I arrived back from the West Coast to a much-changed Baltimore. All the progress that the city has made over the past twenty years is now threatened.
I think that what we are seeing in Baltimore is displaced anger caused by shame.
Last night, while West Baltimore was flooded with thousands of police, there were six shootings unrelated to the riot; they were all black victims, and the odds are about infinity to one that the shooters were black.
Each year several hundred black men in Baltimore are killed by other black men – and not word or a protest about it.
Now, even one unjustified killing or death by negligence by the police is too much. The police as agents of the state must be held to the highest standards, and it is in everyone’s interest that the police treat all citizens with respect.
But the reaction to a few deaths of black men at the hands of the police and as opposed to deaths of tens of thousands of black men at the hands of other black men is disproportionate.
Communities, like individuals, can suffer from shame (think of the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church). Shame about an evil for which one is responsible causes disproportionate reactions to lesser evils for which someone else is responsible. I think we have all seen this in people we know, and perhaps in ourselves.
But of course, such anger does nothing to correct the evil for which one as an individual or a community is responsible.
What do the rioters want? For the police to stay out of their neighborhoods, so criminals can rob and kill without let or hindrance? In that case we would have thousands rather than hundreds of black deaths in Baltimore each year. If the police were absolutely courteous and handled every arrest with a camera crew present, it would do nothing to stop the black-on-black violence.
BTW, the majority of policemen in Baltimore are black, as are the mayor and police chief, and the new state’s attorney.