When Peaceful Protest Just Isn’t Enough

On April 14th, 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. was arrested by Baltimore City Police, to then later die in police custody. Since then protests and riots alike have sparked not only in Baltimore but across the United States as well, creating a social outcry rivaling that of the Ferguson events in August of 2014, and fueling a flame that has burned since long before the 1960’s.

Debates rage across the United States as politicians, citizens, police, and countless others spit fire at one another, furiously debating the who, what, where, and how of the events that have unfolded since then. Letting the experts focus on that, many have neglected to come and talk about the why of the riots in Baltimore. Leaving the specifics of what exactly happened on April 14th, I ask why were there riots, and were they justified?

A protester rides his bike in front of a police line at North and Pennsylvania Avenues on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Baltimore. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
A protester rides his bike in front of a police line at North and Pennsylvania Avenues on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Baltimore. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

To say that the social unrest regarding race in the United States began in the 1960s is really an understatement. Since the U.S was founded in 1776 there has been racial inequality for all, with racial tensions and injustices following close behind. With the Civil War and eventually the Civil Rights Movement, one would like to think that conditions today are better for non-white races in the U.S than in 1776.

This is of course true by a long shot, but the question is are the conditions good enough? Over 200 years later racism is still very much an important if not dire situation in the U.S. Granted, racism is a human-wide problem, not just an American one, but white privilege (whether people realize it or not) is still too prevalent today to ignore.  

So the question remains, were the riots in Baltimore justified? Now to be clear I don’t condone using violence to push any kind of social or political agenda by any means. If anything can be seen repeating through history it is that violence leads to more violence, which I condemn. However, people do not just up and riot for no reason. Whether you agree with the reasons for rioting or not, it is foolish to think that people enjoy rioting just to riot.

Those caught on the media now, looting stores and burning down buildings, do not stand for anything the protestors at Baltimore do; they are opportunists at best using Freddie Gray as an excuse to carry out their own wrongful agendas. But if the riots were purely spawned from the protests that occurred, can we really blame the people of Baltimore?

Before jumping to any conclusions (just as those in the media have) it is imperative to understand that unless you are part of a racial demographic that is discriminated against in the U.S, you have no idea what life is like for said people. That isn’t necessarily because of ignorance; white people have no idea simply because it’s impossible to do so. They cannot understand the pains and struggles of another race simply because they aren’t of that race.

How could they understand? This is not an excuse to be ignorant of racial dilemmas in the U.S however, as many people unfortunately still are. Putting this in perspective, is anyone in the media justified in any accusations thrown forwards at Baltimore?

It all boils down to this: riots do not just happen. People do not just claim to have suffered hundreds of years of grief at the hands of racism and have proof to back it up. It’s real, it’s true, and unfortunately it’s ugly. Peaceful protest is of course the preferred and hopefully used form of social change, but how long can we as a society expect a group to hold out if no real changes are coming through? Progress is measured in actions, not words.

All the politicians in the world can pledge to making equality in the U.S real, but unless it happens, and I mean REALLY happens, riots such as the ones in Baltimore are not completely unjustified. The riots in Baltimore are not the route anyone would want to have to take, but sadly, maybe it’s the route that needed to be taken.

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