Over forty years ago marches at our nation’s capital and around the country were ear-marked with peaceful assemblies as minorities and ethnicities across the spectrum gathered to defend their Amendment rights. They expressed their dis-satisfaction with legislation, police brutality and the overall inequality of rights for all people.
These last few days in the city of Baltimore there was a strikingly different assembly. Residents of that city took police brutality into their own hands with police becoming the target of rocks and other objects. Within this new generation, where a community feels peace has failed them, they are resorting to an altogether different type of protest.
The streets of Baltimore looked like a mad house after the funeral of Freddie Gray. This is what happens when people feel hopeless, angry and desperate. The part of the city which was hit the hardest is an area which has been known as an “open air drug market.” Baltimore’s law enforcement had a horrible reputation before the tragic murder of Gray and continued provocations from police has caused a strained relationship in the area.
For these minorities, who are often victims of the massive incarceration process, it is easier for them to go to jail than college. Being raised and having lived in a “third world type of poverty” many of these youngsters cannot even conceive a way out and believe they have nothing to lose. Civil Rights protests within the prior generation were composed of people who had hope for a brighter day. They believed change was on the horizon, and if they did not live to see it they were content “fighting” so their offspring could benefit from their efforts.
Protesters of the past generation understood the power of patience. They knew change would take time and they were willing to give it all they had. This is a different day, a time where everyone expects a quick turnaround in all aspects of life. These kids grew up in the microwave generation; many have never put a jiffy pan on the stove and waited for the kernels to get too hot and explode. They stick a bag in the microwave, push the corresponding “popcorn” button and within minutes they are consuming. It is a different day.
In order to understand the mind of today’s youth, a conversation would need to ensue to find out the real issues. No one wants to do that. This generation could not care less that the world is watching them destroy their town, when they feel their town has destroyed them and no one spoke up. Does this justify their actions? Of course not, but before adding insult to injury it may help if “outsiders” were more empathetic to the situation at hand.
People have called them animals and all sorts of derogatory statements, but it is a terrible thing to feel trapped or caged. Too many unarmed black men have died at the hands of those designed to protect while the nation, or other cultures, sit back and justify the actions of a tainted legal system. When a person feels unprotected by others, they learn to fight for themselves. As such, the people of Baltimore have taken police brutality into their own hands and do not care that the outside world is witnessing their actions.
They are wondering what they have to live for. If they do well and find a way out of the ghetto they still are not safe because they will still be a part of Black America. No matter how educated they are, how well they dress, how successful they become these kids know they will not be exempt. They will not get a pass, because at the end of it all they will still be African-American and viewed as a lower class citizen.
What many do not understand is only a few victims of police brutality make the news. These youngsters witness the effects of a biased legal system nearly every day of their lives. So, all of the complaints and critical comments that are being thrown their way as they viciously destroy their own city does nothing but fuel their anger and despair. Is this article justifying their unruly behavior, of course not, but it is a window into their world. If people would jump off their high horses long enough to acknowledge the unjust treatment and help push America towards a nation of equality things might really change. Until then, this new generation will continue to take police brutality into their own hands.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)