Last year after Mike Brown was killed by a white police officer, I remember watching the riots on television and thinking once again “us” black people are making ourselves look ignorant. I just didn’t understand how rioting was going to solve the problem. I’m usually hesitant about posting my thoughts on Facebook but I decided to vent my frustrations on the issue that day. A few people agreed with my sentiments but one person in particular responded to my status by saying I was being ignorant for ignoring a hurting people. I was annoyed by her comment but I shrugged it off and thought to myself to each his own.
Over the past year there have been several other murders of unarmed black men by white police officers and the majority of the officers have been acquitted of the charges. After the death of Freddie Gray my view points on rioting and protesting have definitely changed. I was watching CNN the night of the Baltimore protesting after the death of Gray and journalist Marcus Lamont Hill was debating with a white journalist about using the term thug when referring to the rioters. Lamont was arguing that the protestors shouldn’t be called thugs. He said these people are poor and uneducated and they are tired of their voices being ignored. I remember him saying that rioting is how they are making their voices heard. After he said that I froze up. I thought back to what I said last year about the protestors being ignorant and it hit me that I was actually the one being ignorant. I don’t know what it feels like to be uneducated and poor and I don’t know what it feels like to have my voice ignored by society. Although I’m African American I grew up in a middle class family and my college education was something easily attainable. A lot of times when we can’t relate to what someone else is going through we simply ignore the problem. Instead of blaming the rioters we should have been trying to figure out why they were rioting.
What I’ve noticed about most of the neighborhoods where rioting occurs is that they are mostly all impoverished neighborhoods comprised of mainly minorities. Why are the majority of all impoverished neighborhoods in the U.S. made of up of mostly minorities? That’s the big question that we should be asking. A few months ago I attended the Atlanta Film Festival and one of the films that I watched was a documentary called “Chicago Love”. The documentary took an in-depth look into the violence and poverty that is going on in the city of Chicago. In one part of the documentary a former gang member named Harold was driving around parts of the city and was pointing out how there were liquor stores, churches, and pay day loan stores on every block. He also pointed out how there were no grocery stores or hospitals in close proximity. One community activist pointed out that the city spends over 80 million dollars a year on minor drug violations such as marijuana arrests when the city could be putting that money towards the broken school system or job creations. One resident who lost her child to gun violence dismally stated that the system was designed this way to keep the poor oppressed. The documentary was very informative and definitely shines a light on institutionalized racism.
Over the last few months I have grown a lot spiritually and have become more conscious. I don’t watch television as much and I limit my time on social media because I realize that these are just distractions to keep people blinded about what’s going on in our society. All last week it seemed like the whole world was talking about Bruce Jenner and his decision to live life as a woman all while huge injustices all around the world were quietly being swept under the rug. We need to all wake up and stop letting society side track us. We need to come together and help obliterate the injustices that are inflicting our fellow man.