Doubted by Many, Practiced by More

Here we go again.

An unarmed black male is killed and the world suddenly pays notice to the systemic racial profiling, police brutality and oppression that still exists in our country. While the cross national dialogue is nice, the focus and sensationalism of burned down businesses are not.

Baltimore resident and University of Maryland graduate Surafel Makonnen said, “They made it seem as if the riots were occurring everywhere when it was really in a small area and initially very peaceful a�� frustrated as hell, but peaceful.”

Injustices based on one’s skin color and zip code are not new. The attention on single cases and the media storm that follows can be detrimental to the cause in context of the larger issue. When there are opportunities to portray victims in a negative light, they are exploited by the media and those trying to justify the actions of the perpetrator.

“What’s happening in Baltimore is just one example of the police brutality especially felt by members of the black community,” junior Ambre Flowers said. “These things happen everyday.”

When Michael Brown was found to have stolen from a convenience store prior to his confrontation with Darren Wilson, it was used as justification for his death. When Trayvon Martin’s juvenile tweets were found to contain — gasp — profanity, it was used as justification for his poor character; as if character and the right to live are intertwined. The world watched the unrest in Baltimore and the actions of the rioters and looters were used as evidence that there are no inequities that demand attention.

That I have a problem with.

According to ProPublica, an investigative, non-profit news agency, young black males have a risk of being shot dead by police 21 times greater than their white counterparts. This statistic echoes the lives of many black-Americans, including myself, who are warned of the realities they face from law enforcement by their families, friends and general life experiences.

When I was a kid, being black was just something that I was. Like the color of your hair or the gap between your front teeth, it was something I realized and forgot about in 10 seconds. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized there is a subliminal color preference. Until the days when I was accused of stealing and even followed at stores when my white friends were not. Until I was given the infamous “talk” by my parents after my older brother was stopped by police officers outside his high school and accused of repping gang colors when he was just waiting to catch the bus, and until a substitute teacher in one of my classes told me my curly hair made me look lazy and, to put it like she did, “not very bright.”

The endless justification for the systematic loss of life and the ignorance of daily racial microaggressions that act as foundation for this system are products of the cultural racism that we have today.

To deny that police brutality and race are intersected is like throwing back on the same color-blind lenses I had as a child. Erasure is not progressive. Ignoring these problems is more deplorable than the riots themselves. These issues have been affecting me since the day I was born and, albeit to a lesser extent, I understand the frustration felt by the people of Baltimore.

I don’t support the violence and looting, but I also don’t believe destruction of property is a reason to ignore the fact that black and brown bodies are routinely undervalued. Baltimore is an epicenter of state sanctioned violence towards its black and Latino populations and people across America can relate to that fact.

Psychology teacher Christine Zafonte understands the issues that plague Baltimore; she formerly lived in Baltimore County as a college student attending Towson University, and her brother’s Baltimore-based restaurant was damaged at the hands of rioters. She said, “I think it’s going to awaken people. The fact there are still issues in Baltimore, you really can’t ignore what’s happening.”

Ultimately when your life is systematically disregarded by the so called “justice” system, property will eventually seem irrelevant. Violence isn’t the answer, but when a system doesn’t work and people don’t want to acknowledge its failures, uprisings will happen.