Journalist Michael Fletcher
knows Baltimore well:
Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial. The mayor, city council president, police chief, top prosecutor, and many other city leaders are black, as is half of Baltimore’s 3,000-person police force. The city has many prominent black churches and a line of black civic leadership extending back to Frederick Douglass.
Yet, the gaping disparities separating the haves and the have nots in Baltimore are as large as they are anywhere. And, as the boys on the street will tell you, black cops can be hell on them, too.
Precisely. Ninnies on the right, like Rand Paul, insist on framing the issue in racial -- racist
-- terms. Paul dared to pin the blame on "lack of fathers.
" That's a pretty funny remark, coming as it does from the father of a drunk who seems to be perpetually in trouble with the law.
The problem has less to do with skin pigmentation than with the mentality of our police. Black people are, of course, the chief victims of police misconduct, but none
of the working-class white people I've met in Baltimore has expressed any great admiration for the local constabulary. Not long after I showed up in this town, I heard a white working-class father instruct his young son: "Don't ever
call the cops. We don't need them. They only cause trouble."
As the Baltimore Sun has ably documented, this city's law enforcement officers have committed a series of abuses over the years. The legal system provides no remedy: The department keeps getting sued, yet the large payouts never seem to change police behavior.
Then there is the nationwide problem of cops being used as shakedown operators, as mafia enforcers
, in a scheme to generate cash for various cities. Under the new system, poor people found guilty of minor infractions end up paying huge chunks of their income for years and years -- and if they miss a payment, they end up in debtors' prison.
So what is to be done?
The teevee news commentators keep holding up the ideal of non-violent protest. But this piece
in Truthout makes a few worthwhile observations:
So anyone who calls for protestors to remain "peaceful," like the Civil Rights activists of old, must answer this question: what actions should be taken when America refuses to be ashamed? Images of black death are proliferating beyond our capacity to tell each story, yet there remains no tipping point in sight—no moment when white people in America will say, "Enough." And no amount of international outrage diminishes the US's reputation to the point of challenging its status as a hegemonic superpower.
What change will a "peaceful" protest spark if a "peaceful" protest is so easy to ignore?
We've heard many variants of that theme in recent years. Antiwar protests may have had enormous impact in the 1960s, but now they are regarded as background music. War is a business, and protest is just the price of doing business. Today's Overclass lives far removed from the larger community. The one-percenters have made their attitude very clear: "Go ahead and march. Hold signs. Sing songs. Chant slogans. Write angry comments on the internet. We encourage you to vent. Just don't actually do anything that might inconvenience us
. Be non-violent, or we'll kill you."
As a wise man pointed out: Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.
There is a paradox here. The right keeps telling us to work within this corrupt system -- yet at the same time, the right holds within its own ranks many militia maniacs, secessionists, and conspiracy-addled twits who advocate their own brand of violence. Conservatives can't have it both ways. They can't say: "It's all right for disaffected white people in Arizona to form paramilitary units -- but urban blacks should just sing hymns and recite lines from Dr. King's speech."
It is laughable for representatives of this bloodthirsty government to sing the praises of peaceful protest.
It is laughable for our mass-murdering president
to pretend to have the moral standing to talk about non-violence.
It is laughable to tell the victims of a hopelessly corrupt system to work for change within
It is laughable for our Fox News neocons, a group devoted to the worship of Ares, to tell the American underclass to give peace a chance.
"Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever," said Orwell's villain, O'Brien -- but even he
wasn't audacious enough to tell his victim: "Have you considered non-violent forms of protest?" Even he
did not have the gall to stare into the bloodied face of a would-be rebel and say: "You know what your problem is? You had an absentee father."
In a way, our current rulers are worse than Big Brother. They have a crueler sense of humor.
I cite, once again, this important piece
by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is.