If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you will have at least heard about the recent Baltimore protests. In case you actually do happen to be living under a rock… let me catch you up.
On April 12th, a 25-year-old black male named Freddie Gray was arrested and falsely imprisoned by six police officers before being beaten and dragged into a police van. After entering the van, Freddie Gray would never be seen conscious in daylight again. Whilst in the van, the police officers (one of whom was the same age as Gray himself) failed to buckle Gray in, allowing the van to batter his body until his neck broke, putting him into a coma. He died a week later on April 19th while the police officers lived on to face charges of this murder they had all been a part of.
The tragic end to Freddie Gray’s life catalyzed a movement in the Baltimore community when the masses came out to protest (yet another incident of police brutality) on April 18th. These peaceful protests turned violent on the 27th, which was the day of Gray’s funeral. The protestors who turned to violent actions were mainly students and young people.
Although the destruction of the Baltimore community is a horrible thing for which we should all feel empathy, we must also recognize that if this had not happened, even those not living under a rock may never have heard the story of Freddie Gray.
The media was all over the protesting in Baltimore, especially when it turned violent. Let’s face it; people love to know about anything out of the ordinary … even when most of the time the most exciting incidents are tragic. What saddens me is the fact that many only turned on their TVs to see burning buildings and looters, not to hear the message of young people trying to change a society and an environment that have betrayed them.
The media has ultimate power over how the population receives its information and has the ability to portray events happening in the news in any way they choose. As Baker remarked, “[This] case, along with public ruptures of anger over police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere, have pushed the issue of race and law enforcement onto the public agenda.”
Unfortunately, it takes incidents like these for those who don’t face oppression every day to wake up and realize that there is a major problem in our society; it’s called racism… and it isn’t exactly a new concept. A poll conducted by the New York Times shows that more and more people are starting to acknowledge the American race relations problem, but only after incidents like those in Baltimore and Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown do white people start to take notice.
However, what we need to take from these horrible events is that we need to change. White Americans need to understand that although our Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal,” we do not all face the same oppression and treatment in our daily lives. It is not a free pass to ignore all others just as long as you believe that you are getting fair treatment. This first step of admittance is crucial but many are hesitant to take it.
As a Caucasian female myself, I face my own challenges but in no way am I able to know what a black man faces in his daily life. All I know is that I am against oppression because why would we as humans allow the mistreatment of others based on their race or identity? It is wrong. And just because you may not know exactly what it is like to face a certain level of oppression does not mean you should remain ignorant to it.
In this case, ignorance is not bliss. It is only cowardice. I believe that part of the problem with racism in America is that many of us are not willing to admit that we have a problem. We aren’t willing to accept that we have made mistakes in our past. Maybe the root of the problem is that a substantial part of white America is ashamed to even admit that slavery actually was a part of America all those years ago…
It is every American’s responsibility to make an effort to hear other people out. Don’t wait for another young person to get murdered to make you open your eyes to the blatant discrimination and oppression that is still present in our society today. Make it your task to try to understand the struggles that your fellow Americans face every day and listen to them for how you can be an advocate for positive change in our society.
As Americans, we need to find our humility and forget about feeling comfortable and good about ourselves. We, as a people, need to feel more shame in order to change the environment in which our children are growing up. Do we really want to promote the ideas of racism and oppression into our future? The answer is no. We need to recognize our mistakes when it comes to racism. Some are guiltier than others, but the recognition and acceptance must happen. It is only after people shed the fear and repulsion of the word racism that we will be able to admit our country’s problem and start a conversation that will be able to effect positive change.
Moving into the future, I hope to see fewer tragedies caused by police brutality, and more conversation about how our fellow Americans are hurting and what we can do to lessen that pain. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Please. Put yourself in that uncomfortable position and listen to someone who has had to deal with something other than you because of the backgrounds you were born into. It may be hard or down right embarrassing to listen to someone who is black relay their story of how they have had to face oppression every day, while you have never had that problem because you may have been born white. It is hard; but it’s nothing compared to what they have had to deal with. Humility needs to become more of a common theme in our society if we want to put others’ needs in front of our own.
If we continue to communicate and have the conversation about racism in America, then maybe we won’t be so afraid to make those radical changes in order to ensure that all *people DO have a chance to be equal.