Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A few thoughts

For what they're worth...

First, I am sick to death of people saying violence doesn't solve anything. Of course it does. We might not like the solution or the manner of arriving at it, but it does. American Revolution, anyone? Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War, Viet Nam, Boston Tea Party? For crying out loud, what a stupid thing to say.

And related to that, if the only violence you condemn is the rioters, you support the murders by police officers.

Secondly, following from that, I am amazed at the number of people who qualify their condemnation of the riots by saying that "of course police who break the law will be punished" (sometimes "should"). In what reality? The Wall Street Journal (how's that for sourcing?) says that there were at least 2718 "justifiable homicides" (defined, oxymoronically, as killings that no cop was indicted for) and 41 officers actually charged (they don't say how many were convicted) between 2004 and 2011. In Maryland alone 109 people have been killed in the past four years, more than 30 in Baltimore. (That's "at least" because police forces aren't actually required to keep track and report those killings.) So most cops who kill aren't punished. The overwhelming majority aren't even indicted. Mostly they're barely even investigated, just getting a few days of paid leave suspension.

Thirdly, I'm sickened by the number of people who think that a criminal record - particularly one held by a black man in a deeply poverty-stricken neighborhood - is grounds for execution. Apparently, for some folks, a 12-year-old boy brings on his own death by not obeying a cop fast enough. Running away from cops because you're terrified of a notorious "rough ride" is not grounds for death. (By the way, harking back a paragraph, Baltimore's police chief claims he never heard of "rough rides", aka "screen tests", even though the city's been sued over them in the past. So yeah.

Fourthly, I'm tired of media who spend all their time chasing ratings by emphasizing the reactions and ignoring the causes. "Equating broken windows with broken spines" is harsh but fair, as they say.

Another thing is all the people asking "why do they destroy their own neighborhood?" Well, why do white people destroy theirs to celebrate football games? Unfair? Then ask yourself this: in what meaningful way is Mondawmin Mall "theirs"? This is old, but might be of interest.

And finally, Freddie Gray is just the last straw: Last year "the Baltimore Sun published a searing 2014 article documenting recent abuses that are national scandals in their own rights. ... $5.7 million is the amount the city paid to victims of brutality between 2011 and 2014. And as huge as that figure is, the more staggering number in the article is this one: "Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil-rights violations." What tiny percentage of the unjustly beaten win formal legal judgments?"

More than that, of course, is in play. It's not just brutal policing to keep people down. It's the place they're being kept down in. From Forbes: "About a quarter of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate in zip code 21217, where the riots broke out on Monday, was 19.1% in 2011."

Rioting is never "right". But sometimes - to paraphrase MLK - it's the only voice that people have.

If we don't want riots, we have to stop lying about fixing the system. Because you can only keep the lid on so long before the pot boils over.

....... Okay, so more than a few. Also: note to self: stop reading the comments on Facebook. And newspapers, too, for that matter.

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