On Baltimore

I don’t condone violence, especially when there are innocent people being beaten and kicked to the ground, looking up and watching their local small businesses be looted and vandalized. But — while the destruction of the riots is deplorable, and the people who are using this social upheaval for personal benefit should be imprisoned — the response by America as a whole to them has been sickening.

What happened in Baltimore yesterday was unfortunate, not just for the Baltimore community but for humanity as a whole. Because it should have never reached this point. And to address the issue as if yesterday is the cause and not the result shows that this country really hasn’t changed all that much since the ’60s. It’s just gotten better at hiding its demons.

I want you to imagine high school, yourself or anybody else back in the day. Imagine that you’re in class, and the teacher is consistently picking on you, and other people like you. I’m not talking imagined hassling, like you coming home to Mom like “Ms. Hunter keeps assigning homework then failing me when I don’t turn it in! She hates me!”

No.

I’m talking this teacher is shameless. Calling you names and telling the other students you’re worthless, both behind your back and to your face. Talking to you like you’re illiterate. Sticking your seat off in a corner somewhere so you’re separated from the rest of the class. Positively radiating hatred the moment you walk into the room, to the point that you spend all your energy day in and day out just trying not to live up to their expectations, instead of becoming whoever you were meant to be.

Not only that, because the teacher is picking on you and because you’re getting upset about it, people in the class who aren’t getting picked on by the teacher are following his/her example and picking on you too.

Imagine you report this to the principal and they do nothing. You tell your parents and they say stop complaining, suck it up. You tell your friends in other classes and they say it’s all in your head, that nobody actually does the things you’re describing. You tell the school board and they support the principal and teacher in question, tell you to basically piss off.

Imagine one of your classmates — indoctrinated by the teacher’s discriminatory teachings — finally catches you on a bad day, pushes you too far, maybe gets you to flinch at them and they call assault and suddenly you’re suspended from school for three days. Feeling persecuted and shamed, you leave the school and look back and realize that people in school legitimately don’t care that you’re being treated like a second-class citizen, or that you’re being exiled for a period of time. It’s life as usual for them, and that life is way better than yours.

Now imagine when you come back to school and are met with the same animosity and prejudice and you finally just snap and start yelling at people to leave you alone, let you live your life — back off — everybody turns around and blames you for your angry reaction to semesters of systemic oppression.

Imagine yourself in that situation — or even anybody in that situation — and tell me again that you don’t understand people resorting to violence.

Columbine happened, a bunch of college shootings happened, and documentaries about bullying and boycotts resulted, along with legislative action and demonstrations that all made bullying become a cultural phenomenon, brought to light and enacting some serious change.

The riots in LA in ’92 brought the entire LAPD under scrutiny and showed the country a nasty side to law enforcement that is all the more relevant today.

Televised beatings and rioting in the ’60s helped Dr. King’s cause and finally pushed through civil rights legislation that did a lot to further minority progress in the country, but obviously not enough.

Hitler would run the world right now if we hadn’t firebombed his country.

Again, I’m not condoning violence, because I’m not a violent person. But history has shown — for whatever reason, maybe because humanity isn’t nearly as civilized as our species likes to believe — that violence is the only thing that ever gets people’s attention on a large scale.

And I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that some attention is seriously, seriously needed here.

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