Another urban riot of course has taken place as the result of a death of an African-American man in police custody, this time in Baltimore. And of course, the first thing people think about is white racist cops out to brutalize the black community.
What’s different about this is — well, much of Baltimore’s political leadership is black. And, in a twist, six cops have been indicted on homicide charges. Oh, and by the way, three of the cops are black. So what may be going on here?
I have two theories.
One, if my experience is any indication, the black community in many cases suffers from social isolation — some of that, frankly self-inflicted. I grew up in a black neighborhood that wasn’t “ghetto,” and yet I found few neighbors in many of the places that I frequented as a child. (Mom, not being a native of Pittsburgh, used to take us to a lot of cultural events, such as a “Nutcracker” performance every Christmas, a marionette theatre troupe and a local conservatory that to this day sponsors a quarterly flower show.) I personally loved going to Three Rivers Stadium to watch the Pirates play but as a teen routinely went to games alone.
Which, for me, raised the question: Why didn’t we go to such places? And it seemed that because I enjoyed such events, and still do, I was persona non grata among my black peers for being too “white.” (You wouldn’t believe just how much of an issue that was back then.) In fact, some years ago I learned that many black residents of the Los Angeles area have never seen the Pacific Ocean despite being a relatively short drive.
According to another article, I think in The New Republic, many African-Americans in the ‘hood have roots in the South, which subscribes to an “honor culture” where, if you’re offended, you literally take the law into your own hands because of lack of trust in the political system. That explained a few things, such as their unwillingness to “snitch” on drug-dealers ravaging their communities — and, if one chart is to be believed, the states with the highest number of deaths per capita are in the South, with Louisiana at the top. This may be why “Stop the Violence!” marches, of which we have at least one in Pittsburgh every year, have precious little effect, not to mention mistrust of the cops.
Needless to say, such issues don’t lend themselves to easy solutions. But at least they may open some eyes.