When our hands are clenched in fists: Who is oppressing whom in Baltimore?

As I listened to the narratives stemming from the Baltimore riots, it became very clear to me:  We have been sold a lie. As protests rage, the talking points have been skewed from Freddie Gray and police violence to those about institutionalized racism and white oppression. The connection is very easy to make and has been quickly accepted by those who have perpetuated the lie. The officers who brutalized Freddie Gray were white. The officers who failed to safely buckle Freddie Gray to his seat were white. The officers who killed Freddie Gray, through negligence or intent, were white. White oppressors are using the institution of a police force to oppress and kill Black people. Already you have accepted the lie.

Three of the six officers now being prosecuted for the death of Freddie Gray are Black.

Still, the distinction should be made that institutionalized racism is expressed by the individuals on the ground, but they are not the cause. Certainly it was the conscious effort of someone higher in the chain of command whose actions led to the death of Freddie Gray. Certainly there was another white police commissioner whose oppressive policies led to another Black man’s death. Certainly Freddie Gray is another death at the hands of the white oppressors. Certainly our white oppressor is police commissioner of Baltimore Anthony Batts. Anthony Batts is a Black man.

The lie is crumbling. The façade is fading. We must look deeper to find the whitewashed source of oppression.  It must have been the person who selected Anthony Batts for the role of police commissioner, the Mayor of Baltimore. In the perfect position to institute racism, the mayor must have picked the strict Anthony Batts to be police commissioner after he had shown a very successful ability to crush crime in Oakland, California, a primarily Black area. What better way to disguise your oppressive ways than to select a Black commissioner to do the oppressing for you? Our supposed source of white oppression is Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is a Black woman.

Once again, the lie you have accepted has failed. You believed that Freddie Gray was a victim of the white man. You believed that Freddie Gray was a victim of the white institutions in America. Now that the oppressive institution is painted Black, what are you to say? Would you make claims of Black oppression?  It is here we see the danger of the lie. The danger of oversimplified problems. You can blame your difficulties on white oppression as much as you want, but when the oppression takes the color of Black, your argument becomes invalid, and an invalid argument will not create change.

The immortal idea was propounded in the words of the

Mayor Rawlings of Baltimore instructed police to stand down and watch looters loot stores, saying that it was "just property." Photo credit AP.
Mayor Rawlings of Baltimore instructed police to stand down and watch looters loot stores, saying “Let them loot, it’s only property.” Photo credit AP.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.” His timeless wisdom is exemplified by the racial limbo we are in today. Racially charged, hateful rhetoric leaves us embattled, bitter, and unchanged. From Ferguson to Baltimore, the scenes are the same, and if we continue down this road the scenes will continue. We must put aside the divide and join together to better ourselves as a people. We must join together, hand in hand, to advance our country out of these dark times. We cannot joined together when our hands are clenched in fists.

Jason Weaver can be reached at jwweaver@umich.edu.

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About Jason Weaver

Jason Weaver was a contributor to the Michigan Review.