By Carol Rood
At approximately 8 am on the morning of April 12, a man named Freddie Gray was arrested by two Baltimore Police officers. He was placed into a police van, and although witnesses say he asked for help because he couldn’t breathe, he didn’t receive any medical help. The police van made 4 stops while driving to the station to book Freddie. When the van arrived at the police station at approximately 9:30 that same morning, Freddie Gray was unresponsive and was rushed by ambulance to a Trauma center, where he died a week later due to complications from a severed spine.
Freddie Gray’s funeral was held on April 25, and following his funeral riots broke out in Baltimore.
I get the riots, I get the anger…. I am angry too!
In my opinion, the riots were a response….an angry response…..to Freddie Gray’s
death….his murder…….. and nothing being done to the officers who arrested him (murdered him), besides them being suspended from the Police Force while the matter was being investigated.
I think the Baltimore riots were also about a community being tired of:
not being heard,
When looked at in this way, the riots are at the most basic level, about an oppressed group being infuriated and tired of living in a society that doesn’t think that black lives are important.
On April 27, reporter Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in an article in The Atlantic, “When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con” (Coates, The Atlantic). He is speaking about the politicians who were asking young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and ‘nonviolent’. His point about that being a ‘con’ is well.
In order to understand my perspective I need to introduce you to a word: hegemony. This is really what is at the base of racism, sexism, homophobia, and every other “ism” I can think of, and a word that needs to be understood. Once people understand what Hegemony really means, they usually have an “a-ha” moment.
Hegemony is defined as a “cultural dynamic by which a group claims and sustains a leading position in social life” In other words, “hegemony relates to cultural dominance in the society”
In this context it is obvious to see Ta-Nehisi’s point, (which I agree with), that the “representatives” of the state who are asking the people of Baltimore to act in a nonviolent manner are themselves the ones who are the oppressors, and therefore the perpetrators of the violence. Police, who have authoritarian power over society, are group that uses that power in a way that is unequal with society as a whole. In other words, if minorities, and in this case a young black man, is arrested and subsequently dies, the police, while being culpable, are not held accountable, because that does not fit within the idea of “hegemony”, which are the societal standards that are the norm within American culture.
In fact, when a group is disenfranchised, and oppressed, and not allowed to prosper by the dominant group, it is inevitable that the inequality would cause violence. By asking for this group to act in a “nonviolent” way, the state representatives are asking them to be okay with their disenfranchisement and oppression. That is only going to lead to more anger and more violence.
The only way to move forward as a society is to remove the hegemony (and the white dominance) that our society is structured around and create a level playing field for all.
Remove the oppressive institutions, derail racism, and allow access to quality education, safe shelter, and healthy food to all members of the society.
Not just the ones who have enough money to afford those things. If they were accessible to all, society as a whole would benefit, and America would indeed be the world power it claims to be.
I agree with Ta-Nehisi’s tweet about rioting: It is an expression of anger. Some humans riot because their school lost the big game. Others because the State can’t stop killing them.