On my ride home yesterday, the same quote was replaying in my mind: “A system can not fail those it was never built to protect.” And while this quote continued to echo in my mind, I heard a radio personality giving his opinions on the current situation in Baltimore. He made the comment that once you lose order in a society, everything becomes chaos. I was mostly annoyed by his lack of acknowledgement of what triggered this “chaos.”

People are angry with the violence and riots that have ensued since the death of Freddie Gray, and once again black people are being called thugs and the media has drawn all the attention to the riots. Typically in scenarios such as these my response is anger and frustration on all accounts. These people are destroying their communities; damaging their property, all in the name of anger. Once the air has cleared, they will have to return to these communities even more depleted of resources and depleted of community, and they will regret their actions….I have recently changed my position on this issue.

I’ve never really considered myself a vigilante or a person who condones taking the law into one’s own hands, but at some point enough is enough. We’re witnessing an expression of rage from marginalized communities that have suffered under systematic oppression for far too long. While many stay confined to their comfortable lifestyles, their safe neighborhoods, and their abundance of resources, they fail to realize there are other communities that are dangling by a thread. While many are afforded the luxuries of never having a reason to fear law enforcement, others live in communities where police brutality is the norm, where a walk down the street could seal your fate, and where a scarcity of resources is a family’s daily struggle.

With every Eric Garner, every Michael Brown, and every Freddie Gray that we lose, blacks are reminded that our lives have no value in the eyes of society. Clearly society deems our lives less important than the CVS and these cars that are being destroyed because that seems to be the topic of the day. Never mind the young black man who was killed, black people are destroying property. Is the destruction of property more important than black lives?

Another question that many posed is what the rioters are expecting to accomplish from all the rioting. In asking that question, people are completely missing the purpose and the cause of these riots. I’m sure the small portion of people involved in rioting did not stage a meet-up on Saturday and spend hours weighing various options and strategies for tackling this issue before settling on this idea. This was not a planned riot, if there is even such a thing. Their actions are a direct response to the injustice that Freddie Gray endured during his ride to the police station that left him with a severed spinal cord. How would you react if Freddie Gray looked like you? Imagine people who look like you being killed one by one within months of each other for no reason at all except the color of their skin and the perceptions that accompany this skin. Now imagine those people responsible having the luxury of going home the next day with no consequence for their murder. If you let that pot of injustice fester for long enough, it’s bound to run over. If you are pointing out the response without addressing the cause, you are ignoring the fundamental issues, and therefore are a part of the problem. Don’t ignore their suffering. Be sympathetic to it. Work with them- with us- to change it.

From a city whose slave ancestors bought their own freedom to pockets of communities currently riddled with crime and lacking access to educational resources, Baltimore has a story of bravery and triumph coupled with despair. Reading an article recently comparing some parts of Baltimore to a third world country put some things into perspective. The economic disparities are evident. The racial dynamics are evident, as Baltimore has been described as having two sides: “Charm City” and ” Bodymore Murderland.” Police presence in these communities is not symbolic of safety and protection but rather a reinforcement of the institutionalization in black communities. The school to prison pipeline continues to be a major issue, as many children of color are subject to harsher punishments for minor offenses.

We need to address the racial perceptions that fuel the ignorance and hatred in this country. When you live in a system that benefits from structural racism and oppression and your basic rights are violated daily, you feel no connection to the world in that you live. You feel as though you are fighting a battle everyday to survive. And survive, Freddie Gray did not. While I don’t condone the violence, I do understand the rage. It’s a never ending feeling of betrayal and neglect from a broken system.

I’m hoping that in some way Freddie Gray’s murder will help shed some light on these bigger, pressing issues that we face in our society. Socioeconomic inequality, limited access to good quality education, lack of resources, police brutality, and race perceptions in America all need to be addressed. Systems need to be gutted and revamped. Economic inequalities need to be examined from a different lens.

Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Maryland….

As black people aren’t we constantly living in a state of emergency?

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

-James Baldwin

 How do you feel about the Murder of Freddie Gray?