Baltimore

This is not my usual blog post, it does not focus on education per se. But education, access to and access denied, most definitely plays a part. I had the privilege to read the following perspective on Baltimore when a friend of a friend posted this person’s words. I have read nothing else like it in the media, the way in which this addresses the complexity that surrounds what some have experienced and most of us have witnessed over the past few days is unique. It is long, but no word is wasted. No one group is recognized as the villain. The author wishes to be anonymous but has agreed that I can share this heartfelt missive. (The only changes I made were to bold the headings).

For over four years, Baltimore was the center of life. For almost 9 years, Baltimore has held people that have loved me when I could not love myself.

Ask me about “peaceful protestors”

And I will respond to you that it is important for peaceful protest to happen. To express through words, and body language– action AND inaction– the message of love- of hope- of change. It is crucial to have walks, sit ins, talks, conversations at the dinner tables and at the pulpit, of peace. It is also important that “non violent” protestors respect in return. IF the family had requested to not protest on the funeral day, then respect would have been to wait at least until the next day so that the family may have peace–to respect the man you are using as a martyr for your agendas. It is important to have outlets for concerns, emotions, and passion. It is also important for those speaking to be heard. Peaceful protestors have so many outlets of social media, of boycotts, of ways to express and passionately convince while still maintaining a means of respect for themselves and their own cause. My ninth grade English teacher let us swear in our poetry- but only if it was merited to emphasize a point. She explained- and it has always stuck with me- that if all you do is yell, then when you really are yelling no one will be able to tell the difference. If your volume is always at 10, there’s no impact upon an increase to level 11. If every other word is an f-bomb in your poem, then the reader will never know when you *really* mean to swear; for the words themselves will become muted. Ever listened to music (or been to a show) where the sound is so loud you cannot hear yourself? You make your own self deaf- and in turn scream your own voice louder just to hear yourself over the fuzzy ringing in your ears. People walk way from you because you are not approachable, not rational, not able to be in a *conversation* with. Peaceful protestors. You can do better. Be. Better.

Ask me about “Baltimore Police” or “Police”

Police lives matter. Firefighter lives matter. Yes. Not “or”, Not “instead of”. Not “opposite of”. AND. Police lives AND Firefighter lives AND EMT lives matter AND so does the accountability of the actions of those lives. We can rant off the psychology experiments (the prison one that helped shape our ‘modern’ ethics board as a start) that explain how power loves power, uniforms create a sense of empowerment and abuse, etc. We can counter with the statistics and personal stories of police and firefighters that have saved lives. Yes, you only need “one bad” to ruin an entire team of “good.” I am NOT blindly, 100% defending the Baltimore Police. There is corruption. There is a broken, sick system. There is this across the nation. If you asked me about police I would tell you that I was in graduate school for emergency responding– I studied modern day police trainings, styles, and mentalities. I stepped away because I could not support most of what now is commonly taught. I can tell you that in Baltimore, racism is very much alive. Street to street, predominately “white” is rich while predominately “black” is poor. I can tell you that I have had my good friends receive DWB (driving while black). That, by being “white.” By being female. By being those two labels combined. When (edited out names as I do not have their permission for public sharing) two “black” male friends and I are together in a mall, the looks I would receive are that of hooker, of whore. Of “having daddy issues.” That when I walk in front of these two men from a diner, police will be likely to pull over between us, and ask if *I* need a ride home, if I am okay, and where am I going. If I am falling asleep in the car while one of these men drives, it will not surprise me to be woken up by a cop that wants to make sure that I was not drugged or held against my will. Yes, Baltimore. Yes, Rochester, too. You both have a real ugly capability to assume based on skin color, and/or gender. And by now, yes, we have video of protestors throwing rocks at police in riot gear– but the videos begin with the police hurling rocks at the unprotected protestors. There is no clear cut victim here. All sides are wrong. I also know the good hearts; strong souls that truly believe in living to serve– in protecting– in being the “local cop” that kids come to when they have no safe adult to talk to. I believe having people that can and will use force when needed are important. I believe “that as long as Heaven and Hell are at war, the Earth will know no Peace.” I also believe that the police, especially Baltimore, can do better. Be. Better.

Ask me about “rioting”

And I will respond that “rioting” can be broken down a few ways:

The young, angsty, mob mentality sparked off by something controversial. Mob mentality is powerful, is addictive, and is lacking a lot of common sense. There is lengthy sociological and psychology information on this. I also concede that I am not spending the time to pull it up- however I will state that it is there, it is in my textbooks by me, and could be found (and not from wikipedia). Take it for what you will, there is a reason we study scientifically mob mentality. Herd mentality. Horde mentality. What is part of the core of an angsty mob? Usually youth, economic problems, potential racial tension, and time. One would not burn down the CVS if the CVS is where your beloved little brother had his prescriptions filled. Youth means physical strength, an “invincibility” mentality, a “it could never happen to me” bubble, and a willingness to ACT. Get a few strong, strategic leaders; characters that people wish to follow- have them aim at “lost” youth, and you have yourself an army.

Take the mentality that we are “not alone”, that we are “empowered”, that we are “Strong”, and you get a mob mentality.

Now. Take this. You have to tell your son, that because he is “black” and you live in Baltimore, so he is more likely to be dead or in handcuffs than graduate high school. High. School. Your young children play “cops and robbers” not because of TV shows- but because they see it every day from their stoop. Talk to your children- give them “The Talk”. No, not the “sex” talk. The talk about how if an officer stops you, put your empty hands where they can see them, where you do not leave this house wearing hoodi, you always have your hood off your head, you wear fitted clothing, you do not walk to or from the corner store at night, you do not speed and you do not argue. Tell them how, because they are “black”, they will not receive timely justice, due diligence, equal treatment. Do this because you live in Baltimore– or because you live in Rochester. Tell them that they must be better. Be. Better. Than any and everyone else if they are to ever had the same “equal” chance. And then tell me, honestly, that you aren’t angry. Go ahead and try. Be a mother that stays up every night until her babies are in bed safe- even when they went to the corner store for milk, even when they went to see a movie with friends- that you legitimately are afraid they will not come home alive. I will tell you that this is one reason why there is so much anger— fear— helplessness growing.

I have seen, thank you Marines, what happens when people lose their minds. When minds “snap.” I also have scene and have studied what happens when you push people into tight corners. A “non violent, peaceful, God-loving woman” may very well physically rip an intruder to shreds if the intruder comes after her child. A “respectable, intelligent, well-rounded man” may very well brutally beat. to. death. the man that raped his daughter. Take a societal mentality that you are helpless. A system that enforces segregation and inequality. Then drop bodies. People reach breaking points. Desperation for change. Desperation to be heard will end in batpoop crazy levels. This is going on now. I spent over five years studying and experiencing psychology and religion, from a hippie campus to being trained to deploy for combat. I, personally, think what terrifies people more than the thought that “these things can happen”– is the realization that “it is not that hard to do.” We talk about abuse, murder, shootings, “how could a soldier ever shoot another man”– and then we realized how easy it is to train the brain to flip that switch. That “fight or flight” kicks in, and if you have taught the “fight” well it wins. So we condemn those that have- or that have been trained to- because we want to distance ourselves from being “like that.”

Baltimore. Rochester. Have been forced into “flight” for too long. “Fight” kicks in. “Fight” is kicking in right now in Baltimore.

“Rioting” has people taking advantage of the situation– looters

“Rioting” has mob mentality of “The way I hurt myself just to get back at you”

“Rioting” also is when “peaceful” flight has had to switch to an aggressive fight.

“Rioting” has “this is fun, everyone is doing it” with no “tomorrow” consequences.

“Rioting” is stupid, because you are destroying your own community, homes, and futures. BUT “Rioting” should not be ignored. If you passively react to the child throwing a viscous, embarrassing, destructive (property and to themselves) tantrum in the supermarket, you encourage the child to act out harsher, you enforce to the child that their life, their actions, do not rate your attention. Rioters must be addressed because there are different kinds of rioters. Rioting must be addressed in that the “message” of the riot, like the overuse of swearing in poetry, cannot be heard when the volume is set to scream. The message is lost in the action. And, when everything you do is on display, if your message is not clear– people will fill in your message for you with their own agendas. I believe you leave your grocery cart full of groceries right where it is, flip the child over your shoulder, and haul them out of the store. I also believe there are conversations with the child– including the parent *actively* listening to the child, to figure out what lead up to such a tantrum, and agree on what to do moving forward.

Ask me about “gangs”

And I’ll tell you that I was on campus when my friends texted to say that the “initiation” for bloods/crips was real. That there were shootings, cops are everywhere. That ramps are shut down, and they are not sure when they can get back to campus.

I’ll tell you that it would be tactically brilliant to use this firestorm as a front to move your force’s team into usually-enemy territory, scorch earth policy your enemy’s home while working together as a “truce” against the police. Why slice firehoses- putting entire sections of the city as risk? Simple. This knocks out two enemies (rival gang, and police/government,) while not being on “my” turf. Remember folks, you have Baltimore, DC, and Annapolis all ripe for this kind of suburban warfare. Slap the label “black man murdered by cops” and you, yourself, can get away with murder– because the issue has become polarized. “Cops are right!” is to say “Black lives don’t matter!” and to say “Black lives matter” has become “Cop lives don’t matter.” So I’ll take my teams, I’ll move in-between this, I’ll bring my rival’s infrastructure down from within, and I’ll leave in the morning to my own city that is now prepping to prevent ourselves from doing the same.

You have protestors that actively try to peacefully house conversation- but may not be actively listening because they are too burned out from being ignored

You have police that are a blend of good souls and corruption, that are grouped together as one unit/interchangeable numbers yet are their own creatures

You have young rioters that are rioting for fun, for prestige, for action

You have rioters that are in mob mentality- breed of crazy of its own

You have looters that loot out of opportunity

You have gangs that are organized, with structure– that have brought back the “police” of their own neighborhood since “cops” are too corrupt/part of the system to trust

You have some people that just want to watch the world burn

You have parents pleading with God for their children to come home safe tonight

You have parents cursing at God for not acting sooner

You have people shaking their fists hoping that this changes things

You have thousands of people, with little left to lose.

You have anger, fear, helplessness, desperation

You have sadness and hope, yearning for love and peace

You have me. That really cannot tell you anything, because I graduated high school. I graduated college. I do not live in the city of Baltimore. I am not afraid of being pulled over because of my pigment.

I *can* tell you this.

I can’t breathe.

  1. Can’t. Breathe.

Because black lives matter.

Because all lives should matter.

I physically cannot breathe because I am helpless. I cannot save, protect, or assist the ones I love that are in this.

Scared, hiding, hoping this battle does not kick in their door.

I cannot hold them. I cannot throw myself in front of them. I cannot beg “take me instead.”

I cannot breathe because they are holding their breathe through the night

I cannot breathe because I am helpless.

And this makes me angry.

And fueled anger becomes motivated anger becomes rage.

I cannot breathe because I cannot imagine living every month that my roommates walk out our front door- neve rmind husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister- feeling like I do right now.

Not being able to breathe until they are home.

I cannot breathe because the police families are on the other side of the door, holding their breathe too.

“Oh God we need you here.

We’re sinking fast, and we don’t care.

The evidence is all around me

On both sides of my door.

Our hearts beat.”

So when you ask me “how could someone slice firehoses in their own community?”,

I think simple.

They reached the point of utter defeated helpless desolation

They believe there is no hope

And so if there is no hope, I might as well take as many of “you” down with me-might as well harm the “enemy” as much as I can–

–might as well “make you feel as broken as I do” as best I can

Also

My dad once taught me that once you have kids, you see your kids in all kids.

Your child may now be 5, but you see her 3 year old self in every 3 year old that is on the news as missing, dead, or abused

Every 12 year old that wears clothing showing skin you deem inappropriate, you see your own child in

Every hungry 16 year old that your child is friends with you feed because you would want the same for your child

And

Your child is still your child, no matter how many years they have been an adult

So every “black” life that is beaten, hammered in a van, spine severed, with denied medical is one of your family’s– you see your family in every one of those news stories

Every police officer (life) that has a brick whipped at their skull is representing all police officers- all of your military, firefighting, EMT, police officer, ranger brothers and sisters–you see your children in every one of the adults/police

There are no individuals here; only symbols.

But we fight each other’s symbols by only seeing the individuals the symbols represent to ourselves.

Too many units are only seeing “black and white”- literally- in this eruption. Too many units are failing to see that not all cops are the same, that not all blacks are the same, that not all youth, not all men, not all residents, not all unemployed, are all the same. Too many viewers are failing to see the media focus on a directed narrative. Too many people think they have the answers before even asking the right questions.

I don’t have the answers.

I don’t have all the questions.

It hurts to see 3/4 of my newsfeed blow up with people I already miss dearly being in danger close range of what is going on.

It makes me want to throw up having to see the roll call posts go out to check in on everyone.

I wince, because I am far away and in safety, because I am able to think of “tomorrow” when those come “home” to nothing but literal ashes.

I am annoyed with people that keep talking– because I do not see it mattering

I am frustrated at having to then admit rioting and violence is not the proper mode to present the message either

That I do not know how to fix this, but where we are is not okay.

“I can’t breathe, because so many can’t breathe every day. We all need to learn, to remember, *how* to breathe, together.” is the message I should have. This would be rational, respectable, and potentially the start of healthy conversations.

“I can’t breathe because if one motherfucker hurts someone that I love, I will show you what it really means to burn the city to the ground” is where I currently am.

And is also why I am inside tonight. Because I would like a city to be standing when I wake up. I would like to wake up. I would like this city to wake up. We need to Be. Better.

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About Cynthia Clark

I hold a doctorate in curriculum & instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology and science education. I work for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the Evaluation and Assessment Specialist for the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment. My current research interests include qualitative responses to course evaluations, both the development of open-ended items and their subsequent analysis.
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