How many times do we have to say it? Know justice: Know peace. No Justice: No Peace. Last night I heard Baltimore's Mayor call the people perpetrating the riots in her city, "thugs." I can't even imagine what she, the citizens effected, and the brave men and women in uniform there must be feeling. And who knows? Maybe she's right. Perhaps there are some misguided souls out there simply hurting Baltimore's businesses, communities and servicemen and servicewomen for shits and giggles. If that's true though, I highly doubt that number of people can be very substantial. As I wrote about when discussing the Ferguson riots last year, I truly believe that when a tragic antecedent occurs (like the death of Freddie Gray or Michael Brown), it awakens a sleeping giant in people.
While we like to think we are a progressive society -- and in many ways we are -- we are not where we need to be. In fact we are far from it. What kind of issues are worth rioting over? In 1997 (just a few years after the Rodney King riots) Bernie Sanders wrote that he believed the biggest problems facing our country were: "...the unfair distribution of wealth, the decline of decent-paying jobs, the erosion of our democracy, the unchecked power of the corporate media, the insufficiency of our healthcare system," and "the inadequacies of American education." In that time, do you think our country has improved in the areas he outlined? It seems to me like the rate at which the quality of life is disintegrating for everyday folks is inversely proportional to the rising of corporate greed. As of April 2014, the average CEO made 331 times the amount of one of his or her workers. Or 774 times more than that of their minimum wage workers. Our systems are broken, ya'll. There is no doubt about it. Personally, I am blessed to know a lot of impossible people who bust it every single day trying to rectify this. Do I wish the people who are currently inciting riots could be among those instead of getting heard in this way? Absolutely. But do I think we can dismiss the issues I'm discussing here as irrelevant to the rioting? Absolutely not.
Now, I like the idea that if you bring a problem to the table, you should bring a solution too. So, how do I propose we fix the enormous problems which I believe are the true culprits behind situations like these? I don't have all the answers, but I think a good place to start is by doing something that comes naturally to all of us: talking. If you're a person of means, I say start by asking your neighbors this question: why should it take riots for us to hear the crys of the poor, the sick, & the disenfranchised? If you know someone who might engage in harmful activity like riots, to them, I say pose this: why should it take tragedy to connect with the totally justified grief over social injustice? To all of us, I ask: how many of our communities need to burn before we get the message? Economic inequality is unfair, unjust, and cruel. If we are okay with treating people like animals, don't get surprised when people act cagey and shake the earth beneath your feet. But if we -- the people -- want more, we have to fight for it. Find your fight! Get up. Read up. Show up. Get organized. Make a difference. If not now, when?