The Opportunity In Baltimore
Everyone loves Bob Marley, but Peter Tosh has words that are more applicable to the situation in Baltimore right now: “Everyone is crying out for peace, No one is crying out for justice.” Without equal rights and justice, there is no peace. Governor Hogan would do well to heed those words. This could be his moment to lead and show that he is a leader for all of Maryland.
More is Not Always Better
At Wednesday’s press conference, the Governor chose to brag about the size of the army he brought to town. The issue in Baltimore is not a lack of force, it is about the way that force is applied illegally and unfairly against black people. It stems from a lack of mutual trust between the police department and the people they are supposed to protect and serve. The solution is not more policing, the solution is better policing that addresses the needs the of the community.
Larger guns, Humvees, and riot gear do not build trust. Curfews do not create an environment of trust. Spouting off about how you have a paramilitary force occupying the city entrenches people against abandoning the cause. It can be disputed whether or not force is necessary to maintain order in the city, but highlighting that display is incendiary. It functions as a challenge to the citizens of the city who have been most oppressed by the police force and have effectively seized the moment.
A Little Bit of Empathy is in Order
Tensions are running high in Baltimore, and the very least the governor could do is pay the issues causing people to riot lip service. For example, he could announce a powerless commission to ‘study’ the issue (he surely wouldn’t be the first governor in Maryland to do that). Hogan does not need to say that Freddie Gray was murdered, but at the very least he needs to show some degree of empathy. It would cost him absolutely nothing. The fact that it would take so little and he still could not do it is a slap in the face to the community and shows a lack of commitment to address the root cause of the rioting.
Know Who Holds the Power
It is important to understand where the actual power lies in this situation. When you have thousands of people of all races and ages marching on city hall, enforcement of a curfew or deploying force is not a lasting solution. The people who have prevented events from spiraling out of control were members of the community, gang members, clergy and just average people. Without their efforts, much more of Baltimore would have burned. When the national guard and multi-state police force has left town, those groups will be holding the city together and moving us forward.
A Historic Opportunity In Baltimore
This is a historic opportunity for which the city has paid a high price. Some communities have been paying this price for decades while others were blissfully unaware or apathetic of the depth of the problem. It is a tragedy that it takes a riot for us to recognize the necessity of granting equal rights to all of our people, but out of that tragedy is an opportunity to positive change. Since Monday night, Baltimore has been flooded by acts of generosity, positivity, unity, and hope. We can build on that hope to create a better city for everyone. Some of the city had to burn to get us here, if we fail to seize this opportunity, soon the city will be burning again.