As I mature, I’m learning that multiple propositions can be true at the same time. That most issues aren’t either or. They’re usually both and. As I watched Baltimore burn both literally and figuratively, I devoured media coverage and social media responses. (I’m a Communication professor. It’s my job. Or something like that.)
From nearly everyone, I noticed either or thinking. Trying to blame one side or the other. Very little gray. Very little nuanced thought. But I believe the truth is far more complex than cable “news” commentators and social media “scholars” will have you believe. For example:
People in power shouldn’t oppress those without power. It’s morally wrong and disgusting. Rich, white, conservative, heterosexual, Christian men in the United States have created a system in which minorities feel compelled to lash out. And I’m not sure I blame them for lashing out. As Jen Johnson wrote earlier today, I get upset when something petty doesn’t go my way amidst a lifetime of privilege. Imagine how angry I’d be if the entire system was designed to work against me! It’s pretty easy sitting on top of the mountain. Imagine spending your entire life (and multiple generations) trying to claw your way up that mountain only to get knocked off over and over again?
Oppressed minorities shouldn’t break the law. There are better ways to overcome oppression. African Americans, women, gays and lesbians, Muslims, and various immigrants have all been oppressed in this country. Rich, white, conservative, heterosexual, Christian men have traditionally been equal-opportunity oppressors. But not everyone turns to crime. Many get educated, work hard, and inch their way to the top (or as close to the top as the rich, white folks on the mountain’s peak will allow them). It will always be easier for some than others, but purposeless crime is never the answer.
Police officers shouldn’t target oppressed minorities with deadly force. Breaking the law doesn’t automatically equal a death sentence in this country. I would never want to be a cop. The job seems incredibly dangerous and shockingly thankless. I have no idea how it would feel to deal with criminals on a daily basis, many of whom want to kill you. Most cops are good human beings who do their jobs well, but police should never shoot a man in the back as he’s running away, or illegally put a suspect in a choke hold, or break a man’s spine while he’s in custody, and on and on. It shouldn’t happen. It’s not okay. And no, criminals don’t deserve it. In fact, we’re all criminals. If you speed, you’ve broken the law. If you get shot by the cop who pulled you over for speeding, you didn’t deserve to die. You weren’t asking for it. Punishment should always fit the crime.
There’s a fine line between protesting and rioting, but no one should ever loot, especially when that looting only damages your own community. There is no excuse or justification for members of a community destroying the small businesses in that community. None. Zero. Hardworking black men and women are losing their livelihoods in Baltimore because looters are reacting without purpose or reason. It breaks my heart to see it.
Media coverage is designed to attract viewers and generate advertising revenue. It’s all biased, all distorted, all designed to exploit victims. I watched coverage on CNN and Fox News last night and wanted to puke.
All of those are true, right? Only shouting one truth while ignoring the others doesn’t help. It only divides, angers, and creates more problems.
Where are the thoughtful people? Where are the people who aren’t manipulating others in order to position their political party for the 2016 presidential election? Where are the people who desire real change? Real equality? Where are the people who actually give a shit about other human beings, instead of just playing a game to further their own “brand?” We need those people to step up. To dialogue. To take thoughtful action. To make the world a better place for every human being, regardless of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
Photo (Flickr CC) by joy garnett