As an American, recent events in our society have greatly upset me. Ferguson. The Charleston Church Shootings. More specifically...the riots in Baltimore. Beyond just the violence, I'm highly disturbed by much of the commentary; not only from the media, but by people that I encounter on an every day basis. It appears that many are entirely missing the point and the significance of what is occurring. In the illustrious words of Miss Lauryn Hill, "If you're looking for the answers, then you've gotta ask the questions." Therefore, let me begin with the facts:
The 2015 Baltimore Riots were sparked due to protests about Freddie Gray, a 25 yr old who was arrested, handcuffed, and thrown into a van, after which he was taken on a "rough ride", which broke his spinal chord, killing him 7 days later. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, a "rough ride" is when police officers put a handcuffed suspect in the back of a van with no seat belt and then drive recklessly, causing the individual to be tossed around without the ability to brace or prepare for impact. Peaceful protests had been occurring throughout the city for weeks at the time. Of course there was no media coverage for this. The people once again were ignored...
Let's take a quick look at the inequality in Baltimore: The city of Baltimore has paid more than $5 million in police brutality cases in the last 4 years. After the cases are settled, non-disparagement clauses are written into the settlements forcing the victims into silence. 25% of Baltimore live below the poverty line. Less than 60% of Baltimore students graduate. Black infants are 9 times more likely to die before the age of 1 than white infants. The infant mortality rate is on par with that of Moldova and Belize. Only 6 miles separate North Baltimore and West Baltimore, yet the average income for North Baltimore residents is $92,000 compared to $24,000 in West Baltimore, where the riots took place.
One look at the numbers and the most immediate question is, why the discrepancy? Why are there no new schools in Baltimore? Why has the Governor of Maryland recently just rejected $11.6 Million in additional funding for Baltimore schools, yet has approved a $30 Million youth jail in the city? Why are there bad jobs and a lack of opportunities? Why are the health conditions so bad when one of the best health systems in the WORLD is John Hopkins, located IN Baltimore? Once you ask these questions, it becomes quite clear that this inequality is systemic, and this is being blatantly ignored.
We can move outside of Baltimore and see the very same happening in inner cities across the country. 35% of Cleveland lives below the poverty line. 39% of Detroit. We laud TV shows like "The Wire" for being one of the most brilliant shows of all time. Guess what though? That show wasn't "Breaking Bad"...it was REALITY. It was Baltimore!
Beyond these issues are the continued ignoring and justification of crimes committed against black people. Just in my 27 years of life, there have been countless incidents to which a blind eye was turned:
Amadou Diallo - A 22 yr old African immigrant shot 41 times by 4 NYPD officers while presenting them ID outside of his apartment. All 4 officers were acquitted.
Oscar Grant - A 22 yr old shot by BART police in San Francisco while laying face down and handcuffed. The officer served less than 6 months in jail for "involuntary manslaughter."
Kendrick Johnson - A 17 yr old Georgia student who was killed DURING school and rolled up in a wrestling mat. His body was left in the school gym. The local police ruled his death "accidental" despite the massive amount of blunt force trauma to his face, noted in the autopsy.
Lennon Lacy - A 17 yr old North Carolina teenage football player was lynched and found hanging from a swing set in late 2014. The local police department ruled his death a "suicide" and blamed "ants and other creatures" for the wounds and marks that covered his body as he hung from the swing set. He was dating a white woman at the time, and it was frowned upon.
Aiyana Jones - A 7 yr old girl in Detroit who was shot during the middle of the night in her sleep by Joseph Weekley, during a botched raid on the WRONG home. His charges were dismissed and he is back on duty.
These are just some of the countless incidents, many of which you will NEVER hear about on Fox News, CNN, etc. Why is this? Because the media controls the narrative, especially when it concerns racial relations in this country. There is an ongoing double-standard in the media that continues to go unchecked. I'll never forget the media coverage during Hurricane Katrina. The Associated Press captioned 2 identical pictures of survivors floating in the water. The black man was described as "looting a grocery store" while the white couple was described as "finding bread and soda from a local grocery". The media controls the rhetoric. As disgusted as I am by the violence taking place in Baltimore, why is a blind eye turned to all of the riots incited by white Americans?
After the riots sparked in New Hampshire at the "PumpkinFest", CNN and the Huffington Post described the youths who started fires, flipped cars, tore down street signs, and threw beer cans and bottles at police officers as being "a rowdy crowd" that "just got too drunk." Because you know...kids will be kids of course!" Yet, when violence or negative incidents occur in the black community, it becomes viewed symbolically as a representation of the black community as a whole. The Columbine shooters were called "troubled kids" by the media. James Holmes shot up the entire movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and walked out with his life. The media described him as being "troubled and mentally ill." In other words...he was simply a "sick defect"...not the norm. On May 17th, 2015, a shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas led to the deaths of 9 individuals, in addition to 18 injuries. CNN referred to the incident as simply a "biker brawl." One could only surmise that different verbiage would have been used had the perpetrators been another ethnicity. To this day, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are still viewed as "thugs" (a.k.a. the new "N-Word") for wearing a hoodie and for stealing a pack of cigarillos from the store. Similarly, Trayvon's murderer is free and online "tweeting" pictures of his lifeless corpse across social media platforms, and getting in constant trouble with the law. He still has yet to be referred to as a "thug" by the media. This victimization is entirely INTENTIONAL and it is wrong.
The bottom line is, these riots in Baltimore all stem from these obvious problems that we all continue to ignore. Peaceful protests went on for weeks and not a single news camera was recording. After the people essentially set the city ablaze, the news made sure to become present for that. However, when over 1 million African-American, Latino, and Native-American men convened in the name of peace and unity during the Million Man March (2015) in Washington, DC, not a single one of those "news" stations were present. No FOX. No CNN. Hell...not even BET was present (which is absolutely abysmal). Reporting positivity doesn't aid the powers that be in their quest to divide and conquer. Control the narrative and shift the rhetoric...these are media essentials!
If you're more upset about storefront properties, and CVS's being destroyed than police brutality (that broke the spinal chord of Freddie Gray and killed him) and institutionalized racism, then clearly your sense of morality and humanity needs recalibration. It is the mindset of racism that needs to be destroyed. The SOLE reason why situations like this occur is because we have never dealt with racism in our country. We refuse to have that discussion in America. We have continuously swept it under the rug because it's ugly and uncomfortable to talk about. It's much easier to act as though it doesn't exist and simply "carry on." But I ask every person who might read this or hear my song "WildFires (Ode To Baltimore)" to think about your daily interactions in your personal lives...with your family members, significant others, etc. Whenever you have a serious conflict and you avoid it and attempt to act as though it didn't occur...what tends to happen? The situation becomes exacerbated and what once was a problem that could be solved now becomes a huge one. In other words, all of the incessant denial is THE major source for these incidents. We have to be honest about what is taking place and what has taken place in order to move forward and come together as a people. Quite frankly, all of this denial is insulting and unfortunately, some of this outrage is manifesting itself in the violent actions taking place.
The real truth of the matter is, America was built from the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans. This is a deeply criminal nation founded on corruption, and the "real thugs" are creating all of this dissension amongst us all. They control the media and how we view each other, they poison our food, and they kill us with prescription "drugs" passed off as medication to increase their wealth and power. America needs to look itself in the mirror. If we don't stop deflecting and start addressing the issues, then I can assure you ALL, this instance will not be the last. I pray that one day we can all do that, but I'm not so sure that everyone wants to.
The decision is yours to make. But I implore us to all pay attention and wake up before it's too late. We are entirely too reactive as a society, and it shouldn't have to take devastation to occur before we actually pay attention. We need each other, whether we know it or not. I hope that my new single and it's video will serve as a conversation starter for a highly sensitive topic. It's imperative that we stop running from the truth. The great shift starts now...
Peace and Love to all...