As a journalist beginning sweeps period, I found the images of Baltimore on fire captivating, thrilling and even enthralling. But, l wept as a black person over the images of our young people, once again resorting to violence, destruction and theft, to resolve an emotional, intellectual and systemic problem that doesn’t have anything to do with the targets of their wrath. I was sadden to see another community unable to police itself, left to be controlled by military forces trained to combat terrorists.
I’m not certain the curfew and isn’t the way to bring order to a chaotic situation. I simply know the thought of it weighs heavy on my heart. It also makes we wonder what the looters and rioters hoped to accomplish, if not this. Certainly lawlessness without a stated objective, a list of demands, representatives or a focused target won’t likely result in a different outcome.
The entire scene in Baltimore made me thinks of times that preceded my birth like the riots in Michigan, California and my present home city of Newark. When I moved into a relativity new, semi gated community in Brick City a decade ago, there were very few restaurants, stores and a lone grocery store near my townhouse. There were abandoned lots, shells of homes and very few jobs. I didn’t shop there or eat there. I went to work and came home, choosing to socialize in places I thought were safer or better developed. My home was a refuge from the other sites around the city. It was also the most reasonable place I could own in the area, on my own, at the time.
Like I said, I moved there decades after the uproar in the sixties and yet New Jersey’s largest city was still riddled with crime, despair and poverty. These facts made me hesitant to be part of the city’s rebirth. I didn’t want to risk my hard earned money, property and life to help a community that had once imploded; perhaps this is a reality is that some people in Baltimore have overlooked. I didn’t like through the civil rights movement nor did most of the rioters. Yet, I fail to understand how a year after the movie Selma recreated scenes of blacks in their Sunday best marching for equal treatment and respect during tumultuous times, another generation could think disorder and disrespect for authority wouldn’t provoke authorities.
I am truly dumbfounded that anyone could believe the death of Freddie Gray will be avenged by leaving the community in which he lived in tatters. It seems to me the best way to honor him is to continue to gather in the capitol at the governor office, on the mayors doorstep and at the police station and peacefully refused to be moved until the officers who had a role in his death are investigated and disciplined, body cameras are ordered, and police procedures claimed.
Trust me, I’m a black woman who may still someday give birth to a black man or woman. I don’t want him or her to fall victim to a renegade cop or a flawed system. I don’t want to find myself standing on the other side of the cameras that I work behind shedding tears like I’ve seen on the face of Michael Brown’s, Michael Brown’s, Eric Garner’s, Walter Scott’s, Sean Bell’s, or Tamir Rice’s parents, etc… I also want to make sure my kids can and do respect authority, learn how to demand change in thus society and don’t have to fear losing every business and building in the neighborhood due to misdirected anger.
*Image is courtesy of TheWrap.com
About the author: Nika C. Beamon is a veteran journalist working in New York. She’s the author of the newly released memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. In 2009, Chicago Review Press published her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful, Single Black Women Speak Out. She also wrote two mystery books: Dark Recesses (2000) and Eyewitness (2002).