Until The City Burned

Being peaceful does not equal being silent. Being peaceful does not mean being passive. Peace — let’s call it non-violence — can be constructive, creative, and confrontational.

I detest this random destruction happening in Baltimore. It must be like a flashback to the 60s. The property destruction is awful. No doubt. I see a lot of people upset by it online. But a man was killed by those sworn to protect. That should enrage you more, Baltimore — poor, rich, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, others. He’s nowhere near the first.

Police have a tough job. No doubt. It’s dangerous and it must screw with your perception of reality when you deal with the underbelly of society and see what people are capable of doing to each other. Every day. Like, that’s your job. To wade in man’s inhumanity against man. Or wo-man. Murder, rape, abuse, molestation, trafficking, overdoses, shootings, stabbings, etc.

But that can’t be an excuse to brutalize people. It just … can’t. That’s what we’re talking about here. Not policing but a brutal, violent occupation of poor communities where an encounter with the police can leave you crippled and dead with no recourse for justice.

We see more and more videos of marginalized people literally being killed. And mainstream America doesn’t care. We deserve to be inconvenienced and scared. If there were video of six cops breaking a family dog’s spine (or the equivalent of this case) people would literally be calling for blood and it would be all over my FB feed. We deserve to have our O’s game interrupted.

I don’t know what the answers are or even what I can do that’s constructive. Addressing the lack of accountability of law enforcement is a good start, though.


These people who are rioting and looting are not animals. Stop calling them animals, savages, apes, baboons, etc. You are revealing the fact that you’ve always thought of the mostly poor black people of Baltimore as sub-human.

Do I have to post videos of white people rioting over sports and articles about the lenient treatment for their “rowdy” behavior?

My stepfather was from west Baltimore; the Gilmor Projects. As a teenager he was on the streets during the riots being part of the mayhem. I don’t think he looted — at least I don’t remember that from the stories he told us — but he may have done some property damage and got caught by the National Guard.He was not an animal, savage, or primate. He was young, immature, angry, frustrated, enraged and lashing out. And also just caught up in the mob mentality. I’m not going to pretend it was noble.

He was drafted into the Army and did multiple tours in Vietnam where he became addicted to heroin. He survived. He came back to Baltimore and eventually kicked his drug habit. He started taking college courses. He went to school and got a bachelors and then a masters degree in public administration. He married my mother. He fathered my younger sister who is now a school administrator. He served as president of the Baltimore County School Board, was president of the Maryland School Board, head of the local NAACP chapter, head of the Turners Station Development Corporation, taught at the Community College of Baltimore and Morgan State, worked for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

With structure and a little direction and guidance he went from someone you would label as an animal to someone who has contributed more to Baltimore than any handful of us.

Check yourself.

The media and a lot of you, frankly, are ignoring the peaceful and constructive protests taking place. Violence always overshadows peace, I guess, and it is important to not sweep the negative aspects under the rug.

But you ignore the cries and the pleas and demands for justice when black, poor, mentally ill, or homeless people die at the hands of the State. Until you’re inconvenienced you can’t be bothered to even acknowledge that a problem exists. And then you’re suddenly outraged when property is damaged.

Yes, the millions of dollars in damage is going to cost taxpayer money. You know what else costs millions of dollars of taxpayer money? Settling lawsuits for the abuses, unwarranted deaths and severe injuries in the poor communities where people don’t really have a voice.

Our economy has made a sea change. We don’t make things anymore. Our economy is a service economy and not a production economy. The Bethlehem Steels are shuttered. I don’t know who’s working construction jobs these days. The jobs these communities used to have are non-existent. They’re hit the hardest and recover the slowest, if at all, when the economy stumbles. Education is abysmal. Harsh enforcement of drug policies has unfairly and unjustly targeted the most desperate and the most lost, decimating families as young black men go to jail for doing the same things that white people do (more of). Those convictions, often for minor drug offenses, severely hamper their ability to get work and find housing.

But people really don’t give a s—. Not until they’re inconvenienced or frightened. Ugh. People are the worst.


None of that is to say that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. Bad choices are bad choices. Sometimes it seems like #BlackLivesDontMatterToBlackPeopleEither, judging from the shootings, beefs, videos of street fights, attacks, and unruliness around the country. Seriously. Can you get more than a few handfuls of black folk in one place without fights breaking out or shots being fired? WTredblackandgreenF is that about.

It’s maddening.

Let’s be real. You can’t address what you won’t acknowledge. Or what you don’t want to talk about, or are intensely defensive about because of the way people use it to dehumanize you. (Once you realize that whatever black people do, racists are going to stay racist because it’s practically a theology to them it frees you up to make moves. Smash a police car window or become President of the United States of America. Doesn’t matter. You’re still a nigger or a monkey to these folks. Thanks, Twitter.)


There are very real problems in poor black communities. But in order to deal with the problems within the community people have to be able to trust and work with law enforcement, schools and other organizations and institutions.

It’s a travesty when there are these senseless shootings, but if the police are also killing you — but with no consequences and the curious responsibility of investigating themselves when they thug out — what the hell are people supposed to do?

So, yes. I want the random violence, rioting and looting to end. But even more, I really want you to be outraged at the deaths of these unarmed, disenfranchised men (and women) as the result of paramilitary policing. If these people are thugs for breaking windows, looting, and arson, what does that make six policemen who broke a guys neck and crushed his windpipe for nothing, pretty much?

I hope Mayor Rawlings-Blake can … for goodness sake. De-escalate, please. If you’re going to be tough, be compassionate, too.

Anyway, Freddie Gray should not be a footnote in your emotional outburst about a CVS burning. (Even though it was one of the very few pharmacies in the area and now where will people get their medication. Damnit.)

But look at the people coming out to clean up their communities. Look at the hundreds of clergy marching.

Look at the — oh no. Not Reverend Al. Hey, if I’m ever unjustly gunned down by overzealous police, let it be known that I’d prefer Talib Kweli and Jessie Williams to show up. Reverend Al can do his thing on his TV show from NY and just … stay up there.


Like nearly every major metropolitan area, Baltimore is a tale of at least two cities. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It’s amazing that we haven’t seen a social eruption until now, all things considered.

As much as I want this upheaval to end, I hope that the source is treated and not just the symptoms. Some are calling for prayer. If you pray, pray not only that the mayhem ends but that the conditions that spark the tinderbox end.

I doubt the officers in question will be charged. That’s going to be a problem at some point. If they’re charged with something they probably won’t be convicted. That might be a problem.

If you want peace, bring justice. Jesus. Why is that so hard to do? What more proof do you need to see?

Here are a few off the top of my head. I’m forgetting some, though. Also, where there are videos, if you happened to search for articles you’ll see just how different the police reports are from what happened on the video. You’ll also see how most of those are considered “good” or justified shootings.

Dontrell Stephens

Eric Harris

Walter Scott

Oscar Grant

John Crawford III

Tamir Rice

Kelly Thomas

Eric Garner

David Kassick

Anthony Hill

Tony Robinson

Hm. I have to get to work so I’ll leave the link to this Gawker article:


2 thoughts on “Until The City Burned

    1. Thanks, Mary.

      I know, right. The current awareness is priceless but I don’t know how one brings opportunity (quality education, living wage jobs or an actual industry) to a depressed area.

      People at doing a lot of good work reaching in that community but it’s always an uphill battle.

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