Here we go again – Another Race-related Riot in America

Within hours after Freddie Gray’s funeral, a section of Baltimore erupted like a dormant volcano.  This eruption was a riot and the last time Baltimore experienced a similar riot was in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

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The riot that occurred in Baltimore yesterday is not something that can be justified or condoned.  Despite the looting of business places, the burning of police cars, the injuries to police officers, and the property damage that occurred should not be a shock or surprise.  One thing that we should realize is that this type of reaction is not a new phenomenon.  There is a history of similar riots that have occurred in other US cities.

It is not just the use of deadly force by the police on black men that trigger riots like the one that started in Baltimore yesterday.  It is the injustices and insensitivity that black people perceive.  Ten days and counting after Freddie Gray’s death, there is no release of an official report from the police.  As with previous riots like in Fergusson, Missouri last August, these riots tend to occur when the police officers use deadly force against an unarmed black man and are not charged or if charged are acquitted.

Black people more than any other racial or ethnic group are more sensitive to the way police treat them. They have a long history of abuse that includes police brutality, profiling, disrespecting their constitutional rights, planting evidence on them, and false arrest.  These practices have existed for decades and they are responsible for the mistrust that blacks have of the police.

The Baltimore riot that started yesterday afternoon is not a new phenomenon.  As alluded to previously, there is a long history of these riots.  One thing that was new in this riot is, schoolchildren involved in the looting.  Whatever the reasons are for schoolchildren engaging in the unlawful behavior of looting, it is disturbing. It is as if they have sold their soul to the devil at their young age and this certainly does not bode well for them in the future.

It is unfortunate that the disorderly crowd of black people reacted the way they did in Baltimore.  Unfortunate, because it diverts attention from the real problem that is the root cause of police mistreatment of black people.  That root cause is the racial component that no one seems to want to address – not the media and not city officials.

The racial component involving the police and black people cannot be simply dismissed because law enforcement and the judicial system treat black people more harshly and sometimes unfairly in comparison to whites.  We do not see the police shooting unarmed white men and black men receive more severe punishment than whites for the same crime.

Some people will deny that race is a factor in how the police treat black people.  This denial is part of the failure to address this problem.  When there is a history of mistreatment that shows a clear pattern, it is time society accept the truth and acknowledge that racism is a component behind the deadly use of force by the police on black people.

The Baltimore riot will not be the last race-related riot.  This will happen again in another city. The only way to ensure that it does not happen again is if the police eliminate the practice or behavior that results in the use of unnecessary deadly force against unarmed black men.  This change is not simply a matter of changing police practices when they encounter black people. It must also be a change in their negative perception and apparent racial animus towards blacks.

There has to be a new approach in how the police treat black people.  This treatment should be consistent for all people and not based on factors like race, class, or any other attributes that might trigger a prejudicial behavior.  City officials in all cities across the country cannot wait until these problems erupts in their cities to implement remedial measures for better policing and better community building programs.  Simply calling the rioters and looters thugs and cowards will not solve the problem.