Friday, May 1, 2015

Memphis 1886 Baltimore 1968 and 2015

In 1866 on the same day the charges were filed against the six officers involved in Freddie  Gray’s death
The black residents in another city in fear held their held their collective breath
An attempted arrest of a black soldier by a white cop blocked by 50 black soldiers sparked a riot that quickly expanded
For three days the black neighborhoods, churches and schools were in flames from roving white bands
Not just citizens but fireman and the many Irish-American cops
Producing an orgy of killing, raping and assaulting blacks that did not stop
The blacks were defenseless as the white cops were part of the mobs and the white mayor would not ask for troops to restore peace
On the third day the federal commanding general declared martial law and sent in his white and black soldiers and the violence ceased.
White resentment over deemed repression of federal occupation of less than a year
Competition for jobs with now freed slaves added to their fears
The riot sparked by such resentment in three days left 48 dead
46 blacks and 2 whites, 1 white by accident and the other by his own hand instead
The 46 blacks however did not die in vain as the Republican Reconstruction was mortified
Very quickly the 14th Amendment insuring equal protection was passed to be four years later ratified
102 years later 110  American cities including Baltimore  across the nation in riots by blacks  burned
From the ashes and the coffins came lessons from the Kerner Report in response that desperately needed to be learned.
A blueprint for what had to be done to in the future prevent riots by those suffering egregious repression
Be it Memphis in 1866 or Baltimore in 1968 from a policing standpoint it matters not who is imposing the oppression 
“Police have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression,” Kerner Commission report on policing tactics that led to the race riots found. “[The] abrasive relationship between police and the minority communities has been a major-and explosive-source of grievance, tension and disorder.” 
It seems pretty basic especially when the ratio of white police significantly outnumber the ratio of residents who are black and a lesson we did not learn
So 47 years after its release but in a round file most likely placed
In Baltimore another riot on police conduct to the black community based
By the time the six officers invoved had been charged it was too late to halt the short fuse
Too much history of blacks believing police do not protect and serve them  only abuse
Whether more whites are killed by police as opposed to blacks
Sends the debate on the relations with a community or the use of force down the wrong track
This is not easy and with the bad guys white, black and brown outnumbering the cops and packing heat
Policing procedures that strike the right balance between protection  and deemed oppression will need front row seats
Dust off and take heed the quoted section above of the Kerner Report 
Pedal to the metal to regain the community’s black and white support
To paraphrase Mao: “The police must move amongst the people as the fish swim through the sea.”
If they do not, efforts to prevent another death and resulting riot are barking up a wrong tree
More black and brown cops will help to tension on interactions be reduced
But only if proper procedures on a stop, arrest, or use of force will a reduction in hostility be produced
© April 30, 2015 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet
Alaskanpoet for Hire, Poems to Admire

Poet Extraordinaire Beyond Compare
Rhymes for All the Memorable Times
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