The Baltimore riots and the future of Baltimore’s black community

Let’s make something eminently clear from the outset: there were two kinds of protest taking place in Baltimore over the past few days as a result of the tragic and mysterious death of Freddie Gray in police custody. The first of these protests were the good guys. Those who sincerely wanted justice, an explanation for the catastrophic and sudden ending of Freddie’s life, and a reason why the entire process was taking so excruciatingly long to arrive at a decision as to his death. These were the protests led by organizational leaders, clergy, community activists and people of good faith who were mad and angry that, once again, yet another black man’s death came to a tragic end.

Then there was the second protest: Those who had no reaction to Freddie Gray other than to cause mayhem, destruction, disorder, looting, theft, and a host of criminal activities that would be broadcast all across the world for the world to witness and note with horror. Once again, yet another American city is in flames, in turmoil, and reliving the horrors of the 1960s. Yet another American city, once again, is engulfed in racial acrimony, antagonism, and anger, and the thugs who have destroyed businesses and people’s lives will disappear with no twinge of conscience to let the suffering continue for those innocents whose only crime was having their property and businesses in the wrong place at the wrong time. Officers’ lives have been endangered, people’s lives upturned, and for another extended period of time, people will remember Baltimore as yet another dysfunctional American city still mired in racial hatred and disharmony.

But it doesn’t stop there. People have attempted to give excuses, as if there could be any, for this level of criminality, for this situation, and the word that has been repeated again and again is “frustration”. Frustration is the cause and effect: the cause of the anger, and the resultant effects of their reactions. So we are all left to assume that when you are part of a community who are frustrated about the way they are treated, you can explain away, with some modicum of self-justification, any kind of behavior which gives vent to this frustration, and this allows for us to understand how a certain section of society justifies a blatant breach to the fabric of the very society which depends on an understanding of the rule of law, and the observance of local laws and statutes.

There are lots of people in America who are frustrated with their lot. There are the Latinos who work for a pittance doing the jobs Americans would never demean themselves to do, and yet have to watch as they are demonized for threatening American jobs, and for milking the system, and for polluting the ethnic character of America. And through it all, they have never destroyed an American city, caused loss of life, businesses or threatened American citizens. And never let it be forgotten that, given the numbers of the Latinos, and the way they are propagating, the black community will find themselves at the bottom of the totem poll, being left behind while the Latino community pick themselves up by their shoestrings to improve their lives and those of future generations.

There is the Moslem community, ever increasing and growing larger and larger, who are frustrated about the racial profiling they have to undergo, and the ever-increasing suspicions they come under as a result of terrorist murders and crimes performed by their fundamentalist brothers and sisters.

There is the American middle class, ever-frustrated by an economy that has left them standing alone, as the American dream of owning their home and retiring with confidence continues to slip away, while the rich are getting stratospherically richer, and more affluent and powerful.

Yes, we are ALL of us frustrated with life in America, and the way things are not going the way we, the people, want things to go. And if we were all to vent our frustrations as we saw in Baltimore, on other American cities all over the country, the fabric of this country would unwind and we would no longer be justified in using the term United in the naming of this country. We adhere to the values of this country because we believe in them, notwithstanding the injustices, wrongs and discrepancies that continue all around us.

The black community, the clergy leaders and the 300 men organization all deserve praise for their responses, and for the manner in which they have worked ceaselessly to limit further damage to this city. But the damage has already been done, and will be remembered for many decades. What the black community needs to remember is that they cannot continue labeling themselves as the victim people and allowing that to justify away their economic malaise that afflicts them, the wrongs still allegedly committed against them, while the largest crime propagated in America is the crime of murder committed by blacks against blacks. If you wish to denounce police brutality against the black community, don’t live the life of a hypocrite and conveniently forget the slaughter being perpetrated by blacks…..against blacks all over this country. Drugs have destroyed the black community everywhere, and with that comes the necessary corollary of crime and self-inflicted murder.

So let’s mourn for Freddie Grey and work towards the necessary and difficult opportunities that allow members of the black community a chance for hope, and a future to look forward to outside of jail. But also let us remember that at the rate other ethnic groups are multiplying and taking over senior political leadership roles, that the behavior of the black community in the future may just not fall on the same politically correct ears as are borne by the white community, and unless major things change drastically within the next 20 to 30 years, there will be such a political disconnect as to completely overwhelm the very community who has complained the most against everyone…but never against themselves.

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Landau is Emeritus Rabbi and President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. He served the Bnai Jacob Congregation and later Ner Tamid Congregation in Baltimore. He was born in the UK, graduated Jews College with Bachelors Degree in Jewish Studies, has Smichah from Israel.