Freddie Gray, Baltimore and more
By Pastor Rasheed Z. Baaith
“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word.” Psalms 119:28 (capitalization mine)
The murder of Freddie Gray abounds with profound, generational, horrific tragedies. Even before the moment of his spine being snapped and death coming as a consequence, tragedy was enveloping Baltimore like some doom-filled cloud. It was certainly there before parts of the city burst into flames.
Like a lot of tragedy it may have been averted. When Stephanie Rawlings-Blake became mayor of Baltimore and Anthony W. Blatts was named commissioner of that city, they both had to be aware of the reputation of the Baltimore Police Department. Especially Mayor Rawlings-Blake; she was born and raised in the city, as were her parents.
Since 2011 Baltimore has paid out more than $5.7 million from lawsuits claiming police officers have beaten or killed alleged suspects in confrontations on the street. The individuals range in age from a 15-year-old riding a bike to an 87-year-old grandmother. There have also been a number of deaths from police/citizen encounters. Edward Lamont Hunt, Anthony Anderson and Tyrone Brown were all killed by Baltimore police officers. In each case there was an award of money to the families implying wrong doing on the part of the Baltimore police.
This then is a many generational predicament that has been festering for years and has now blown up with the violence that engendered it in the first place. 1968 was the last time Baltimore had this level of community street violence and that was caused by the assassination of Dr. King. But this is home grown in nature.
That means a number of things. One is this is a systemic problem requiring wholesale systemic change; two, the refusal to understand the long smoldering resentment and anger of the community against the Baltimore Police Department is either grounded in stupidity or willfully done. In either case, if it continues so will the potential for more violence. How can it not?
Police Commissioner Blatts has been in that position since 2012 and has implemented new policies and procedures in hopes of bringing a new professionalism to the police department and when it comes to disciplining bad cops. The changes have not done what he hoped. He obviously has to do more. So do others.
Why the President didn’t take to the air waves when Baltimore exploded or helicopter over the burning city to get a closer look at the situation is way past my understanding. While it all would have been symbolic, it is a symbolism that city needed and its people would have appreciated.
What more has to happen for him to speak up, what will cause him to leave that pedestal of detachment he’s on when it comes to the deterioration of the relationship between the Black community and the police? How many more Black boys or men or girls have to get shot?
Next, the President has to recognize and acknowledge the problems of the Baltimore Police Department are the same problems the police departments all over this country have. It is a national dilemma and it will take a national effort to impact it. Influence flows from the top down not the bottom up.
Only flames do that. Think about it.