Look at the world around us. Look at the distress, the riots, the cries for equality and for justice. Look at the blood in the streets and the gut-churning stories broadcast by media outlets.
Look at your social media newsfeeds and read the anger.
What is happening in Baltimore is ugly, and you can’t put a pretty bow on something so sinister. Rioting is always condemned as counterproductive and horrendous – and to those who lost businesses or property or peace of mind in Baltimore, of course it is.
In all of the uproar about what’s happening in Baltimore and what happened in Ferguson, everyone is blaming the people involved, on either side. But where are the condemnations for the root of the issue, for the system that has created this racial tension?
When fire and blood paint the newsstands and TV screens, watchers can’t help but see two sides – and choose one: Either the rioters are savages or the police are racist, power-hungry tormentors.
There is a war going on between black and blue – that’s the easy narrative to see. But that’s not the real war.
The war is between black communities and the greater American society, which has suppressed them for far too long. It is a war on the system, which, when met with accusations of inequality, turns a smiling face and laughs, “Racism doesn’t really exist anymore – that battle ended in the ‘60s.”
We’ve seen these riots before. Living in such close proximity to Detroit, Michiganders, more than anyone else, have felt first hand the long-term effects of race riots: “white flight” from the city, abandoned and decaying buildings and homes, failed businesses, more crime, more violence, more discrimination, more riots, more poverty.
These problems hit Detroit first, but the city won’t be the last. Baltimore in 2015 looks a lot like Detroit in 1967. With the destruction that Baltimore has seen in the last week, it will surely take the city years to recover, in the best case. Worst case, in 30 years, Baltimore is still trying to claw its way out, facing the same blight Detroiters have witnessed.
And as long as the media and the government and every citizen sounding off on the Internet continues to choose sides and place blame, that blight is only going to spread nationwide, hitting cities like a disease.
We need to stop blaming individuals, be they rioters or police. None of these people woke up thinking, “I want to go to war today.” They are fighting for what they believe is right, or doing their job, caught up in something so much bigger than themselves.
The only way to save our country and to right history’s wrongs is to fix the system.
To those that deny this is a systematic problem, we saw it first-hand at Washtenaw a few years ago, when The Voice revealed that every target on the gun range used by WCC’s Police Academy depicted an African- American male. They were literally training the minds of future police officers to see black men as targets.
Let’s raise the conversation to a level higher than personal blame. Let’s start talking about the system and how we’re going to fix it, because when shameful pieces of our country’s history repeat themselves, we can’t expect the response or its severity to be any different.