There was a riot in Baltimore Monday night. People rioted and looted a CVS pharmacy which was subsequently set on fire. Police cars and vans were burned. Rocks and bottles were thrown at police and more than a dozen officers were injured. What began with less than a hundred juveniles escalated until it seemed half of Baltimore was in the streets and the other half was on fire.
And the media finally noticed Baltimore. In fact, the media went wall to wall with Baltimore burning.
It isn’t the first time. It isn’t even the fifth or the tenth. There was Ferguson, Missouri and the murder of Michael Brown…but the media didn’t show up until protests turned into riots. Eric Garner’s murder by the NYPD was barely noticed until thousands took to the streets of Manhattan to protest. Young black men killed in Los Angeles, Cleveland and Tulsa didn’t have the benefit of riots or protests in the streets, so the media, while reporting on them, didn’t obsess over them.
And now we have Baltimore. And in two days of riot coverage…in the wake of the funeral of Freddy Gray, the young black man murdered by Baltimore police…his name was barely mentioned. So far as most of the media was concerned, the riots in Baltimore happened for no reason at all. Black people were burning down the city for fun…or the loot they could take from a CVS pharmacy.
The rioters and the looters are reprehensible. Even worse is that they have cast the legitimate protestors under their shadow, burying the protests over a young man’s death. And yet it wasn’t until the rioters took over that the media started paying attention. Freddy Gray was injured more than two weeks ago…and died more than a week ago. The media duly reported the story…then moved on the the 2016 presidential campaign or the White House Correspondents Dinner. Or what have you. Freddy Gray’s death meant very little until rioters took to the streets.
Perhaps they should be thanked.
The plight of young black men versus the police has been going on for years. Only lately, the wake of nationwide protests and riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, have the media…and thus the nation…begun to take notice. But if all we see is rioting, looters and arson…what lessons will we take away from this. That we need to find a way to make peace between young black men and the police? Or that these people are thugs who deserve what they get?
We are still a racist nation. The more we deny that, the more racist we become. We need peace in our streets. And we won’t have until we deal with the racism that fuels the fires.