Clueless White Privilege meets the Baltimore Revolt

What’s going on in Baltimore isn’t a riot, it’s a revolt, and clueless white people in the media just don’t get it.

Case in point: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, who actually grew up in a very affluent town in Maryland and attended a prestigious prep school in the area. During a live report from the streets of Baltimore yesterday, Roberts approached a protester and asked that protester whether rioting was really the right way to get justice for Freddie Gray.

Her response was perfect. She said:

My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us…. I mean, enough is enough. We've had too many lives lost at the hands of police officers. Enough is enough.

Enough is enough is right. .

And if white people like Thomas Roberts stepped outside their narrow little world of privilege once in a while and actually learned about what it’s like to be black in Baltimore, they’d agree.

Don’t believe me? Just check out these statistics that Bill Quigley has put together over at Alternet.

One hundred and forty-eight thousand people, about 24 percent of Baltimore’s total population, live in poverty.

The unemployment rate in the black community is double the unemployment rate in the white community. People who live in Baltimore’s wealthiest neighborhoods live 20 years longer than people who live in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods.

White babies born in Baltimore live, on average, 6 years longer than black babies, and black babies are 9 - I repeat, 9 - times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. Black Baltimore residents, meanwhile, are 8 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS and 2 times more likely to die from diabetes.

And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, black Baltimore residents are 560 percent more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Baltimore residents, despite smoking marijuana at about the same rate. In fact - and this is really amazing - 92 percent of all marijuana-related arrests in Baltimore were of African-Americans, which gives Charm City the dubious honor of having the highest marijuana arrest racial disparity in America.

This was the kindling; Freddie Gray’s death was just the spark.

That raises the question - would a white guy like, say, George Washington have put up with a situation like this? No, he wouldn’t have.

He and his fellow white American revolutionaries actually went out and started shooting people when their government got too oppressive. And that’s really the key point here. Violence, especially revolutionary violence, to paraphrase Black Panther H. Rap Brown, is as American as cherry pie.

That’s not, by the way, an endorsement of looting or burning down convenient stores - it’s just an acknowledgment of the historical reality we live in. This country was literally founded by rioters and “thugs.” Today we call them “patriots."

So when we see young black people out in the streets of Baltimore, we should remember the words of the greatest of those patriots, Thomas Jefferson.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” he once wrote,

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… [And] when a long train of abuses and usurpations… [demonstrates] a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Today, we don't need to completely throw off our government, the way that Washington and his buddies did, but it's way past time for some serious reforms. We could start by bringing our jobs back home from overseas, and banning police forces from using poor communities as ATMs. And investing in our schools and our young people.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to help America realize the ideals we've always claimed. Let's get started!

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