Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rage Against the Machine

On April 12, 2015 Freddie Gray, an African-American male was arrested by the Baltimore City Police Department.  On April 19th, Freddie Gray died as a result of the injuries that he suffered while under the care of that same police department.  This event sparked a series of events in Baltimore. Most were peaceful and unifying.  A small portion, heavily focused on by the media, were violent. But it is the death of Freddie Gray that has added another dimension to the discussion of police brutality, racial inequalities and the communities that are effected.  But this post is not about police brutality.  It is about Baltimore and other urban communities in the like.

You see the scenes from Baltimore really weighed heavily on my heart.  I used to work in Baltimore.  I interned there, I was a law clerk there, and I  was an attorney there.  As an attorney I represented children in child abuse and neglect cases.  My clients, children, lived in communities that have been ignored by the "leadership" of the city for some time.

These children represent the rage against the machine.  Cycles of poverty are generational.  Insufficient educational systems, lack of jobs, lack of access to proper health care, homelessness, and just a general lack of hope lay the foundation for a city of rage.  I have seen parents who go to the Department of Social Services for help and who then ended up being involved in the system for years.  The children I represented have lived in an environment where they have been forgotten for many years.

So it has taken rage and anger for people to finally listen. It has taken damaged vehicles, fires, and broken windows to remind the world of the people who they can no longer conveniently ignore.  No longer can you visit Baltimore and walk along the peaceful inner harbor, catch a game at Camden Yards, or stroll throw the cobble stoned streets of Fells Point without remembering the images that became emblazoned upon every tv set around the nation and around the world.

Let me make this clear.  I do not condone violence.  I especially do not condone children, yes children, not thugs, to commit crimes.  I understand the anger.  But I also understand that the police are taking all these pictures and videos and are using them to identify each person including, juveniles, who were involved.  As a result, these same kids will now be entering the system that they were trying to fight.  And let me tell you, once you are in the system it is very hard to get out.  It is a system with cracks.  A system that I have been trying to fix, so I know it well.

So why I am I writing this now?  So that we don't forget.  Change in Baltimore is not going to come from the prosecution of the officers involved.  Nor will it occur with body cameras for officers.  Change is going to take a multi-disciplinary approach with the community spearheading the change.  Not Al Sharpton.  I am talking about the men and women who have lived in the same house for 30 years.  The aunties and uncles who know the community.  We need young adults to step up and and claim their neighborhoods.  But we also need lawyers, doctors, teachers, police officers, scientists, architects, nutritionists, social workers, everyone working together to create several systematic changes.  It is going to take a lot of dialogue, a lot of time, and a lot of money.  It is going to involve moments of discomfort, but change usually does.  There are people who have already been doing the work, but they need help and resources.

Some people are tired of talking about race.  But the issues of race, poverty, and economic status are intertwined.  We need to keep talking.  We need to keep healing.  And we all need to have conversations that will stretch our understanding and tolerance of others' feelings and cultures.  Fear can serve as a catalyst for negative behavior.  It is time to erase this fear that we all have of each other.

Let's not let Freddie Gray's death be in vain.  No more teachable moments.  This time let's start a real substantive change in Baltimore that can be replicated across the country.  Let us no longer turn a blind eye to those issues that might not effect us on a personal level.  Because the truth is what happens in the inner city of Baltimore effects us all.  We are an inter-connected society and it is time that we start acting like it.  Their rage is my rage too.  I can't wait to see what comes out of the ashes...