I watched the drama unfold in Ferguson last summer, mainly through the filter of being a black American ex-pat in the UAE. Now, as summer begins in the US again, this time it’s my home-state that is ground zero for police aggression and black oppression.
It’s surreal. I can’t say I have any strong ties to Baltimore— Maryland is one of those states where your cultural affiliation depends on geographic location, I am culturally a DC metro area person. I would have to live a little further North for Baltimore to be the city that I affiliate with most.
Baltimore has always been like another world to me. When I was younger and not a US Citizen, my mom would talk make to the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) for one reason or another and I hated going there. Not because of the government bureaucracy but because it meant going to Baltimore, a city that just always left me feeling strange.
Orioles park sparked no emotion in me; not a baseball fan and besides, in our part of Maryland, the Washington Redskins were pretty much the only team that mattered. The Harbor was cute, but I was always struck by how strange the city’s set-up seemed: One block was pristine, the type of city street you send your kids on field trips to go see. Then next block, looked like the most dilapidated thing you could ever imagine. This contrast, of rich and poor was always unsettling.
Once, my mom got lost and we ended up going deeper into the city. I can still remember thinking “Good Lord, DC has poor neighborhoods, but not THIS poor.” I wasn’t sure what a crack head looked like, but I was pretty sure that I had seen more than few during our 30 minute detour. Baltimore always made me uneasy and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now, I guess it was the black poverty unlike anything I had ever seen.
Now it seems, the chickens are coming home to roost. A population that has be degraded and derogated for too long is speaking out and demanding justice while hoping for true equality. People who have been cramped and stuffed in boxes where they couldn’t even begin to dream of a better life are now so fed up of the darkness. The national spotlight turns once again to a unjust system that seems to let darker hued people down.
I hope that something good comes out of this young man’s death, that racist policies are reconsidered and that an end comes to this “New Jim Crow” that’s not just a southern thing; it’s unfortunately an American thing.