April 30, 2015
The recent death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray at the hands of police in Baltimore, MD has now been added to the long list of American citizens murdered by the law enforcement community. Video footage of Gray’s arrest alone is cause enough for anger but his subsequent death after wounds inflicted by police – while not on video – are an atrocious case of neglect at best and outright torture and murder at worst. Given the track record of the US law enforcement community and the history of Baltimore’s policing in general, the latter is the most likely scenario.
The subsequent protests and civil disobedience that erupted after the coverage of the incident were undoubtedly warranted as were many of the clashes between protesters and police. However, the subsequent descent into riots, race violence, burning, and looting have only served to galvanize many Americans into support for brutal policing, divide races against one another, and further destroy the neighborhoods and communities of the very people being oppressed by the police.
The result of the devolution of such a movement into racial components is threefold.
First, the racial nature of the riots – with hashtags proclaiming #blacklivesmatter and thus implying that other lives don’t, race-based violence in the streets, and an insistence that only one race is the victim of unfettered police brutality while other races are “privileged” - serves to galvanize those other races into perceiving the “movement” as a racial movement and thus separate from them and, indeed, even in opposition to them. For that reason, members of this “other” race, in this case whites, lose any sympathy with the alleged cause of the movement and begin to side with the police since the police are, at least, equal opportunity oppressors.