Of Mice and Martin Luther King

First and foremost, before I even begin this blog post, I am going to address the fact that I don’t know what happened to Freddie Gray. I’m not privy to information that would give me the definitive answers I would need to make an accurate judgment call. Freddie Gray died in police custody after his spine was severed, and while it sounds questionable, I’m not interested in making assumptions. That said, I have opinions on the debacle that stand regardless of the outcome.

I saw a multitude of Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, but for now I’ll note two in particular:

A riot is the language of the unheard.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

The former was by a Baltimore protester; apparently this was some form of approval for her and others to burn, loot, and destroy that which isn’t theirs. The latter was posted by someone who had used their previous 10 tweets to promote the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag, and share other nifty quotes similar to, “Don’t like cops? Next time call a crackhead.” Both individuals backed their personal opinions with the words of Martin Luther King sitting in their proverbial holster. The former seems to forget that the quote contains more than just their choice words, specifically, “I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt.”  The latter clearly skipped that all important day in school when he was supposed to learn that MLK believed that civil disobedience was a responsibility in the face of unjust laws and actions. MLK Jr. wrote some of his greatest words behind jail bars after being hauled away by police officers, and spoke some of his greatest words in an act to diffuse violent uprisings. Ms. Former and Sir. Latter have cherry picked the words of MLK without understanding his message, and as an avid fan of MLK, well; it makes me a wee bit irate.

In both instances I felt shame. I went on to find a multitude of people on Twitter, from both sides, sharing Martin Luther King quotes… The quotes were mere snippets taken out of context by the ignorant, used for their own political gain. In reality, MLK would be shaking his finger at both sides. So, here are the words of Martin Luther King Jr. that desperately need to be heard today (I chose this large quote because it contains many of the lines I saw used today):

“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

It’s time that we embrace his words, all of them. There is a problem, but rioting is not the answer, nor is silence.  This is not just a race issue, though that’s a component. The majority of the police in Baltimore are black, they aren’t targeting blacks, it just happens to be the case that the majority of crime in Baltimore is perpetrated by blacks. I’m not in the same camp of people who would say that racism is dead. Racism exists, on both sides. If you don’t believe me, take a stroll through East St. Louis with a group of diverse ethnicities. The diversity in the Baltimore PD is exactly what everyone was desperate for in Ferguson, yet Baltimore PD has a history that I suspect few would label as expected. Regardless, the rioters/protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson have no right to compare themselves to the civil rights movement.

When Martin Luther King spoke the words above to those fighting for civil rights, and when Malcolm X spoke his, the individuals their words were geared towards were people facing segregation and prejudice. Law abiding citizens were suffering at the hands of another race simply because of their color. A church was burned to the ground in Alabama, with four innocent girls of color trapped inside; burned alive because of their skin pigmentation. Black men were being brutalized simply for speaking to a white woman, and women of color were being treated as dogs by their employers. They weren’t dealing drugs on the street corner, they weren’t burglarizing homes and assaulting the innocent, the audience they were speaking to were law abiding citizens who were facing persecution for the way God had designed them. The color of your skin determined if you could vote, what restroom you used, and what school you attended. It was inhuman and unfair. Their plight was so astronomically different from those in Ferguson and Baltimore. In fact, King was arrested multiple times for leading non-violent protests. His quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” is among my favorite. He believed that civil disobedience is a moral responsibility in the face of unjust laws. One might shake their head at that ideal when they face a law that doesn’t tug on their moral heart strings, i.e., the due process that victims of police brutality have a right to, but then they’ll read the stories of German families who hid Jews in their walls with feelings of admiration. King’s reasoning is and was sound in the face of such disgraceful laws, and he didn’t choose, as many do today, who was worthy of rights based off of which victim he personally liked more.

King found the platform for his stance within The Constitution, and without such platform would have had very little leverage since other countries followed our lead in the civil rights movement. He didn’t take the approach of “This is what other countries are doing,” but instead knew that the United States was unique in that our founding documents gave him the ammunition he needed. King wasn’t fighting to equalize us with other countries; he was fighting to make America the first of its kind. We have been a country that others emulate. In 1963 a young black protester in Britain was moved by the actions of Rosa Parks and staged his own bus boycott, awaking his country to move towards their own equality laws. In 1972 a strict law was put in place that denied immigration to those without a strong heritage in Britain, which wildly limited any increase in a diverse population, hence why in the UK the African American population is 1,148,738 vs. roughly 42,240,000 in the U.S. All over this world we find prejudice against race, religion, and opinion, but America is unique in that we are the first to overcome and support the rights of all people. We all have the same rights in America; the problem is that they are being abused by authority more frequently. That doesn’t negate issues that we need to work on, but it does put things in perspective. So many posts have been talking about the failures that we had in the past, and that we have today, yet they dismiss the fact that every other country has that same horrid history; we are the outlier; we are the country that has done the most about our issues, and it’s because our Constitution demands it.

The very people in the streets of Baltimore screaming for their equality continually vote for politicians that King would be ashamed of, politicians that raise black unemployment, give more power to the government, and fuel race relations. Baltimore has been under Democrat policies for 50+ years. They’re, in essence, paying for their own prison. They do not utter his same cries, nor even relate to the struggles and aspirations of that time period. I’m not one to list the wrongs of those killed in police custody, because as I’ve said before, they deserve due process and I find it ignorant when people justify a wrongful death with a criminal record that involves crimes that do not carry a death penalty… However, the criminal record of King included peaceful protests and civil disobedience, the criminal record of Freddie Gray is made up of 18 arrests; including burglary, drug charges, second-degree assault, etc… Would King have fought for his right to due process? Absolutely. Would he compare their criminal records and act as though their struggle is the same? Not likely. Is that to say that Gray deserved to die? Absolutely not. That is to point out that the struggle of today is not the same as the struggles of the civil rights movement, and the comparisons are DOA to those that know the difference. There is a difference in demanding the right to vote, and demanding the right to confiscate tampons from a burning CVS without police intervention.

To give an example of such outlandish comparisons, I’ll tap into the current feminist movement. I was watching Mad Men the other day, and I found myself getting angry at how the women were treated. Sexual Harassment was rampant, women had little say, and their objectification can only be described as horrific. Don has numerous affairs while Betty gets to be chastised by her philandering husband when his boss is too flirty with her. During that time, women without husbands were to be pitied outcasts, and women with abusive and cheating husbands were expected to smile and cope, and don’t even get me started on the shame that followed you if you divorced your husband. With actual ads stating things like, “It’s true! The harder a wife works, the better she looks!” and “Even a lady can learn….” etc. But I can look around our world today and see that those ideals have changed, that we are treated as equals. The false “pay gap” narrative is perpetuated by those who emulate the vaguely disguised beliefs of the old sexist ads and assume that a lady doesn’t have the ability to think beyond her own body parts, much less research the farce data they used to fool her. If I go running around naked in the streets and complain that men were objectifying me and doubting my sensibilities like they did innocent fully clothed secretaries in the 60s, people would tilt their head and advise me of treatment facilities available in my area, and rightfully so.

However, there is indeed a struggle, a struggle that has been silenced by the acts of obnoxious protesters and looters. They expect those who possess the same rights as them to bend their lives around their own prejudice. The rioters in Baltimore have silenced the sane. In the above quote, King said that a “large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” While I don’t believe it is just a segment of white society anymore, I believe that there are a disturbingly large number of people in the United States, of all colors, that can see what has happened to many individuals and dismiss both justice and humanity in their reactions. Look at the white man (I can’t even think of his name because he hasn’t been in the news… Imagine that) who was kicked numerous times by a handful of officers, even after he surrendered. 11 officers stood around him as he was needlessly beaten. They dismiss justice and humanity, not because of their color, but because of the custody they were in. I happen to believe that Freddie Gray deserves an investigation, and that Police throughout the U.S. should be subject to external investigations when someone dies in such a horrific manner on their watch, whether it was caused by police or not. Countless cases have been filed under a fancy title for “oops,” well that doesn’t fly when someone ends up 6 feet below. If Freddie Gray was taken on a “rough ride,” and they find that it caused his injuries, action should be taken. Unfortunately, that is where the system fails us so often. The officers involved do not break code on one another, and while they may have witnessed a wrong doing, it is unthinkable to rat on your brethren – especially in Baltimore.

Protests in Baltimore have been necessary for a while now. Actually, I think many of the very public police custody deaths this year and last were worthy of protests. Not because all cops are bad, but because the majority of cops are good and deserving of a better image. Justice should be blind to color, as well as the badge. The city of Baltimore has had to pay out nearly 6 million dollars to victims of brutality since 2011. Civil rights cases are being won; cases involving a Grandmother, church deacon, and even a pregnant woman. The Grandmother had her shoulder broken because she refused to let officers in her home without a warrant; she refused to let officers of the law violate her 4th Amendment rights, and for that she was abused. That could be any of us. The brutality cases towards people and pets, as well as corruption cases during a 4 year span in Baltimore should revolt anyone. We can all be stirred by emotion when we see a photo of an officer lovingly working alongside a black child in the streets of Baltimore (I know I was), but it shouldn’t mute a very large underlying problem. A problem that costs taxpayers millions of dollars in settlements, and a problem that has removed rights away from hundreds of individuals; rights you claim to support.

In one case, a police officer was cooperating with prosecutors on a police brutality case and found a dead rat on his windshield. The good cops can help their image by showing the true nature that we know they possess. Sure, we hear stories all the time of hero cops who help the needy, play with underprivileged kids, and purchase groceries for those struggling. Those are all incredibly commendable acts, and I share their stories… but I would really like to see cops start calling each other out on cases such as those listed above; there are other citizens who desperately need them. When will we stop seeing the police as a group, and start seeing them as individuals? We don’t silence rape cases because the majority of men are decent. We don’t protect soldiers from prosecution because the vast majority of them are selfless heroes. Why do we shield bad cops because the majority are good? It makes no sense, not even in the slightest bit. There are two cops, at minimum, in those police vans during “rough rides,” at least one of them has to know that they’re doing something barbarically inhuman. The fact that “rough rides” is a well known term in the Baltimore PD speaks wonders to the fact that a lot of good cops know what is happening, but remain silent. 16 Baltimore officers were convicted in a kickback scheme with a towing company. Others have been found guilty of lying on search warrants, selling heroin, and protecting drug dealers. Another case involved an officer that threw a man down so hard that his spleen ruptured, Yet good officers are subject to bully tactics, and manipulated into believing that their guilty “brother” is above the law. Gray was allegedly given a “rough ride” in the back of a police van (investigation is pending on whether that caused his death), these same “rough rides” have caused other citizens to become paralyzed. The “rough rides” are not a rare occurrence, hence the coined term. This type of malicious behavior happens in other cities as well, and should not be tolerated. The brave officers who step up should not have to face dead rats on their windshields, yet that is where we are. It reminds me of a quote from The Chicago Code, the officer was telling a story about how he used to be bullied, and says that being bullied is why he “joined the biggest and toughest gang in the world.” That’s the mentality we want to share with kids? What happened to Andy Griffith? I don’t know about you, but I want Andy to show up at my house if I need an officer. I want Andy to be the one that my nephew looks up to and trusts.

Unpopular opinion: If peaceful protests were taking place around our country to curb police brutality, bring in independent investigations (as Republican Scott Walker did), and require all police to wear body cameras, I would be marching along with them. Maybe if Democrat Mayor Rawlings-Blake would have supported body cameras like Republican Sen. Tim Scott, we’d know exactly what happened to Freddie Gray; unfortunately, Blake vetoed a bill that would have made them mandatory. My opinion doesn’t even come close to saying that all police officers are bad people – nor that I’m anti-cop – it is to say that the good need to start speaking out, and the bad need to be stripped of the protection they currently have from our state and fellow officers. If this took place, I guarantee that we would see the relationships between officers and citizens take a positive turn, and it would rebuild trust. Yet, we are so scared to even touch this subject that our friends and families act like we’ve just told them that we’re joining the Nazi party when we demand responsibility from those who deal in life and death situations. Families – white families – in Wisconsin faced persecution for their political leanings, officers rushed into homes following orders for absolutely no reason. One even saying, “Some days I hate my job.” Yet he still did it. Friends – I can’t stress this enough – police officers work for the state. Wonderful, decent, hardworking, heroic, brave men and women in uniform work for the state, and it is our job to control the state.

Now, some have said that there weren’t any peaceful protests in Baltimore… Well, that’s just silly. Of course there were peaceful individuals trying to protest respectfully, but they were muted by the mob of thugs who victimized an entire city with no remorse. They were victimized by a mob that pretends to know the first thing about rights as they trample on the rights of others, and harm officers that did nothing to them. They are wrong, and we’ve been wrong and uncaring. Americans are short sighted; we see the debacles in Ferguson and Baltimore and think that increasing the power of the state is the answer, when really the answer was to decrease the roll of the state long ago.

So, to the point: #BlackLivesMatter perpetuators, King didn’t encourage this kind of “communication,” but instead said it harmed the cause. In addition, #BlueLivesMatter perpetuators, he didn’t preach on supporting police custody “rough rides,” “nickel rides,” etc… His words were the words of a man who wanted justice for all people, punishment for crimes committed against all people, fair investigations for all victims, blind justice for all. #EveryLifeMatters! Refusal to admit that both sides are capable of having issues has annihilated sanity. Yesterday I shared a post that said, “Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she didn’t trash the bus.” Rosa Parks didn’t harm the innocent, burn down buildings, attack police officers, etc. but she also had a darn good reason to stand her ground.

Buildings are burning, lives are ruined, and many will accuse me of callously bringing up some of the issues in my post when officers are lying in hospital beds. I will return the favor and accuse you of callously disregarding the rights of individuals which set the stage for innocent people to be maimed or killed and innocent officers to be put in hospital beds. You’re absolutely right, now is not the time to talk about this, the time to talk about this was years ago when we laid the foundation for the destruction, death, and pain we are seeing today. The disaster on the streets of Baltimore is not just the fault of rioters, it is the fault of those who shaped their ideals. Does it make you feel better to blame their parents? Our political silence and refusal to care about a wrong has created a society that devalues human life. What could we have done to avoid this? I’m not letting the rioters off the hook, but I’m not letting you off the hook either. We approach issue in this nation with a new level of cowardice, and if we expect to change our nation, well, that must to change.

I’ve found that if I post something on police brutality I have just as many views in the stats, but the interaction is low. Why? Because people are scared of their friends seeing that they liked or shared a post that hinted at the idea that all of the men and women in uniform patrolling our streets are not gods. That we do have an issue that needs to be taken care of, and that officers of the law are human and still need to be held responsible. I would argue that I support the police more than you do, that I care about their well being more so than you, because I know that to improve the relationship they have with the people, we need to remove the gang mentality and remember that they are all human beings. We are a nation that thrives when we have mutual respect, but we will be a nation that falls if we only govern on fear tactics. I would also argue that those encouraging thugs to loot and harm innocent individuals are as harmful, if not more so, to the black populous than those who fought against equal rights. You are encouraging men and women to degrade themselves, attack the innocent, and embrace the hatred and pain involved in the racial narrative that you have perpetuated for your own gain. You should be ashamed.

Our hearts do not truly bear the resemblance of barbarians when we accept that Freddie Gray was an unrepentant criminal, but they will do so when we accept the idea that he never mattered, when he becomes a number. The hearts of the peaceful protesters that were involved, those who were truly seeking change, will not be hardened because a life was lost, they will be hardened when they see we no longer care.

FYI – Do you know who would be talking about both the obnoxious rioters and police overreach despite the cries of foul from the masses? Martin Luther King Jr… Remember that the next time you quote him.

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