Alex Symington

by Alex Symington…

Will Baltimore be the spark that finally ignites compassion and understanding of what black Americans have to contend with every single day of their lives? Will their story of daily fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones finally be heard? Listening to activists like Deray McKesson eloquently explain to Wolf Blitzer of CNN the realities of black American life is a breath of fresh air. The automatic knee-jerk response of many white Americans to any black anger and frustration is, “What’s wrong with those people? They are destroying their own property and looting and burning businesses!” “What good does that do?” Wolf parroted these perennial questions and demanded that Deray explain this bad behavior and asked the loaded question, “You want peaceful protests, right?”

“Yes,” McKesson replied, “[but] remember, the people that have been violent since August have been the police. When you think about the 300 people that have been killed this year alone… Like that is violence.” McKesson agreed with Blitzer that property damage is unfortunate, but reminded him there have been ““many days of peaceful protests here in Baltimore City and places all around the country.”

“But at least 15 police officers have been hurt, 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires — these are statistics,” Blitzer countered, reading from a police press release. “There’s no excuse for that kind of violence, right?”

McKesson’s response to Blitzer’s, again, shamelessly loaded question was, “Yeah, and there’s no excuse for the seven people that the Baltimore City Police Department has killed in the last year either, right?”

“We’re not making comparisons,” Blitzer replied defensively. “Obviously, we don’t want anybody hurt. But I just want to hear you say that there should be peaceful protests, not violent protests in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

“Yeah, there should be peaceful protests”, McKesson replied. “And I don’t have to condone it to understand it, right? The pain that people feel is real.”

McKesson went on to say, “And you are making a comparison. You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right? And what we know to be true is the police are killing people everywhere. They’re killing people here. Six police officers were involved in the killing of Freddie Gray, and we’re looking for justice there. And that’s real. The violence the police have been inflicting on communities of color has been sustained and deep.”

Remarkable! Some actual real, on the ground truth accidentally made its way onto cable news! Another shocking moment of real honest-to-God reporting happened when Jayne Miller, investigative reporter for WBAL TV made some astute observations on the police-friendly story of Freddie Gray’s “self-inflicted” injuries, not so subtly, implying Gray killed himself! Really?!

Right there on the small screen, Miller methodically deconstructed the flimsy tale “told to police by another prisoner” (a story instantly disseminated for public consumption before vetting) that Freddie Gray was “banging his head against the wall” in the police van. Miller reported that scenario was repudiated by the medical examiner because the severity of Gray’s injuries could not possibly have been self-inflicted. She went on to inform the viewing audience the second prisoner, Donta Allen, was separated by a metal divider and could not see Gray. A subsequent follow-up interview has Allen saying Gray was already beyond help and only making the noise an unconscious body would make jostled in a moving vehicle.

Imagine, an objective interpretation of events told with a cool head in a sea of sensationalist, agenda driven cable “news” doublespeak! Again, remarkable. With every new case of this kind the “just-world” hypothesis comes to the fore in that every time an insane injustice or horrific blood bath takes place we are compelled to try and make sense of it, to rationalize events. Most people consider themselves “good” people. They love their families and are living their lives and participating in society the best they are able to. In order to exist at a functioning relatively happy level we need to believe that the world is inherently a just place, where the good are rewarded and the bad are punished. To think otherwise invites discord, both internal and external. Guess what, folks….

Ever since Trayvon Martin’s stalking and murder in February 2012 by the acquitted murderer, George Zimmerman, I have become ever more aware of the blatant double standard of justice meted out to African Americans. Of course this skewed version of “justice” did not start with Trayvon and has been going on for hundreds of years, but many of us thought we had put the barbarous act of lynching innocent black men far behind us. Trayvon’s murder shattered that delusion.

The apologists, the deniers and the defensive have flooded the air waves, cable news and the internet with every manner of excuse for police and other violence perpetrated on young black men. They throw statistics around like confetti desperately attempting to obfuscate the simple clear truth that young black men die much more often in police custody than young white men. Bear in mind, according to the Keiser Foundation, the national population percentages are Whites 62%, Blacks 12%, Hispanics 17% and other 9%. So, if fifty people die in police custody it would stand to mathematical reason that 31 of those deaths would be white and 6 deaths would be black.

An NBC/AP report from 2007 states that in a three year period 2,002 people died in police custody. The causes varied and included drug and alcohol, suicide, and accidental injury and illness. The percentages were 44 percent white and 32 percent black and even though on the surface more whites died in custody then blacks, blacks died at almost three times their representative national percentage while whites were significantly under represented.

This brings us to the classic racist nugget, “black people are predisposed to criminal behavior”. Yes, their “crimes” include walking, driving and shopping while black. As we found out in Ferguson, MO the police are using the residents as a cash machine in that black people are arrested for minor charges at a rate three times that of whites. Once arrested and charged they are in the system. Their cash and property are seized and fines and further charges are filed upon inability to pay or tardiness in payment. Jail time can ensue racking up even more debt in the prison-for-profit system. There are reams of evidence of this practice in cities all across America.

Then there is the right-wing mantra that more blacks are killed by blacks than killed by whites. That cherry picked information might bring a perceived validation to the racist mind and some comfort to the “just-world” believer, but it is a red herring deflection from the truth that the police are killing black people at an alarming rate. The fact is more whites are killed by whites, as well, because blacks and whites are still, for the most part, culturally and physically separated and more likely, due to proximity, to commit crimes against their own race.

We can throw stats around until the cows come home, but what is happening to black people in this country is just plain wrong. After Trayvon Martin’s murder the drummer and band leader of the popular group, The Roots wrote an essay that was published in NY News & Politics. (link below) I have gotten into the habit of re-reading it every time a new unjust horrific death of another young black man occurs. I have read it many times and it has become a sort of prayer/meditation for me. There is a special humanness in the words that re-enforce my God-given empathy and compassion for my fellow man. I don’t hate white people, I hate ignorance and hypocrisy. I don’t have white guilt; I have that American spirit of fair play and decency we grew up with and were taught from an early age. Even President Lyndon B. Johnson had a refreshingly pragmatic and honest attitude when it came to the African American struggle. He said, “If you have had your foot on the neck of a man for three hundred years, and then take it off, do you expect him to get up and thank you?”

As Deray McKesson explained to Wolf Blitzer, I too do not condone violence, but I can begin to understand the frustration and pain of living in your native land that reminds you daily of your dispose-ability, ignores your humanity on almost every level of society and has removed all channels for peaceful change. Sadly, we do not live in a just world.

Alex Symington

Facebook Comments

15 thoughts on “Baltimore

  1. It appears to me that Freddie Gray’s neck was broken by the Baltimore police during the take down. I have yet to hear anyone say he had a broken neck but breathing issues happen above C5 in the spine which is the neck. My issue is why is this tactic of pushing the head and/or neck down with force part of the protocol in a take down? This tactic is what caused Charles Elmers to suffocate. I feel in most instances it is not necessary and if it happened to me and I lived in Baltimore I would probably would have been one of those rioters and I am not a violent person. One can try to reason why the violence occurred but the fact is frustration can come out in many forms and violence is one of those forms. The adrenalin rush tends to satisfy some of the frustrations. I think the prosecutor in Baltimore was smart to review the facts and hand down those indictments so quickly. There would probably still be those riots if she had not. Perhaps if riots would have occurred in Key West there would have been indictments on those KW officers that had killed Charles Elmers. Big problems need to be solved ASAP as they just do not go away over time. They fuel frustration which obviously can be very dangerous. How many crimes are committed not for the want but out of frustration?

  2. We are waiting to see if the 6 cops get prosicuted. Do hope Key West is watching. It is high time that we start putting the bad cops in prison. The cops are missusing tasers and they need to be removed because of the missuse. Dead is dead no matter if killed by taser or a gun. I do hope we see justice not only for blacks but for all races. Fact is we have too many cops that think they are above the law. Maybe violance is the only way to get attention. Eimers was murdered while he tried to surrender. He was killed because the KWPD wanted to get even for him running. The cops so far got away with purjury and false reports and murdered. Our hope is the FBI will do the right thing. If not then violance just might be the result in Key West.

    1. It was just announced that the Justice Department will be investigating the Baltimore Police Department. I urge the good citizens of Key West to petition the Justice Department to investigate the Key West Police Department. It is my understanding a request was made but the Justice Department has not responded. Correct me if I am wrong. Regardless, the Justice Department should be badgered until they do investigate. Many people have and are going to think twice before visiting Key West with the police thugs running loose and posing danger to anyone and everyone.

      1. My understanding is the FBI is investigating the eimers case as well as others. All trust in the system is gone if they don’t prosicute. We see very few citizens of KW replying. Maybe they are scared or maybe don.t care. Can tell you it will be hurting the tourist business. And if that get’s hurt so will property values. Already plenty of empty stores on Duval. If Key West gets a riot the damage could destroy KW for life as you can’t recreate what it is. They do not have the resources needed if fires get started. This is so sad for such a great party town to be at risk over a bunch of thug cops.

  3. Right-on Alex… Great point and clarification. I too am birthed of an American spirit, which emphasized fair play and decency.

    My immigrant heritage stressed the value and worth of all human life.
    Materialistically, we didn’t have much. However, we maintained a sense of dignity and respect that was blinding…

  4. “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
    ― Michael J. Fox

  5. too often the superficial observer mistakes these incidents as race driven. it is not. it is power driven. yes, to the everyday american rube who fall prey to the themes of homophobia, ethnocentrism, racism, religion, and patriotism, these are all a real and perplexing odium necessitating immediate eradication in the name of “real Americans.”

    reducing the Baltimore incident as merely the oppression of a skin color, is to ignore the macro- suppression that we all endure. the black experience is horrendous, no doubt about it. they experience terrorism pure and simple. but is that because the still majority white population just doesn’t like the color black? or is it because the power structure of a failing empire needs a scapegoat? a distraction? the romans had the Christians. the Nazi’s had the jews. we used to have the commies.

    I would submit that the discussion take a narrative towards the root cause for Black exploitation, and I further submit that it has nothing to do with skin color.

    look at what they are doing to our young people. they are graduating college with huge debt loads, into an economy devoid of jobs, into a judicial system that does not provide them with any discharge relief. that is economic terrorism is it not? it is oppression is it not? it is power, is it not?

    social security reform, Medicaid reform, SNAP reform, VA benefit reform, unemployment insurance reform, are all attempts at targeting Americans of all races and colors. it has nothing to do with anything other than power and control.

    so while I am no way equating the Black experience with the student experience or any other, they are both oppressive results brought about by the people who wish to control you. that is where the discussion needs to go.

    1. I tried to address your point Keysbum, in the comment I made to Alex’s previous essay. As usual, it was ignored.

      I’ve pondered lately that if say 50% of the work force, especially retail management, all decided to take the same day off from work, how long it would take until the the armed forces would point a gun in their face and demand that they get back to work. My guess is less than one day. And don’t think that just because you don’t work for a corporation that you would be given a pass from the tyranny.

      We are all slaves.

      1. you are right Sister. those that cling to the notion that we live in the land of the brave and the home of the free are in for a rude surprise. frankly, it still astonishes me that everyone in still in the dark about all this.
        take this Baltimore thing: has it occurred to you that this is just another set up to further the acceptance of the police state? the police were told to take a step back and let the city burn. what better way to push for more control and less liberty than to have the carnage splashed all over TV to frighten us all? they did it in boston and ferguson. and just watch what happens to the 6 cops they charged; think any of them will be convicted? think there’s a chance for more violence when the charges are dropped or they are acquitted?

        we are watching exactly what happened in 1930’s Germany all over again but then that should come as no surprise as it is the same players, using the same playbook. and we just sit and watch.

        1. Well according to Alex, black Americans should be able to burn, loot and beat their way into having the world rulers, the police and white folk in general show them some compassion and respect for their circumstance, as if that makes any sense.

          I wouldn’t doubt that there are many paid provocateurs instigating the violence in Baltimore as there were in Ferguson. With that sort of underhanded tactic, I think the best people of conscience can do is to stay far away from the provocation. Inciting more violence only feeds into the rulers plan as you say, to further the police state and diminish everyone’s freedoms.

          There needs to be an evolution of consciousness or we are doomed. Wake up! The pot is boiling!

  6. I look to see the 6 cops found guilty but at far less charge than they should receive. A riot will follow and even if convicted it will be years of appeals. The days of trusting cops has been gone for many years.

    1. typical intellectual bigot who just doesn’t get it. but it occurs to me:

      how has this guy made it this far in life? hasn’t he looked in a mirror?

      thanks for the link, Sister.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.