Yesterday I became embroiled in a discussion on Facebook about systemic racism in America and what is happening in the streets of Baltimore. As I attempted to understand it all I was perceived by some as being in support of the mayhem and violence that is racking that city. The same thing happened when I tried to openly discuss what occurred in Ferguson last year.
In my life television has brought any number of urban riots into my living room and I have not supported or found justification for any of them. I do not support the violent expression of the rights to peacefully assemble and redress grievances. Rioting is illegal and not protected by the laws of the land.
But while I do not support it I can stand back and through the eyes of historical knowledge and experience see how it can happen. People can long suffer and eventually become so frustrated or demoralized they resort to violence. History is full of such examples.
Saying that is not to prove what is going on in Baltimore. I do not like it, I so not support it, but I do attempt to understand it. And that’s what I think so many don’t try to do. Too many simply look at the flames, the rocks, and the tear gas and resort to shouting epitaphs and racial slurs. I saw a post yesterday from a former black student stating her anger and frustration at the number of times she’s heard the “N” word since this began. I lost my cool when a white retiree told a young black friend that he, “Didn’t understand social injustice.” Imagine, a guy who came from a solid middle-class home in a solid middle-class white community, armed with a degree from a major university, retired at an early age from a respected and secure career and living out his life on a golf course or cruise ship telling a black man he didn’t understand something most white people have not and will not experience in their entire lives.
While I am not asking anyone to approve of what is happening or how people are expressing their frustrations I will say this. You can hate what’s happening, you can get angry, you can shout epitaphs all you wish, but it will not change a thing. In my seventy-three years on earth none of that has changed a thing, and it won’t. These episodes of violence will never go away until the underlying causes go away and that never happens. The average American reacts to the images on their TV but does little to understand and eliminate the root causes. We live with a crisis mentality, doing noting until a crisis erupts. And once the fire has been put out we go back to watching ESPN.