The Real Destruction of Baltimore

The Real Destruction of Baltimore

Adrienne BoettingerWednesday,29 April 2015

It’s been somewhat hypnotic to watch the city I was born in tear itself apart. I can’t look away. And I want to take the people getting the story wrong and slap them upside their fat heads.

The real destruction of Baltimore isn’t the 15 structural fires from Monday’s riots. It’s not the cop cars with their windows smashed, or the local businesses looted or destroyed. It’s not the canceling of a ballgame or even the rocks being thrown at cops.

It is very easy to sit in my suburban home, check in to make sure my family and friends are safe and sound (and have a place to stay outside the city), and shake my head at teenagers destroying their own communities. It is easy to call them thugs or say nothing excuses the violent way they have conducted themselves over the past few days. It is easy to feel safe knowing that I am far enough away from the chaos. And it is easy to lay blame at the feet of city and state officials for not moving fast enough, police for not more forcefully preventing the riots, absentee fathers for not being role models for their kids, and teens for not realizing the enormity of their actions.

There is plenty of blame to go around because the real destruction of Baltimore has taken place over decades, not days. When you grow up in a community where you have no hope, feel that you have no choices, where you’re more likely to go to jail or be shot than you are to be fully employed, go to college, own your own home — what do you do? It’s easy to say what you or I wouldn’t do. We wouldn’t ruin the few businesses in our area, thus limiting our employment options further. We wouldn’t steal or set fires or anything like that.

But that’s not really answering the question: what would you do? How would you know what options are out there when the main choices you see are drugs, unemployment, jail, gangs or death? How would you know what is possible, what potential you have?

I’ve been so very moved to see the ways real people are taking real action to make things a little better for themselves, their neighbors and people they don’t even know. The Nation of Islam stood in front of stores to prevent looting. Police and emergency response by and large showed remarkable restraint in what must have been a terrifying environment. Clergy gathered in the midst of rioting, knelt down and prayed for peace. Then they put their money where their mouths were and organized gangs, schoolkids, mothers, fathers, the poor, the disenfranchised, and strangers to clean up the mess, be flesh and blood role models for children who dearly need them, help the helpless — in short to do all the things the media, pundits, and middle and upper classes were accusing them of not doing. They put themselves on the line, gave their time, risked their own safety and got their hands dirty.

And I’m so very worried for what the days ahead will bring — when the results of the Baltimore Police Department’s investigation into their own actions regarding the horrible killing of Freddie Gray will be released. When we’ll find out who, if anyone, will be held accountable for the fact that the Grays lost a son and brother. The family – and the public – need to understand what actually happened that led to his death. But what is happening in Baltimore now goes beyond that. How will we prevent other men and boys from becoming the next Freddie Gray? How much longer will we think that we can afford to ignore the wide-as-a-mile rift in terms of the rich and the poor? How much longer will we comfort ourselves with our own economic, social and political security while mere minutes away, people are barely getting by?

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Hat Tips:

Washington PostMicThink ProgressBaltimore Sun, Image Credit: Flickr

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