“Freddie Gate,” as they are now calling it, began on April 12, when the Baltimore police arrested a young man named Freddie Gray.
While in police custody, Gray suffered a severe spinal injury that resulted in his death and a subsequent outcry from communities across the US, ranging from Baltimore to DC, New York City and Boston.
The peaceful protests took a turn for the worse last Monday when several areas of Baltimore were looted and destroyed in the wake of riots.
I work in Baltimore Monday through Thursday every week, and I was a mile away from the Mondawmin Mall when the chaos began.
The sky was littered with helicopters, streets were peppered with police cruisers and fire engines were blaring to the point of deafening the general public. My coworkers and I had no idea the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral would transform our community forever.
The devastation caused many business owners to lose their inventories and various storefronts were destroyed in fires.
A family lost their home just down the street from my office.
During my morning commute, the surrounding areas looked more like the rubble of a foreign terrorist attack than the work of the citizens of Baltimore.
This all led me to question: Why are people acting like this?
My initial reaction to the rioting was disgust. I’m a Bostonian from a large Irish family filled with uncles and cousins in law enforcement, and the men in blue have always been friends, not foes.
I couldn't understand the rioters' perspective because the men I have known in the police force have always been the most honorable men.
I’ve never worried about police brutality because I have never given them a reason to harm me.
Right? Maybe not.
Perhaps I am a good driver and don’t speed on the highway or perhaps the color of my pale skin is the equivalent to a “get-out-of-jail-free-card.”
This left me questioning everything I knew about myself: Were my merits really my merits due to my hard work? Or, did someone else of a darker skin color get passed up and deserve it more? Were people truly acting like zoo animals or was there a basis for this behavior? Was the media just exaggerating the situation?
I decided to find out for myself.
As I said, I am a transplant to Baltimore from Boston. I traded chowder for crab cakes and walks through Harvard Yard for the Inner Harbor.
I have grown to love the swampy Maryland weather and its incapability of deciding on a forecast for more than an hour.
I grew up in an impoverished urban city 30 minutes outside of Boston where gang violence and drug deals were the norm.
However, before the recent events of Ferguson and now the Baltimore riots, I had never heard much about police brutality.
I never thought much about racism because my friends' skin colors varied from “Casper” to “Dark Roast Coffee,” as they would joke.
It was magical having more cultures in our mix than the UN, and we liked it that way.
We liked being able to try different cuisines and experience our families’ cultures, religions and overall perspective on the world.
It wasn’t until I moved to the Maryland area that I realized white privilege existed; I thought we were all in the same, leaking, “trying-to-make-ends-meet” boat.
Growing up, I was always taught that you can achieve anything if you work hard and are a good person, but over the past four years of living here, I have found this isn’t always the case.
For example, I have submitted my résumé to the same job as my friends with “black” sounding names, and I would receive a callback first.
If I got pulled over for speeding, eight out of 10 times I would get out of it while my friends would normally be fined.
I have had my fair share of dates where men of all ethnicities said they preferred “white women” over other ethnicities.
I have also had a date when a black man stated he would only date white women (needless to say, he did not get a second date after that comment).
I have had a black woman cuss me out for dating a black man saying, “There they go, stealing our men again.”
Originally, I took this attack as me being the victim of racism.
But, it was the other way around. I took a step back and analyzed what could have brought her to this place of hatred and I realized she wasn’t personally angry with me at all. She was angry at a system that set her up for failure in various areas of her life.
Could I blame her for feeling this way after being rejected by men of her own race due to her skin color? Of course not.
The media tells women that blonde hair, blue eyes and curves are the ideal. Women of color are bashed and reprimanded for their "nappy" hair and darker complexions; they are sold hair relaxers and skin crèmes to brighten their skin.
Can you imagine growing up in a world where every magazine cover tells you true beauty is the opposite of you? I’d be pissed, too.
The rioting and destruction of Baltimore in reaction to the death of Freddie Gray has been a long time coming, and it originates from more than just police brutality.
It is a faulty system where the deck is still stacked against a group of people.
The majority of the people I have spoken to who were affected by the riots are also upset with how some teenagers handled the situation, but no one is reporting that.
News stations aren’t covering that between the rubble of the chaos, there is plenty of goodnessl happening.
There are children handing officers bottles of water, intelligent, young black men are having conversations with reporters, volunteers are cleaning up the pharmacies attacked and gang members are showing they are more than just red bandanas or blue sweatshirts.
There is beauty happening amidst the insanity of Baltimore, but no one is reporting it. They are only reporting the dark moments where impoverished people are taking advantage of the situation and looting stores.
The world needs to understand the men and women stealing and wreaking havoc are not the focus; the focus is the movement of thousands of men and women of all skin colors and sexualities marching together in unity against police brutality.
Sadly, the media is only reporting the controversial, attention-grabbing narratives of the uprising in order to perpetuate the idea that the black community is unruly and even deserving of the police’s brutality.
The media isn’t reporting the Baltimore I have seen the past two days.
Fifty percent of my Facebook newsfeed is comprised of friends and Baltimore residents sharing videos of peaceful protesting. They are promoting the intelligent discussions on what needs to happen for all of us to move forward together as a community — black, white, yellow and all shades in between.
Forty percent are people living hundreds of miles away talking about the "animalistic" insanity happening in Baltimore.
The other 10 percent don't give a sh*t.
This is why the truth needs to be told about Baltimore; the majority of people have no idea what is really happening here.
The people of Baltimore are not constantly throwing rocks at the police and tearing homes down. The majority of people are concerned with rebuilding their community and addressing the real problem at hand: the death of another young black man in the hands of the police.
It would be one thing if this was an isolated incident, but with tensions running at an all-time high across the nation, it is clearly not the first time this has happened.
On Friday, it was announced the prosecutors would charge the officers involved in the case with various crimes, including murder and manslaughter. It is my hope this conviction will bring resolution to the city of Baltimore and for those mourning the death of Freddie Gray.
The waves the Baltimore uprising created will be felt for many years to come, and I hope it allows the world to see that black lives truly do matter.