When will we stop being surprised when another young black man is dispatched by the police? By “we” I mean, we white people? Freddie Gray is just the latest victim of the New Jim Crow (basically the same as the old one, except a little less rhetorically overt). My initial impression at news of this fresh outrage was, if this had been a lynching in 1951, would any of us doubt who was responsible? This is freaking ridiculous. Sure, I know – investigation of any crime and prosecution of perpetrators is complex and time-consuming, for Christ on a bike – it isn’t like they found the guy on the street with a broken neck. He died in police custody. How many interviews does that take?
Monday night Baltimore was burning, in places. Tuesday morning, we heard all the usual stuff. Why are they burning their own neighborhoods down? What’s the matter with these people? Hey … they looted a liquor store? Same crap every time this happens. These, incidentally, are not the questions asked after every sports-related victory (or defeat) riot that happens in major American cities. Of course, those “thugs” tend to be mostly white people. They tend to belong to a more privileged class. Nothing to see here.
How are the police behaving in the wake of this popular anger? Here again, same story. Show of massive force, check. Leaking selected details from the investigation, check. Police union head saying astoundingly idiotic and tone-deaf shit, check. The story began circulating on Thursday, corroborated by multiple sources from within the public safety establishment in Baltimore, no doubt, that Freddie Gray was, in some measure, responsible for his own death. Just like Michael Brown, who “charged” officer Wilson, “bulking up” in a Hulk-like effort to withstand the hail of bullets, so we were told. Just like Trayvon Martin, who tried to grab Zimmerman’s gun before the wannabe cop used it on him, so we were told. They try to rule the narrative, just as they try to rule the streets.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has spared a few words for the injustice of it all. This seems to be a new development in her character. Indeed, the two most frequently mentioned Democratic presidential candidates – Clinton and Martin O’Malley – both bear the stain of extremist policing.
A day later, charges have been brought against the officers. Unusual, but of course, superficial in that it’s the street cops – not the policymakers – who get the ax. Plenty of blame to go around here, folks.