First off, I pray for peace in Baltimore today and throughout the rest of this week as the rioting comes to an end. I ask for the safety of all of the citizens of Baltimore and the law enforcement officers there. I hope that there’s healing in every way possible–mentally, emotionally, physically–as the city reacts to the unfortunate death of Freddie Gray and the decades if not centuries of tension and mistrust between the city’s residents and police officers.
As I went through my Facebook timeline today, there were plenty of people either questioning why people were rioting (usually non-blacks) or condemning the fools that were attacking police cars and looting (everyone).
I’m going to make it very clear that I agree that it’s ludicrous to destroy one’s on neighborhood to retaliate against the police or against any perceived injustice. It’s absolutely crazy to do things that will land you in jail and make your life even worse than it is now by looting merchandise. And it’s definitely pure insanity, if not suicide, to physically attack a police officer.
Yet, it’s constantly been on my mind lately that we’re living in a world where everyone is a critic, but few people are problem-solvers. It’s a lot easier to shake our heads and smack our lips in disgust, but a lot harder to get from behind our phones and find ways to engage people in our communities or communities less fortunate than ours.
Instead of only shaking our heads and condemning the foolishness of the rioters in Baltimore today, let’s think of ways that we can be a part of the solution to rebuild our communities, as well as rebuild the relationship between residents and the police.
Let’s start by being role models for our own kids. Let’s show them the type of people we want them to be instead of only telling them. Let’s learn from the mistakes of our parents and do better.
Take the time to mentor a youth that lives in a disadvantaged neighborhood.
Volunteer at an organization that offers kids options besides hanging on the streets.
Make an effort to know your neighbor.
Start a small business so that you can hire people that are typically shut out of the legal job market–teenagers, the formally incarcerated, people that used to be addicted to drugs, people with limited education or skills.
If you are a police officer, get to know the residents in your vicinity well-before you show up to arrest them.
Smile and say “hello” to a police officer and see if they will smile back.
Write letters to community or government leaders to petition more resources, programs, [you name it] for your community.
Save enough money for a down payment on a house in your neighborhood to invest in the community instead of keeping up with the latest outfits that the Joneses (or Johnsons) are wearing.
Best of all, use your money to change the environment around you–support businesses that are employing people in the community. If you don’t see any black employees at your local beauty supply store, don’t shop there. Better yet, try to shop at black-owned businesses as much as you can (or start one!).
The world needs less critics and more action-takers. If you already take action to provide hope and opportunities to young men and women that feel like the world is against them (because often it is), I love you and applaud your efforts. Please go ahead and voice your dissent and shake your head. You are a force of change. But the rest of us need to STFU and do everything within our means to do something that causes less youth to feel hopeless enough to riot.
Today, as Baltimore heals, let’s also focus on healing other marginalized communities throughout the African diaspora.
Leave any comments below or on Facebook. I’d love to read your ideas for healing cities like Baltimore and communites throughout the U.S. that are full of rage due to the weight of systemic injustice (that honestly may never go away).