The last year has been eye opening for many people. The black American plight officially made it past the boundaries of this country and is open for the entire world to see. While the rest of the world is finally seeing the struggle the black Americans still go through, black people have always been aware. We are always reminded of the color of our skin; whether it’s in the classroom, at the store, walking down the street or with a group non-black friends. No matter how good you are, it is never quite good enough to prove to the world the worthiness of black people. If you are a successful black man or woman, you are believed to be the exception. You are not really representing blacks. We are always reminded the much of the world views us as inferior.
The murders of people of color by officers over the past year have been amplified. These acts of brutality aren’t new but thanks to social media and technology, it is no longer just the problem of blacks. Growing up we knew better than to trust the cops. We wouldn’t call the police unless it was absolutely necessary. The black community and law enforcement have had strained relations long before now.
Many people are criticizing the acts of youth in Baltimore right now, the same way the criticized the youth in St.Louis. I refused to do that. Right now teenagers of color have it bad. They are being taught in classrooms that they aren’t shit. The government reminds them that they are worthless everyday when more money is invested in the prison system than in their schools and communities. As a youth worker, I’ve had discussions with teenage boys who had no desire to dream because they knew for most of them it wasn’t worth it. Many black teens have accepted that they may not live past 24 and that their days as a free man are limited. Prison has become an accepted right of passage. Violent encounters with the police are expected. Living in poverty with no access to health care is the regular. So excuse them for not giving a damn. Excuse them for their refusal to respect the institution that doesn’t respect them.
Personally, I think they have it right. They have the right to be angry. They are the main targets. Those who hate people of color are trying to eliminate POCs while they are young. Black youth are choosing to go out fighting over laying down. They are challenging an unjust and illegitimate authority. I fear for them just as much as I am proud of them. I want them to know that they have power. They can change their own lives. They can make a difference. The youth are so often ignored and silenced and now they refuse to be. I admire it.
I wish things could be peaceful, fair and just. I wish that peaceful protest garnered as much media and political attention as the riots and uprisings did. We don’t live in that world right now. A friend of mine told me a long time ago to be a hellraiser and to raise hellraisers. He told me that polite people don’t incite change, only those who are willing to disrupt the comfort of those in power can. I think today’s teenagers are hellraisers. I believe that they know where the world should be and they will continue to push the world to that level.
Is the violence, looting and destruction of property necessary? History has taught us that every great revolution has two sides: the violent and non violent. So to answer the question, I would say yes. Yesterday’s events in Baltimore were necessary. The events in Saint Louis (Ferguson) were necessary, LA was necessary. That being said, we still need the other side. We need those leaders that call for calm. We need those who will redirect the anger of the youth. We need those who are willing to stand in front of storefronts to protect the community’s businesses. Together both sides have a role. They balance each other. So, I can admit that the violence and destruction of property is necessary. It has a role to play in the growing revolution.
Ending Police brutality is just the first step. We will eventually break down the foundation of the system that oppresses people of color. Poverty will no longer determine a person’s health or ability to be successful. It is not just about Mike Brown, John Garner or Freddie Gray. It is about setting a group of people free that have been enslaved since the slave trade.
I could go on forever about the subject. Instead I will suggest some readings.
–The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
–Nigger by Randall Kennedy
–Black Boy by Richard Wright
–Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton
–Motorcycle Diaries I and II by Che Guevarra
–Angela Davis, An Autobiography by Angela Davis (she also have several books on prison injustice. I have not read them yet).
*Yes, I have read them all. I am recommended them because they give different perspectives throughout time of the effects of racism, poverty, classism, etc.