Sometimes Nothing’s Right, But There’s Plenty of Wrong

Regarding the violence in Baltimore, I defer to Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)

This is the significant part, for me:

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. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

If history is our guide, no good will come from the violence in Baltimore. The people who will suffer most are those in the burned-out neighborhoods who lack the resources to move out.  I disagree with this guy, who argues that the violence is a legitimate political strategy. I don’t see strategy; I just see reaction. It’s understandable reaction, but as Coates says, “wisdom isn’t the point tonight.” Violence may be wrong, but maybe non-violence is wrong, too, in a different way. It’s hard to know.

Nonviolence as a tactic works when it creates sympathy for your side, and when people see you being nonviolent in the face of unreasonable oppression and violence. It works when state troopers attack peaceful marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, for example. But when the violence to citizens mostly happens out of sight, nonviolence by itself may be less effective.

Michael Fletcher writes,

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.

If this is so, where is the remedy? I honestly don’t know.

Via Hullabaloo, this was said by the COO of the Orioles:

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

Something to think about.

What doesn’t have to be thought about is Rand Paul. There was plenty of tone-deaf cluelessness this week, but he may take the prize.

“I came through the train on Baltimore (sic) last night, I’m glad the train didn’t stop,” he said, laughing, during an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

This guy thinks he ought to be President, remember. He’d be another Dubya.

Railing against what he repeatedly called “thuggery and thievery” in the streets of Baltimore, Paul told Ingraham that talking about “root causes” was not appropriate in the middle of a riot.

“The police have to do what they have to do, and I am very sympathetic to the plight of the police in this,” he said.

As far as root causes, Paul listed some ideas of his own.

“There are so many things we can talk about,” the senator said, “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society.”

He added that “this isn’t just a racial thing.”

Utter. Abject. Cluelessness. This guy should not only be kept out of the White House; he shouldn’t be in elected office at any level.

13 thoughts on “Sometimes Nothing’s Right, But There’s Plenty of Wrong

  1. It’s more than a little pathetic that the COO of a MLB team understands the root causes of the problems better than most politicians and business leaders.

    Parents who can’t find jobs to adequately support their families, will turn to sex, drugs, and a variety of other escapes. It’s sad, but it’s true.
    Bring good paying jobs back to the inner cities, and then you might see some real change.

    But, for corporations, there’s a greater profit margin if they ship those jobs overseas. And that’s been the problem in this country since the early 70’s.
    Just as black people got civil and voting rights in the mid-1960’s that were denied to them since the end of the Civil War, and were able to find jobs, our corporations pulled the rugs out from under the inner cities, and started to ship those good paying jobs out.
    Baltimore, like NY, Philadelphia, and Boston – among other coastal cities – were once important ports for manufacturing and commerce.
    Now, a lot of those former ports are tourist attractions – like in NY City, Baltimore, Philly, and Boston – and goods are manufactured all around the world, and shipped into and out of cheaper coastal locations, where labor and real estate costs are not as high.

    The conservatives in this country will now use this to try to pry a place for themselves to win the Presidency and both houses of Congress in 2016 – a dark place full of worst kind of racist emotions, and full of racial hatred and fear.

    “Divide and conquer.”
    It’s what they do best.
    Hell, it’s ALL they do!!!

  2. “There are so many things we can talk about,” the senator said, “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society.”

    He added that “this isn’t just a racial thing.”

    Rand Paul: Dean of the David Cameron School of Privileged White-Guy Cluelessness.

  3. The whole thing comes down to the fact that all these police departments start at the premise that the police did nothing wrong, that is the problem. When a citizen breaks the law he or she are rounded up immediately and charged (if they are black sometimes they get killed) but when a cop kills someone it takes weeks just to decide whether or not to even bring charges? The whole thing stinks. I think the Orioles COO summed it up perfectly. And Randy Paul should be concerned about his own kid before he starts giving parental advice, fucking hypocrite!

  4. They’re invoking the Crypts and the Bloods for dogs sake! Why not talk about the gang truly responsible for this, the blue meanies.

  5. Peaceful rallies aren’t enough; nor are riots; but both are a good sign, of, respectively, principle and energy. The trick is to integrate the two. Force + Order = Power.

    How about massive sit-ins at the police stations? Shut them down! Occupy PD! And be sure to bring plenty of camera-phones to broadcast the police over-reaction.

  6. Read Coates earlier today and was impressed with the analysis. I have seen some smart kids I taught have the same penetrating view. Of course, I have sen plenty of
    t h e s t o o p i d, too. I am waiting for the decrying of violence in economic warfare. But not holding my breath.

  7. It’s old – maybe trite.. but it’s the whole issue in 7 words.

    If you want peace, work for justice.

  8. Uncledad: I don’t understand. What are you trying to say with your link to that video?

  9. “less radicalized people who have better control over our emotions”

    Wow OK thanks! I just think that song is hilarious thats all, Im an old refomed punk rocker what can I say?

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