Once my husband and I had a fight and I got really angry at him and I had a bowl of spaghetti in my hands, and I wasn’t going to throw it at him, so I smashed it on the floor. And it broke. And made a huge mess. I knew it was going to break and make a huge mess. And I did it anyway. I really just needed to do that. It startled everyone, it disrupted the moment, and it actually led to a solution.
I did lose the bowl. And I had to clean up the spaghetti. And I’m not advocating this as a method to resolving conflict as a first line approach. I’m just telling you because perhaps you’ve felt this way once or twice, or more, in your life.
Now, it’s probably worth mentioning here, if you haven’t already noticed from my picture, that I’m white. I’m white, and I was raised middle-class, and I’ve had a lot of advantages in my life. I’ve never been stopped for driving while white. I have never been stopped by the police in the U.S. because I just looked like I didn’t belong someplace. Even though, as a middle-aged white woman, I am the most likely shoplifter in America, I have never been followed with suspicion around a store. I have never experienced what it’s like to be black in the U.S.
So when I notice that white, middle-class friends have been commenting about the events in Baltimore, and sometimes passing judgements, I have to pause. I’ve heard comments such as, “but why are they trashing their own neighborhoods?” or “violence is never OK.” And I pause and consider that these are easy things to say from a place of privilege. These are easy things to say when we haven’t been living in the place where violence is already all around us – where violence has been thrust upon us first from the police and from the rest of society. So I thought I’d give some examples of white people behaving in similar fashion in order to help more white people understand.
Remember at the end of the fifth Harry Potter book? (yes, there’s a spoiler alert here). Remember when Sirius Black died, and then Harry trashed Dumbledore’s office (in the book – the movie, for some inexplicable reason, omitted this scene)? Harry trashed Dumbledore’s office. He was filled with rage and he smashed everything. And Dumbledore understood. He told Harry that they were just things. They could be replaced. Perhaps we should keep that in mind when we’re considering Baltimore – these are things. They can be replaced. Freddie Gray can’t be replaced.
Now, Harry was just one boy. One boy acting out because of his overwhelming grief. But what happens when that grief is the grief of an entire community? What happens when that entire community has no outlet?
Oh – and remember Jesus? Not necessarily a white guy – but a lot of white folks relate to him. Remember when he got pissed at the money changers in the Temple, and he went after them? (That would be in Matthew 21, or Mark 11, or Luke 19, or John 2). We hold Jesus up in that story, but from the perspective of the Temple leaders and Rome, Jesus was starting a riot.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, in his address entitled The Two Americas, that rioting was the language of the unheard. Well, now the disenfranchised people of Baltimore are being heard. They must be head.
People are hurt and angry and grieving. Freddie Gray is dead. I will not tell ht oppressed to lay down their bricks and rocks before the police lay down their militarized gear and their random attacks on young black men.
It saddens me to see what has become of this. I pray for the 98 injured police officers who have put themselves in harm’s way because of the actions of a few of their own. But I will not question or condemn the actions of those who feel powerless to anything but collectively smash the giant dish of spaghetti on the floor of the city. These are only things. Things can be replaced. Freddie Gray cannot be replaced.
The violence must indeed stop. The Baltimore Police must stop killing young black men.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.