The Baltimore Riots: Understanding the Language of the Unheard

04/30/2015 02:35 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015

Some 10,000 peaceful protesters marched in Baltimore in support of Freddie Gray, another black man killed in police custody. But despite the vast majority, the media has once again chosen to fix its hyperbolic lens on the 1 percent destroying property. Immediately, social media swarmed with those condemning the rioting and looting, obtusely taking the focus off the bigger picture. It seems we are now immersed in a world where unjust social conditions are overshadowed by the byproducts they create; where context is skewed or forgotten all-together.

Too many are the voices that scream for the riots to stop, and too few are those who implore for the injustice to cease. You cannot so vehemently condemn rioters in an environment that cultivates them; in a society that breeds the kind of disconnect that can only end in backlash. Violence breeds violence, and our government holds the patent.

Still, much of the country wonders how this group of rioters can be so destructive in their own community. Easy. When you feel intrinsically alienated from the very community in which you live, it isn't difficult to harbor the kind of resentment it takes to burn it down. The stores they loot are the stores that fail to feed them and their families on their meager or non-existent salaries. The police they hurl rocks at are the supposed civil servants who have forsaken them; who rob them of their basic rights; who kill them in cold blood.

I don't need to condone looting or violence to comprehend it. I understand that vandalism is a statement -- from graffiti on the side of a building to a police car set ablaze. That car is a burning torch representing the freedom we so sorely lack. The fundamental rights of the oppressed who have been heinously deprived. "A riot is the language of the unheard," as Martin Luther King so eloquently stated. And when the world around you refuses to listen for so long, it can seem that the only language that yields attention is the kind that destroys everything you want so badly to be a part of. It is a desperate and final act of self-destruction when all else has failed.

But the mainstream media and government elite don't want you to focus on the reasons why some turn to harmful behavior. They certainly don't want to show you the thousands of people peaceably marching hand-in-hand, united against a tyranny that has killed far more of our citizens than the ISIS boogiemen they use to keep us afraid and support their nightmarish merry-go-round of war. The same sources that brought you two weeks of Ebola fear mongering in the style of 28 Days Later. They want to show you burning cars and broken glass. They want to show you the minuscule minority of blacks who are wreaking havoc; the rock throwing, the chaos, the drama. They want ratings. They want you to call these people "animals" so we can continue to treat them as such; to further an agenda of segregation --black and white, right and left, gay and straight, good versus evil-- The media and government thrive on this, because it keeps us busy and ignorant. It makes us competitors instead of a united community, and most of all, it makes them money.

News outlets are the ultimate reality television. They use the resources they have just like any Hollywood production. The camera angles, the editing and the sound --all of it constructed and fabricated to set the tone and sell you some cockeyed ideology of fear and hatred. And we have become asphyxiated by it to the point where we fail to address the root origin of our most crucial issues.

Looting and violence is not the answer to the problems that plague us, but neither is demonizing those who live in the sort of pain, turmoil and oppression that causes them to act out and retaliate in such a way. When we become more concerned with shattered windows than with shattered spines, more concerned with broken storefronts than broken spirits, we have lost our way.