(Photo: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
There’s something grossly, profoundly unfair happening in Baltimore and across the country tonight.
It’s unfair that so much of the media coverage tends to come from white anchors, reporters and commentators (like me), who’ve never experienced what it’s like to be a person of color who’s confronted by police brutality — on camera or off. This isn’t to suggest that only African-Americans are allowed to comment on issues within African-American communities, but one thing was clear from Monday’s coverage: Wolf Blitzer might not be the most insightful moderator for such a discussion.
It’s unfair that the memory of Freddie Gray, the latest victim of unfair police profiling and excessive force, is besmirched by looters and rioters who are effectively spitting on his grave by turning what ought to be peaceful protests into self-serving violence and theft — where personal outrage and greed supersede a far more noble cause. The fact is, the looters probably don’t care too much who was killed or by whom. They’re merely piggy-backing their personal greed and lack of morality onto an entirely unrelated event.
It’s unfair that more commentators don’t make a clear distinction between the original tragedy and the violent unrest.
It’s unfair that the news media focuses so much time and coverage on the darker aspects of what’s happening, rather than balancing the coverage by showing neighbors helping neighbors and ministers preaching nonviolence and peaceful demonstrations. Sure, if it bleeds it leads, but as we’ve seen on countless occasions, viewers also love heroes, and throughout the day Monday, the heroes were marginalized in lieu of showing burned out cars and drugstores on fire.
It’s unfair to the broader African-American community, which still struggles with racism and racial discrimination, that a relative few looters reinforce the ugly stereotypes marketed by those who seek to separate rather than unite. The looters and assailants are no more representative of the African-American community than secessionist Bundy ranch hooligans are representative of whites.
It’s unfair that poverty, one of the root causes of racial animosity, isn’t viewed by more Americans as a national problem demanding national solutions, rather than a wedge to be marginalized, ridiculed and demagogued with racial scare-words and Southern Strategy dog-whistles.
It’s unfair that shop owners and franchises have been robbed and burned through no fault of their own.
It’s unfair that nearsighted haters and bigots view rioting and looting as an exclusively African-American problem when it’s absolutely not.
Huntington Beach, 2013, following a surfing competition:
Vancouver, 2011, following a hockey game:
The 2014 New Hampshire Pumpkin Riot:
San Francisco, 2014:
Lexington, Kentucky, 2012:
It’s unfair that some people will use the above examples to justify the rioting in Baltimore when, in fact, all of it is equally reprehensible. Although, to repeat, very few if any observers look at white riots and paint all white people as savages or thugs. That’s not the case with people of color.
It’s unfair to the good cops — the police officers who play by the book and believe in equal justice. The vast majority of Baltimore African-Americans are law-abiding citizens, likewise an equal percentage of police officers nationwide, both black officers and white, are completely on-the-level — doing hard, often heroic work for not enough pay.
And finally, it’s unfair that Freddie Gray and too many others before him are dead today due to systemic profiling and excessive force inside our police departments. It’s unfair that African-Americans can’t rely upon white police officers to administer equal justice and instead must live in fear of unjust incarceration or worse.
There’s no fairness in Baltimore tonight and, sadly, there are too many observers on the internet and elsewhere who are perpetuating this unfairness rather than resolving it.