Below, I have compiled three articles I’ve read over the past few days regarding what is going on in Baltimore. They are important reads in understanding what we are seeing on the news and social media.
I have included a wonderfully written letter imploring those of us who are white to take a step back from judgment and just listen. Frankly, this is my favorite of the three below. Just last night, I was saying how happy I am that the news coverage was about poverty, systemic racism, and the lack of hope in the areas in our country that are protesting against the status quo. And then I said, sadly, “I just hope people are listening.”
The challenges and problems in our society are because people don’t listen before they make policies they think are right, or will get them elected. The social problems in our country are top to bottom problems from the Office of the President (and I’m leaving that vague, so we can all be open enough to look at the policies of all the Presidents) to the young police office who walks the beat scared to death one of the gang members might have a bad day and just shoot anyone around. Between these two places is the area that decides where the district lines are set for voting, what the voting laws should be and will be, and how many schools get funding and what areas of a district those schools are in.
As you will see in the two other articles, people listened to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Its really difficult not to see the systemic racism when you read these two articles.
We are coming up on an election year, these issues should be in the forefront of our townhall meetings and campaign rallies. If human rights within our own country aren’t at the forefront – and you notice, then maybe you should reconsider what political values are important to you.
If you are not listening, not exposing yourself to unfamiliar perspectives, not watching videos, not engaging in conversation, then you are perpetuating white privilege and white supremacy. It is exactly your ability to not hear, to ignore the situation, that is a mark of your privilege. People of color cannot turn away. Race affects our lives every day. We must consider it all the time, not just when it is convenient.
As a person of color, even if you are privileged your whole life, as I have been, you cannot escape from the shade of your skin. Being a woman defines me; coming from a relatively affluent background defines me; my sexual orientation, my education, my family and my job define me. Other than being a woman, every single one of those distinctions gives me privilege in our society. Yet, even with all that privilege, people still treat me differently.
But then, this is by design. In the early 20th century—as in many American cities—Baltimore civic leaders endorsed broad plans to “protect white neighborhoods” from black newcomers. The city was flush with waves of immigration—from abroad as well as the South—and more affluent blacks were leaving the older, poorer neighborhoods to move to predominantly white areas removed from the poverty and joblessness of the crowded slums. In short order, politicians and progressive reformers—motivated by benevolence, politics, and an en vogue scientific racism—endorsed segregation plans and racial covenants meant to cordon blacks—as well as Italian and Eastern European immigrants—on to small parts of land in the inner city.
What’s crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn’t wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn’t looked.
I include myself.
Despite actively reading and commenting on police misconduct for many years, I was unaware until yesterday that the Baltimore Sun published a searing 2014 article documenting recent abuses that are national scandals in their own rights.
A grandmother’s bones were broken. A pregnant woman was violently thrown to the ground. Millions of dollars were paid out to numerous victims of police brutality.
And almost none of us noticed!