Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Two Wise Voices on Baltimore

It just so happens that two of the people who speak with great wisdom on the racial issues in our criminal justice system today are from Baltimore...Ta-Nehisi Coates and David Simon. Yesterday both of them had something to say about what is happening in their city. Their thoughts don't necessarily align. But I wonder if we have the capacity to hold onto both at the same time.

Ta-Nihisi Coates:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.
David Simon:
But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease. There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.

If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please.
I find myself agreeing with both of them. That creates some cognitive dissonance for me. But I want to let that fester for awhile. I think that's a good thing.

16 comments:

  1. (shrug) others can babble about whether or not it SHOULD happen all they want.

    I think it's more relevant to that it WILL happen with 100% certainty, if a population feels like they have nothing to lose.

    Regardless of "should", it seems like a prudent idea to ensure populations never feel that way.

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    1. My position right now is that I'm listening.

      These are two people I tend to listen to.

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  2. Simon, who I KNOW gets it, to me, winds up sounding like he doesn't. I mean he put real "B'more" people in "The Wire" and got about as real with it as network tv would allow.

    He's ignoring that, not only rioting, but going to war because you don't think how you're being treated is right (i.e. - The Revolutionary War) is, actually, an old and established white tradition. It always becomes problematic when people of color do it.

    No, I'm not condoning tearin' a place up but, if he really wants to see people turn around and go home, a LOT of explaining needs to be done re: Mr. Freddy Gray's neck.

    Simon DEFinitely knows better.

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    1. David Simon gets to write brilliant shows like the Wire, but he's not an expert on police brutality against black boys and me. We will not be going HOME Mr. Simon, not to yours anyway.

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    2. In terms of Baltimore and police brutality, he is as close as you get to being an expert. If you've followed all his work from the Baltimore Sun (yeah, about 20+ years ago), you'd see a collection of articles just about police brutality and race. I guessing either you didn't follow him or you're from a younger generation. If you have time, you should go back and look, its still relevant to today.

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  3. I agree almost with both of them, I would see justice done and the same treatment of the white's who tore apart and burned another city because "they lost a football game or a basketball game" or just for drunken fun at a Pumpkin Fest. It is always the blacks that start out peaceful and yet, I really believe there are anarchists that come into these cities to cause all kinds of problems and the Police come in with the heavy enforcement. I am in sympathy for the property that is lost and the loss of the rights of the people for a peaceful protest. Is there anything on the news of the people that are cleaning up after this mess, it's not the police, city officials, it is the neighbors and others with brooms and shovels to clean up their streets.

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  4. I'm pretty tired right now, and cranky. Read both Coates and Simon, and found myself going back to read Malcolm.
    The day-in-day-out violence of B'More's poor communities, replicated across the nation, erupts, in cycles...many of which I've lived through, and been smack dab in the middle of.

    While I admired the Wire, and knew some of the actors, I think Simon is wrong. Ben Jealous recently pointed out "Now, here is what you probably don't know about the state of Maryland. In a 2011 analysis, Maryland was named as one of the deadliest states in the country for police killings. This year, the ACLU of Maryland identified 109 people who died in encounters with police in Maryland between 2010 and 2014. Accounting for relative population size, black people died at the hands of Maryland police 10 times as often as white people."
    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/benjamin-todd-jealous-black-white-blue-freddie-gray-article-1.2198111

    Nothing has changed in that regard, and there have been peaceful protests in the past. At a certain point the rage and powerlessness finds an outlet, in the same space people have to live in the next day. Bound to happen.. And it is going to happen again.


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    1. In no way do I hear Simon saying that the protesters should go home. He's telling those engaged in violence to go home.

      And I'm sorry, I'm really trying to listen hear and be open to how we change things. But I'm not convinced that violence does that.

      What I see is all my white friends on Facebook saying after yesterday..."See, that's why black people can't have nice things. They loot and burn the place down."

      Now, perhaps you don't care what my white friends think. But they're the same ones that are killing black boys/men.

      So I just want to figure out how we make that stop!

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    2. Perhaps your white friends can explore this: These cops that are killing black unarmed boys and men don't want them to have a nice LIFE. Now that's violence.

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    3. I hear you. I am not pushing the argument that violence changes things. What I am clear about is that "violence" isn't just a matter of burning a CVS. The daily violence of living in decayed communities like those in Baltimore has a cumulative effect. Until we as a nation are willing to face that, these eruptions will continue.
      Sadly, it isn't going to happen any time soon.

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  5. I forgot to add that there are some very interesting comments posted to Simon's piece - taking him to task, from folks from Baltimore.

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  6. I remember 1968. And what happened in 1968 was that white suburbanites saw so many images of urban violence that they got scared. So they elected Richard Nixon president. And that led to 40 years of darkness. I understand what Coates is saying. But any statements that encourage or condone more violence are likely to produce the opposite of the reaction that he probably wants.

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    1. I've had some of the same thoughts today, Joe. Especially when I hear people say that after yesterday, the Republican commitment to criminal justice is over.

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  7. What Republican commitment to criminal justice???

    When was that??

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    1. It's become a big thing in red states.

      http://rightoncrime.com

      Delete
  8. And, as I remember 1968 as well, Mr. Markowitz, while correct, leaves out some additional huge reasons for the Nixon election.

    The increasing protests of the Viet Nam war and Johnson opted out of everything.

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