Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Friendly Fire

Ta-Nehisi Coates has penned an eloquent piece in The Atlantic concerning the disingenuousness of Baltimore city officials calling for calm after the funeral of Freddie Gray. "When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality," he says, "it betrays itself."

Which may be true. It does seem somehow self serving for an institution to provoke a populace to violence, and only then call for peace. I can understand perfectly why one would ask where Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts were when the Baltimore police were beating up the city's residents.

And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
The problem is, in this case, Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Batts weren't the people on the sharp end of the disrespect for the hollow law and failed order. They're not the ones who are going to be on the phone to their insurers tomorrow, looking to have smashed and looted shops restored. Assuming, that is, that the shopkeepers have insurance. Sheranda Palmer's business, Tye and Company Salon and Boutique was looted by rioters determined to get at what was inside. The door was kicked in twice that evening. She's insured, yes, but there will still be costs for her. If she appeals for calm, yes, it will seem like she's advocating compliance with the brutal regime that the Baltimore PD has created. But if anyone should have to pay something for the bad acts of Baltimore's law enforcement establishment, it seems that someone likely to be the target of that very establishment is a poor choice.

It's been more than two decades since the acquittal of police officers in the Rodney King case lead to rioting in Los Angeles. And ever since that time, people have marveled at the fact that the most frequent outlets of Black rage are Black communities. When Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Batts called for calm and peaceful protests, yes, they were calling for a truce in a war that their people had started. But when the d├ętente failed, they weren't the ones in the free-fire zone. And I suspect that they were very aware of that fact. Had they been listened to, they would be no better off than they are now. But people like Sheranda Palmer would be. It may be helpful to remember that.

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