Words for Baltimore

Words for Baltimore

Why you should care

Malcolm X said it: “The only people in this country who are asked to be nonviolent are black people.”

As we write, the Orioles are playing the Red Sox in Camden Yards to an empty stadium. As far as anyone can figure, it’s the first closed-door game in big-league history. Baltimore is under curfew, and schools were closed on Tuesday. For 11 days, people have been taking to the streets over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old resident of Sandtown, an impoverished neighborhood in West Baltimore.

What is happening in Maryland today takes place in a greater context of uprising. Eugene S. Robinson wrote this lyrical, heart-wrenching take on Ferguson that takes us on a tour of 1992, Rodney King — his fractured face and skull, his broken bones and teeth, his kidney damage. The 11,000 arrested, 2,000 injured and 53 dead after the infamous verdict. Robinson reminds us of Miami’s Overtown Riots (1989) and the Newark Riots (1967). Of the confounding sense that “these actions are not often seen as wrongdoing until the needle gets moved to the tune of millions of dollars of damage, dead people and cities in flames.”

Joe Flood tells us a story of John Lindsay. Never heard of him? That’s because he’s the New York City Republican mayor whose fervor for the civil rights movement left a bad taste in the maw of the NYPD and also of some citizens, “who saw him as a headline-grabbing grandstander.” He was not re-elected.

Then there’s Sydney. Yes, Australia. Laura Secorun Palet recounts a familiar story in a less familiar place. The island has a mostly white police force — by the by, Baltimore’s police force is roughly 40 percent African-American, and the city has a black mayor — and relations with its aboriginal citizens have never been great. Since the #BlackLivesMatter movement was born in the U.S., Aborigines, incensed at 200 years of disenfranchisement and abuse from police, have taken inspiration and are exploring how to use tactics from up north to turn a two-century tide.

Wishing Baltimore our heartfelt best. And a little justice.

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