Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man and resident of Baltimore, Maryland, was arrested by Baltimore Police for carrying what they alleged was a switchblade. After brutal treatment, including a “rough ride,” Gray died in police custody on April 19 from spinal cord injuries sustained while riding in the police van. His funeral was held on April 27, and civil unrest ensued thereafter, as protests quickly turned violent.
While violence should never be acceptable, we must look at the deep-rooted causes that ultimately coerced people to take violent action. Rioting is the language of the aggrieved, and though it is far from productive, it is ultimately an emotive response to a painful societal dilemma — one that reverberates similar messages heard from lost generations.
Many dismissed the events in Baltimore as unnecessary violence executed by black Baltimoreans, which shows the strength of the narrative of White America. But this dismissal threatens the notion of a tolerant society. It pays less attention to underlying, communal issues and more attention to sensationalized scenes of rebellion.
The issue in Baltimore goes far beyond black people rioting and looting, which is what the mainstream media spins as its story. Sure, that played a pivotal role in describing the condition of the city, but it was far from worthy of our attention. After all, broken windows do not deserve more media coverage than broken necks.
Even if silence rather than flames encapsulated all of Baltimore, the silence would still be deafening. It would reverberate somber messages that have long been a part of our country’s history: Visceral, institutionalized racism still exists, and our justice system is unfairly skewed in favor of police officers.
The non-violent majority approached the situation with the right intentions by emulating the unsung heroes of our past — the men and women who championed the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. But the events in Baltimore did not begin trending nationally until the riots were televised — a ploy that lessened the significance of the initial, genuine movement advocating justice by way of peaceful protest.
Consequently, many people have allowed the mainstream media’s portrayal of the violence to shape their perceptions. The media fixated on scenes of flamed vehicles and caged convenience stores, augmenting the existing xenophobic narrative that communities like Baltimore are so diligently trying to rewrite.
On Friday, Baltimore breathed a sigh of relief when justice was brought to Freddie Gray. The death was ruled a homicide, and criminal charges will be filed against the six police officers involved in the arrest.
The ruling stands in stark contrast to verdicts of past similar cases; this time the involved officers are actually facing charges. But the wrongdoing of the media and its misrepresentation of Baltimore’s crisis continues to be an issue in the way it portrays social issues and contributes negatively to the way racism is discussed in contemporary America.
The Poly Post, Vol. 30