Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri. Freddy Gray, Baltimore, Maryland. Small town and big city police, the men and women in blue. To serve and protect. Even when there are riots, as in Baltimore yesterday. Who know about today?
Mr.Brown and Mr.Gray are the seeming current catalysts for the increasing tensions between the African-American communities far and wide and the police, be they in Mayberry or major city, U.S.A. Now Baltimore, unfortunately, endures the dire consequences of what “captured on video” and anecdotal testimony strongly suggesting the U.S> hasn’t gained much ground in the last 50 years since the civil rights movement, circa Martin Luther King and his non-violent resistance urgings. Maybe we’ve done away with Jim Crow and the “separate but equal” formalizing of racist governance, but here we are in 2015, with African-Americans in place as President, U.S. Attorney General, and most ironically, Mayor and Police Chief of Baltimore, bring to mind the old snarky expression, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” as far as race relations go.
Given that it was 24 years ago that videotape evidence of L.A. police persistently beating a defenseless Rodney King after a motor stop and car chase, and the ensuing acquittal of all the involved officers charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. What followed that verdict? Riots in streets. All breathlessly reported on as news helicopters
King, who died in 2012 at age 47, famously said, “can’t we all just get along?”
Apparently not, as far as the “we” being black and having an encounter with the men and women in blue. “Driving while black” as a expression of the ease of justification with which, at times, an African-American is pulled over.
Fast forward from King and that version of hand-held video technology to today and the ubiquitous possession of smart phones and you get footage of fifty year-old Walter Scott (African-American) being shot several times in the back as he runs from a police officer. Scott died. You can Google the entire list of armed Blues on unarmed Blacks and realize that these incidents have happened often and over a long period of time. How many acquittals? How few even charged?
Are all police racist? I am certain that’s not the case. Then again, where there’s smoke there’s fire. Perhaps too many men and women become police for the worst of reasons, far beyond the idea of “to serve and protect,” but possibly as a measure of how possessing a gun and a badge may corrupt one’s moral compass.
Smoke and fire? Back to Baltimore. Peaceful protest. Not for those who live in the ghettos and a mob mentality kicks-in. Watts 1964. Detroit 1967. Most major U.S. cities saw rioting, burning and looting in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated. King. Rodney. King. Martin. The more things change… Certainly there’s blame on both sides of our racial barriers. But this is a country founded by men who owned black slaves. Lincoln, Abe.
I have to admit that I am grateful to fate that I was born in the United States, with all its current political warts and wickedness, and that I was born white. It’s not a complete guarantee of “privilege,” though. After all, that didn’t stop my government from drafting my lilly white ass into the military during the Vietnam conflict. I went into the service and was very lucky. Mohammed Ali, expressing his courage and defiance at the time, said in refusing his draft induction for Vietnam, that he, a black man, wanted no part in fighting brown people in a white man’s war. Touche!
So, her we are. Freddie Gray and all the others. Killed by police and many of the incidents caught on video. Baltimore smoldering.
From MLK to Freddy Gray. They had dreams, for sure, and not to be gunned down or battered to death. Dreams.
Hughes, Langston: what happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore–and then run?…maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
New post on Jharrin4’s Blog
Just when I was disgustingly admitting that I had resigned myself to our country’s descent into a permanent oligarchy, with elections marinated in money and the public’s sheepish complicity in the matter, some momentary sunshine has peeked through the ominous clouds that shroud my political psyche. This bit of light came in the form of the Chicago mayoral election of February 24th, when the current corporatist Mayor Emmanuel, armed with a campaign war chest of more than 30 million dollars, was unable to garner more than 50% of the vote, forcing a run-off in April.
His four main opponents could have pooled all their campaign dollars and maybe come up with a few million bucks to buy some air time, so thus the prediction was that Rahm Emmanuel, who had been flooding the airwaves with self-congratulating ads for months, would easily swat away his pauper-like opponents and continue with business as usual: school closings, union-busting, social program budgets slashed, to name a few of his “achievements”.
Never mind that the mayor’s ads were revisionist in their distorting of this record, if not flat-out fictions; the public (far and wide) has been shown to not exactly think on their feet when it comes to making electoral choices. By now, it’s a common occurrence to have voter’s elect candidates who immediately strive to make their constituent’s financial lives harder while cow towing to the so-called 1%-ers. Ever heard of the book What’s the Matter with Kansas? It documents this phenomenon of voting against one’s best interest by succumbing to fear appeals and one-issue fervor. Hmm. What’s the matter with the mostly minority people of Chicago? Thirty years ago they got Harold Washington (an African-American) elected, beating not one, but two Machine Democrats in Jane Byrne and Rich Daley. Daley!
I was assuming that wasn’t going to happen again based on Rahm’s seeming underfunded, late-to-the party, competition, that money would talk as bullshit walks, and he’d casually cruise back up to the 5th floor of City Hall.
Not so fast!
Someone pinch me! Chuy Garcia and his 1.5 million dollar campaign drew 35% of the vote, and the other outsiders collected about another 20% of the vote. Thus the run-off. As a result I feel–for the first time in a long, long time–that the public may be shaking off its political stupor and seeing reality for what it is. Sure, it’s a drop in the national bucket as far as progressive positives go, but if Mr. Garcia can win outright in that run-off, it could embolden others to show up and vote for their interests rather than have big money lull them into the sleep of indifference or the curse of non-critical thinking.
Maybe it’s just a momentary blip on the right-wing radar screen of the Koch Brothers, Citizens United, Tea Party predatory capitalist control freaks. They’ll send out their expensive media war weapons to drown out any dissent, no doubt. But Chicago could be the clarion call that can be heard above the prevaricating bombast we’ve been exposed to for decades.
At least for Tuesday night, there was a genuine We the People moment.
The public needs to listen. Then they can make sure they’ll be heard.
For the time being, that sliver of sunshine will have to do, as springtime, rebirth and regeneration draws near…
Joe Harrington is a member of the West Side Greens and mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.