Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The News and “Dead Negro Season”

The news cycle goes through major seasons. Last season was "Legislate Uteri and Campus Rape" season. Before that, it was "Foreigners Are Going to Take Our Jobs and Nuke Us" season, and before that was, "Why is Our Government Oppressing Us and Gridlocked???" season. Then, of course, there is "Dead Unarmed Negro Season". DUN season is in full swing, and right now, the focus is in Baltimore. My home town is on fire!...not really, but there's a lot of damage. You would think that if you turned on any news outlet in the last week. When Freddie Gray died in the custody of the Baltimore Police, all of the news outlets played their role.


Fox News discussed what heroes the police were. Half, if not most, of the cops in Baltimore were black, and Fox News is not great at saying good things about black people, so this was likely a difficult feat. As per protocol, they explained how the late Mr. Gray and the protesters, whether peaceful or not, were dirty thugs. "Thug" is the closest anyone on television news can get to saying "nigger" now, but kudos to Fox for getting away with "black gorilla", as they were more than happy to discuss the activities of the organized crime syndicate, the Black Guerilla Family. Even the Black Guerilla Family colloquially call themselves "BGF". They rounded out the their coverage with the usual blaming of Obama, although the President's comments were nearly in line with what Fox News would say, except for the part where he said we had to do some soul searching and get to the root of the problem.


MSNBC and Huffington Post went the other way and asked vague questions about whether this is a sign of an ongoing systemic problem in our justice system that unfairly treats minorities, women, and the poor to undue detriment. If they really cared and listened, they would know that the answer is yes. There was much call for Cumbayas, as well as all expense paid flights for Al Sharpton to come in and use his statement-making superpowers to make everything better. Al Sharpton may mean well, but for a lot of us, he is like a reverse Daredevil, where when he comes to town, not many people want to see him.


CNN made a computer simulation of the incident starring Teletubbies instead of the actual video and looped it…not really, but they sent Don Lemon to Baltimore to cover everything, which is less productive than the computer simulation.


Over the weekend, this demonstration of 5,000 to 10,000 evolved into days of violence, and 200 people were arrested. If we make the faulty assumption that all 200 were actually part of the initial demonstration and were all guilty, that means the media is now painting the entire movement based on the actions of 2-4%. How did the violence start, though? One could surmise that it was the drunken sports fans who turned on the protesters. One could surmise that it was the frustration of school kids who were stuck at Mondawmin Station, because all of the buses, the ONLY way for public school kids with no cars to get home, were cancelled, and police in riot gear were blocking the major terminal. None of these reasons make for good news.


If you are claiming that the demonstration is nothing but a bunch of people who want immunity from penal punishment (or other idiotic misrepresentations of nonviolent protest), then you are just as much a fool as the 2% of the people who are using destruction of property and violent retaliation against the police. If you think that the violence is justified base on previous actions of a corrupt system, then you are wrong. Understand that some of the violence is coming from people who have no other outlets to vent their anger, because the city, state, and nation failed them in ways of education, employment, and general social respect. This still does not make their violence justified or condoned. I have not heard anyone ask, "Well, what about black-on-black crime?", so I have not had the pleasure of telling anyone to shut the unholy fuck up.

There weren't 200 arrests and wall to wall press coverage when Kentucky students rioted when their team won games, or when Ohio State students rioted when their team lost, or when Penn State students rioted because they have a team. For that matter, there weren't 200 arrests when Penn State students rioted when their coach was fired for covering up years of sexual abuse by his co-worker. There weren't 200 arrests and wall to wall press coverage when people rioted during a Maine town festival for pumpkins. Apparently, #GourdLivesDon'tMatter either.


We can delve deeply into what is happening now, and how it could be avoided. I do recall many times growing up when violent mayhem occurred in the Baltimore. I remember one particular time when Baltimore County police (NOT CITY) dispersed a line trying to get into a sold out roller rink, not by telling everyone that the rink is at capacity and that they should go home, but by spraying mace and pepper into the crowd of mostly 14-18 year olds. Some of it went directly into a 12 year old's eyes, who was choking and spitting while all out chaos ensued. I remember this well, because one of my friend's back was sliced open with a box cutter, and I was pulled out of the car from whence I came and spent a night in jail, right before the K-9 Unit arrived. This was all pre-cell phone camera, so we can't Youtube search the blurry details, but if you've seen Picasso's Guernica, you have a good idea of what happened.


Violence and a dead black man at the hands of authority make for very good ratings. What doesn't usually make for good ratings is what I see on my Facebook and Twitter feed: dozens of friends in Baltimore asking who has time to help clean up the mess that was made this weekend. Surprisingly, it DID make the news that people are taking days off of work and buying hundreds of dollars of cleaning supplies with no expectation of reimbursement to clean up hurt shops in neighbourhoods that are not their own. Students, employed professionals, fire fighters, police, and unemployed people (who may or may not have a criminal record) go through parts of my hometown and help each other tend to the scars of the week's events. I know that what WON'T make the news is that all these people are working together. It also won't make the news that the reason everyone is pulling together to clean up the affected neighbourhoods is because the city likely will not, as it has had well over 40 years to clean up the remnant of the 1968 riots, and that has not happened. What also will not be covered is how tenuous the situation is when Baltimore spent millions pushing out poor residents to make way for ridiculously expensive condos, essentially trying to make a mini Manhattan in the middle of the city. The endemic complacency and lack of care for public education, safety, and recreation will not be seen in the news. This is not the fault of individual police officials, legislators, or the mayor of Baltimore. This is the fault of Baltimore. We are all culpable. We are failing our least advantaged citizens, and we need to do better.


None of this will be covered, though, because it does not make for good news. Don't worry, though. Summer is coming, and that means "Dead Unarmed Negro" season will be over, and "Scary Faux Epidemic" season will be afoot.

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