harshly by a corrupt judicial system that always protects the rights of the white land holder, and relegates too many African Americans to a hopelessness and lack of opportunity that only feeds the American industrial prison complex. I shudder to imagine the carnage that will result if the powder keg of oppression continues unabated, and finally erupts like a domino effect in cities across America.
We must now resist the temptation to put a band aid on a systemic problem of lack of opportunity and hopelessness which breeds contempt and lawlessness by a forgotten generation of young black kids. A total re-evaluation and reconstruction of the policies and priorities of government which takes the boot of oppression from the necks of African Americans is the only real solution. Otherwise the Ferguson’s and Baltimore’s will only be the tip of the iceberg of confrontation between societies which still treat African Americans as if they are “three fifths of a person, with no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”
Gerald Torrence is a lawyer, educator, writer, social and political activist, and motivational speaker living in Atlanta. You can find more insightful opinions from TheTruthTeller at the-truth-teller.com. You can follow Gerald on Twitter @tttspokentruth.