In the long shadow of the Egyptian Twitter Revolution and the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution, post Monday morning riots in the city of Baltimore left me, as most of us, with various feelings. By Tuesday morning, without any conscious thought to this song, I awoke humming the tune Let 'em In written and sung by Paul McCartney in 1976. Quite fitting the song is since the protestors -- who have been called "thugs" and repeatedly excoriated for their "vile," "senseless," "criminal" and "idiotic" behavior -- are rightfully expressing their disdain and disrespect for a system that makes them feel like window shoppers. In any other country, we would hurrah their efforts to send such visually destructive signals to their governments, particularly, if those countries repeatedly excused state-imposed acts of brutal violence. In reality, we even go so far as to fund those revolutionary processes to help those countries restructure their governments.
But, to raise a son to the age of 25, under the American flag, only to have him delivered to the hands of those sworn to protect his community, paid with American tax dollars, and yet returned to a mother purportedly with a broken leg, battered head, broken neck and multiple body bruises for no crime at all -- in a country, mind you, that professes "liberty and justice for all" and "innocent until proven guilty" -- is not an experience that any parent, of any ethnicity, should ever be forced to undergo. Nor is it an act that any community should bear the burden to forgive without justice to the perpetrators. How long must we all bear witness to acts violence against innocent Americans that in any other country we would protest as human rights violations?
In 1965, Dr. King gave a speech lifting his voice to the crowd, "How long? How long will prejudice blind the visions of men?" eventually retorted by "Not long." Yet, our country is still waiting. And though I don't often agree with Rush Limbaugh, I, nevertheless, have to agree with him on his commentary that in the last five plus decades of his life, "those people," referencing those now in American inner-city communities and their supporters, have tried the same things and gotten the same results -- which is little to nothing. He rightfully concludes that no matter what "concessions" are made that "those people" are "never happy." True. They are never happy. Because, they are not asking for concessions. They are asking for equity, respect and that grown men (and women) take responsibility for their actions and be, likewise, held accountable. So, nationally, when officers of the law follow a bad apple and behave like the culprits of our nation's historic Emmett Till case and do so with little recourse, it appears we've allowed a generational hatred to slip from under sheets into jobs with uniforms -- marring what former Mayor Giuliani often calls "the best police force in the world" (when speaking of NY and American police officers in general). And so, in accordance with Rush's observations, Americans will continue to see the same forms of protests done again and again.
Furthermore, "concessions" serve as a band-aid. The national failure to acknowledge the disdain for life that can cause any man to fatally beat someone he does not know, to callously shoot a hand-cuffed young man in the back, to lethally snipe an immigrant retreating to his home for shelter from his crazed pursuers, to relentlessly beat an aimlessly wandering woman in her face, is our national failure alone. No one is causing us to ignore the bad apples that infiltrate our police forces and put the job of American officers on display only when their hateful actions are caught on film. Thus, the generations who've grown up on a visual diet of bad policing tactics have lost hope in what clergy or governments promise. They have come to side with the late Gil Scott Heron to know "There Ain't No Such Thing as A Superman," and to know that unlike Egypt and the Ukraine, no one seems to be coming to their aid with long term solutions.
Thus, it is no surprise that we should see this, conveniently labelled, "thuggery" in the Baltimore's streets. If this generation was not restricted to window shopping, they would not be outside breaking the windows. "How long?" has been too long for a people just asking to become a respected and functioning part of a system. "Those people" are not asking for inter-generational dependency programs. They are not asking for hand-outs. They are asking for skilled solutions based in respectful, collaborative efforts, like expanding programs such as YearUp. In a capitalist country, preachers and politicians alone cannot improve economic situations. Baltimore is a "knock" for financial investment solutions as well as justice. And though every police brutality incident has a different raison d'être, if Republicans, who espouse faith in the market miss this calling to support the creation of competitive job skills and Democrats miss the humanitarian need for economic change and both parties simply seek police body-cams, then, we as a nation will continue to hear these knocks -- riots -- at our door.
If we could see the events in Baltimore through a different prism like the witful comparative provided by journalist Karen Attiah, Baltimore's experience could become a catalysts for sprouting inner-city entrepreneurial hubs, providing a process for improving economic opportunities and serve as a training ground for positive policing solutions. Although, I am not suggesting that residents again sit and wait for the Economic Avengers to arrive at their door steps, I am suggesting that we all "lean in" as a "colorless" America to figure out how to create such an economic coalition for systemic change. "Those people" and "those communities" are a part of our collective America. We've heard and read over and over that Americans of African descent have an economic buying power now exceeding $1.1 Trillion dollars. If moral incentives are not enough to make a nation open the door to equity and halt the dispensing of hatred without justice, maybe incentivizing communities to value their citizens' financial potential is the answer.
Too many people throughout our nation's history have died deaths like Freddie Gray's. Too many others -- of various ethnic groups -- have died deaths from our civil wars (documented or not) hoping to "do the right thing." Yet, it is time that we Americans find a way to "Let 'em in," because "those" American citizens have been knocking for way too long.
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