This post was originally published on 4/28/15 at my tumblr page.
Here’s what I know about the Baltimore Riots, the general civil unrest there, and what’s been happening between many maligned police departments and the equally maligned citizenry:
There is a second America, whether we like it or not. I’ve never had to deal with life in that America, so there is so much I don’t understand. However, I know that place exists.
There’s fear, disrespect, crime, distrust, and more fear. These things permeate both sides of the lines that have been drawn to the point where it can often be difficult to tell which people should dress in a uniform and which should dress in jeans and a tee shirt before they head out the door.
Many people I know, good, honest and just people, don’t acknowledge this second America. Imaging how I would act, not only under different circumstances than my life currently offers, but under a wholly different set of societal norms and understanding, is practically impossible. My goal here is not to convince people from my America that rioting is an excusable act; it’s to convince them that there does exist a place where the citizenry is likely to run from the police even if they’re innocent, because a pocket knife or joint will get them killed instead of get them a ticket.
As a productive adult who’s been found by the police to have had both of those things in my possession as a younger man, that scares me. I was lectured and sent home. I never felt the need to run, and the officers never felt the need to hurt me. We did not threaten each other.
But that was in my America. The one most of us know. This America’s only chance is the laying bare of injustices that fear, disrespect, crime, distrust, and more fear cause. There will be riots. There will also be frustration, pain, debate, and – God willing – healing.
But before any of that an happen, amidst the stains of selective CNN coverage and soundbites from exasperated politicians, there needs to be understanding. Not of specific issues or daily fears – understanding that is impossible from this America – but an admission that such a place exists.
Because it does. Not as a city or neighborhood or precinct, but as a people.