The events of the partly cloudy and breezeless morning of April 12 still remain a mystery. We know that Freddie Gray ran from police. We know that he seemed to be in relatively good health at that point. We know that he ended up in a police van. And we know that after the ride he had a spinal cord injury that eventually led to his death. We don’t know the cause of that injury, but for thousands of Baltimore residents the implication of police violence was enough to incite protests.
With the incidents that have rocked the African-American population, such as the events in Ferguson and the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford fresh in America’s memory, this issue has been placed under the microscope of the mainstream media. It has worsened because of rioting that has involved violence, vandalism and theft. The violence prompted Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency and activate the state’s National Guard. Many people have been arrested and several police officers have been injured.
It seems obvious that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, except for the fact that the media is encouraging it. When a black person is killed by a police officer it very rarely takes up more than a small segment on most news programs, but if it is followed by peaceful protest it can last a few days on the news and on social media. Then if there is violence and rioting, it lasts even longer.
To get their message across, the affected community seems to need to react. This is a double-edged sword, however, because then the media gets to portray this as savage acts of nonsensical violence by the community. Nothing has been done to try to help the African-American community from suffering mistreatment by police. In fact, this has been going on for decades and it has only recently become an issue because of the reaction of a few strong communities.
The fact remains that there is a large gap between white America and black America. If a white student is driving and he or she is stopped by police, the biggest concern is due process of the law. If an African-American is stopped by police in his or her own neighborhood, he or she may feel like their best-case scenario is due process of the law. African-Americans are forced to grow up fearing the police, the people who are hired to protect and serve.
Until this gap diminishes and the experience becomes closer to equal, the reaction on both sides will remain ugly. Real change needs to happen, whether that is body cameras for police officers or more accountability by the people in charge. Otherwise the violence will lead to more violence. The fact remains that no parent should have to outlive their children because of violence by police.