The Gray Matter–The matter of 25 year old Freddy Gray’s death from a severed spine after being in police custody last week, has inspired peaceful protest for police reform, as well as outrageous violence, rioting, looting and arson. Gray was arrested by Baltimore Police 2 weeks ago. What exactly happened after he was taken into police custody is unclear, or at least unanswered to the public. The issue of police brutality has been painted in black and white, and the recent high profile cases of deaths occurring at the hands of police officers has much of the public outraged by excessive violence from the police.
The police departments have suggested that these tragedies have occurred within the confines of the law, and that violent suspects,or suspects near violence, have caused the police reactions. Kill or be killed. Is it just the rogue cop or two (in each precinct)? It’s got to be more than that.
Those who say that they understand the rage underneath the current violence in Baltimore because there are no longer decent jobs due to globalization, must be younger than I (and/or unaware of history). I was born and raised in B’more, and lived there until I was 17. Baltimore always seemed deeply segregated to me. Racially, economically, ethnically…..and there was a terribly impoverished inner city long before globalization. I moved from Baltimore in 1981. It was always an extremely dangerous (and sad) place to me, despite its other charms. There are beautiful areas, historic, cultural, quirky, and also the hideous stuff that provided the stories for “The Wire” and “Homicide”.
It is easy to lump all the recent police brutality incidents together; all these racially charged incidents together; impoverished areas with high crime rates together. There are indeed similarities and patterns.There also seems to be an unwillingness to acknowledge the entrenched tragedies on all sides: thugs who are cops and thugs who are not cops; an entrenched system of economic failure and a culture of violence; lack of vision; lack of hope; lack of change; lack of leadership; lack of decent homes, schools, or jobs; not being more.
The violence following the protests and funeral for Freddy Gray yesterday were disturbing and sad, but sadly, not unfamiliar nor unexpected. We wanted B’more to BE MORE. We want all of our communities to BE MORE for all of us. We want our police to BE MORE for all of us. We want our elected officials to BE MORE for all of us. We want our schools and medical facilities to BE MORE for all of us.
Maybe the takeaway from B’More is just that. Be More than your circumstances. Be More than your fears. Be More than your anger. Be More than your habits. Be More than your desires. Be More than you’ve been, or than you might have been. Be more for all of us.