Baltimore Uprising, Don’t Call it A Riot, Part 1

Yesterday, Baltimore imploded. On the surface, it appears that this is a reaction to the unexplained death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man who was arrested for making eye contact with a police lieutenant and then running. We do not know what caused the young man to run. What we do know, especially since he died, seven days later with an 80% severed spine and broken voice box, that he had a lot to fear. A deeper look reveals that among the reasons for the uprising is poor city leadership. Mayor Rawlings-Blake closed schools early and shut down city transportation. Her actions thrust thousands of students in a hot bed of decades –no centuries — of frustration and anger.

It’s real easy to call what happened last night a riot.

What happened last night was not a riot. It was an uprising. Baltimore, like many black cities in across the United States, has been suffering for a long, long time. If anyone knows anything about Baltimore, they know much of the city has been blighted and in ruins for decades. The city’s ruin had nothing to do with the people. Rather, it has everything to do with deindustrialization: the shipping of working class jobs to overseas markets for even cheaper labor. Always, in the US, profit over people. The uprisings are tied to the decades long “War on Drugs” that criminalized blackness, drug addiction, and poverty. Always, in the US, hold up poor black people as a symbol for poor white people to feel better about themselves. The uprisings are tied to robbing the people’s food of nutritional value. In addition to most of Baltimore being plagued by food deserts, the people are forced to consume cheap, fast, highly caloric foods designed to make them fat, sick, and hasten their deaths. Generations and generations of people in Baltimore have no idea what a healthy meal looks like, much less taste like. Always, in the US, find ways to ensure that the people kill themselves. The uprisings are tied to the womb to prison pipeline. On the heels of school desegregation, laws were imposed that created ghettos that had no possibility of funding robust educational facilities. Rather than work to empower and equip students with the skills and tools they need to win, these schools program students to take orders, be docile, and accept their ignorance.

Last night, was a rebellion against visible and invisible forces of oppression. I explained this to a dear friend, who does not agree with my point of view. As she explained to me, “I just didn’t like seeing people looting.” Where she sees people looting, I see people trying to feel, to feel something. This is what I wrote:

Yeah. There is a big difference between you and me:

I am not one of those African American wedded to the idea of black respectability. I am an Afro-Caribbean in the United States. My mother’s people are Maroons.

I love the ugliness of black people as much as their beauty. I studied revolution. I understand and know history. I don’t give a f** about looking good in anybody’s eyes. So, when I see my people trying to break through the invisible borders of the plantation, I feel their struggle in my bones. I am only as free as they are!

We see things differently because I am not ashamed of their anger and frustration. I am happy that they can feel. I am glad that they can be human. I am pleased that they can love enough to hate. I love my people in a way that requires no apology. That’s why we disagree