I avoid watching TV, especially the news. The focus of most major channels is on entertainment. When the news actually does get discussed, the story is sensationalized or intentionally displayed in a negative light. Most current events filter into my awareness via email, social media, or during my elevator ride in my office building. Yesterday was a day like any other. I walked into the elevator, and stared at the electronic display on my accent to the office. I saw a brief snippet about riots in Baltimore. Nothing more. I considered how strange this was. There was no context to what was happening. My first thought was: “Rioting is an extreme. It doesn’t happen for fun. It’s happening because people are frustrated. Riots are a last attempt to be heard and understood.”
Peaceful Protestors in Baltimore. Image courtesy of http://mic.com/articles/116524/outrage-over-baltimore-riots-completely-misses-the-point
As I exited the elevator, I decided to look into the matter. It took a while for me to discover what had happened. The internet was flooded with chaotic stories. None of them mentioned why the citizens of Baltimore had taken to the street. The only focus was on the violence. These accounts quickly started to hurl blame and fear, with no real investigation of the cause. It took me a while to arrive at root of the issue: the violent manslaughter of Freddie Gray. This is not the first case of racial profiling and senseless killing. Yet the details of these stories are somehow always swept under the rug. The story becomes sensationalized and diluted. The media presents the message in such a way that people not directly experiencing the matter can’t really understand what is happening.
Ninth-grader Tremaine Holmes shakes hands with Captain Erik Pecha in front of the Baltimore Police Department Western District station during a protest against the death in police custody of Freddie Gray in Baltimore April 23, 2015. Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Reuters
The many stories I sorted through painted a picture of fear and blame. None of them seemed to express any truth. I looked and looked for something that made sense to me. I decided to pay attention to the photographs surrounding the matter. I saw people that were frustrated; people that wanted to be heard and appreciated, not be turned into a villain that would be hunted and killed. I saw parents desperately worried about the safety of their children. I saw people working to promote peace by shaking hands. I saw groups congregate bravely and open-heartedly ask for compassion and understanding of their experience.
Photo by Samuel Corum, Anadou Agency ,Getty Images. Image courtesy of http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/28/us/baltimore-riots/
Yes, there may have been hot-headed people rioting out of frustration. Those people may not have been able to express their emotions in a healthy, constructive way. Yet there were countless people seeking understanding in a peaceful way. Let us not ignore that message: We are all souls in human form. Each of us wants the liberty that is only available through compassion and equality. We all want a fair chance to be understood and make our own unique path in this life. This is a birthright for all human beings regardless of age, gender, race, or religion.
Photo by Bishop Cromartie. Image courtesy of http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/28/us/baltimore-riots/
Let these images remind us that we are all capable of compassion, understanding, and creating solutions when we ditch our fear and blame. Let us work together, bravely, and create a real solution.
Many thanks to the artists, writers, and photographers that captured and shared these moments of truth. Your vision and bravery are appreciated.