As the city of Baltimore deals with what many have considered inevitable – conflict between the community and law enforcement boiling over onto the streets – its mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, finds herself rushing to clarify controversial comments she made about the protesters.
Over the weekend, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said of protests on Saturday, “It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we tried to make sure they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we gave those who wished to destroy space to do that, as well.”
In response to criticism, Rawlings-Blake took to Facebook to write:
“I did not instruct police to give space to protesters who were seeking to create violence or destruction of property. Taken in context, I explained that, in giving peaceful demonstrators room to share their message, unfortunately, those who were seeking to incite violence also had space to operate.”
Unfortunately, this is not the comment that’s most troubling. Even if Rawlings-Blake meant she allowed some people to act out their rage for the sake of possibly preventing more, so be it. Rawlings-Blake noticing anger is not the problem. Her lack of regard for those who are angry and why – i.e. her constituents – is the real disappointment.
During a press conference on Monday night, Rawlings-Blake said:
“I’m a lifelong resident of Baltimore and too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who in a very senseless way are trying to tear down what so many have fought for. Tearing down businesses.
Tearing down and destroying property, things that we know will impact our community for years. We are deploying every resource possible to gain control of the situation and to ensure peace moving forward.”
As a life-long resident turned mayor of Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake should know better than anyone that the frustration turned into rage that gave way to rioting was decades in the making. It is the result of jobs fleeing the city in favor of cheaper labor abroad; a war on drugs that was only successful in taking Black men off the streets to the delight of the now booming private prison industry; a police department that has such an extensive history of brutality that it has spent millions upon millions to pay victims off. Many of those payoffs are just a few years old.
As a politician, Rawlings-Blake ought to also be keenly aware of how “thug” is often employed by critics of Black people in thinly veiled racist rhetoric. More often than not, “thug” is a substitute for “nigger” and while I’m not surprised to see a Black face echo a white supremacist sentiment, it is no less disappointing.
How dare she bear witness and preside over a police department that has long been known to harass Black people and find the nerve to call them “thugs” without also acknowledging that they’re pissed over the thuggery of the Baltimore Police Department? It’s like the Baltimore Police Commissioner calling on parents to “take control of your kids” as he fails to control his police department.
Then there is President Obama, who in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, once again called on the nation to “do some soul-searching.” Obama then joined Rawlings-Blake in condemning the “criminals and thugs who tore up” Baltimore Monday night, arguing, “They’re not making a statement.” I certainly think a statement was made, though it seems Obama, Rawlings-Blake, and Maryland Governor Hogan have stuck their fingers in their eyes and proceeded to chant, “La-la-la-la.”
By the way, Obama lamented over “communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men.” It’s a feeling echoed by Kentucky senator and Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul. How patriarchal. How hallow. How boring. I’d rather Obama lecture Hogan given he’s the one proposing to cut $35 million to Baltimore City schools.
To hell with all of their moralizing. This country was stolen from its original inhabitants and built on the backs of African slaves held in captivity. It presently oppresses descendants of those people both socially and economically. So when it comes to Obama’s call for America to “do some soul-searching,” one wonders what soul America has ever proven to have?
With respect to Rawlings-Blake’s pleas that those rioting are destroying decades worth of work, whose work is she alluding to? Certainly not the poor people who have long suffered in that city. Maybe she means the work of the business and government interests that have put their interests ahead of the community in question. They’ve done a hell of a job.
As for this notion of residents destroying “their own community” that she and others speak of, when is the last time they truly looked around? I don’t encourage the destruction of property, but a store owned by a massive corporate chain will be fine in due time. So will the check cashing spots that have screwed over poor folks for far too long.
Don’t worry about CVS right now and be more concerned about whether or not members of the Baltimore Police Department will finally stop killing Black men and women. If these folks were truly concerned about the “thugs” out there ruining things for good people, start with those thugs wearing badges who stole Freddie Gray’s life. After that, try giving people in Baltimore and other cities just like it real opportunity.
In the meantime, fuck this faux concern about the destruction of a community that had long been enclosed in rubble.