What are America’s Values? Four Values that the Baltimore Riots Confirmed

It’s been an interesting month in America. The presidential running season has started. Apparently, one woman (and hopefully only one), Cheryl Rios, thinks that women have “different hormones” that make them unable to effectively run America (Mosbergen). Tell me if I’m wrong, but something is off here.

Ironically, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, marked the 23rd anniversary of the Rodney King beating. My context, as a 4 year old, for the Los Angeles Riots was in that episode of “A Different World,” where the Dwayne and Whitley went on vacation in L.A. when the riots occurred. I think that my mother explained that unfair treatment led Black people in L.A. to be upset. Unfortunately, Americans are rioting again…for the same damn cause: being mistreated, misrepresented, unheard, unseen, and not valued.

In forming my view of the Baltimore Riots, and the status of Black America altogether, I found 4 themes that help explain America’s values and why Americans have spent the last ~150 years arguing over equal rights for Black Americans.

1. MLK is all we know.

I have NEVER heard/seen Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name mentioned this much in the month of April. Several critics of the events in Baltimore believe that protestors need to act, like MLK, implying that only peaceful methods of protests need to occur. It’s not clear why other leaders (black and non-black, living and dead) are not mentioned or quoted instead. America has created it’s own history, not rooted in reality, around the Civil Rights Movement and the key players. MLK was a great leader, organizer, and protestor. But what about DuBois? Or Douglass? Or Ghandi? Or someone else that’s still alive, like John Lewis? The list has women too. (Wikipedia-Civil Rights Leaders). People are tossing MLK’s name around because it’s convenient and beneficial to their own goals.

2. Some people just aren’t interested in helping “thugs.”

There has been a consistent division of class when it comes to beliefs around activism/protesting. We know that most of the protestors have been poor Blacks, or strong liberal bastions. Historically, conservatives have not played a major role in protesting on social issues, like race. Middle- and high-class (including Black people) have been mixed, based on my informal surveys, as they don’t see the issues presented as significant enough to participate, or feel that they have something to lose. Does fear outweigh your values? I hope not. If you choose fear over your own values, then they aren’t real values. Values are the principals that guide us.

Baltimore Councilman, Carl Stokes, showed us his values when calling out CNN’s anchorwoman, Erin Burnett, on her politically correct way of demeaning a group of oppressed children. In short, Stokes’ believed that Burnett’s use of the word, “thug,” was the equivalent of calling them “n*ggers.” Stokes is arguing that the words used are “coded,” stifling productive, meaningful conversations. I agree – just a distraction from the discussions that need to happen; another distraction is the one about violence being a problem.

3. Violence is not an answer unless we’re talking about the Middle East.

Historically, violence has solved problems. People don’t ever “give up” power, but oftentimes, power is taken. Can you think of a major challenge that was resolved without a war? I can’t. In Benji Hart’s article about the Baltimore riots, he suggests, “[t]elling someone to be peaceful and shaming their [militancy] not only lacks a nuanced and historical political understanding, it is literally a deadly and irresponsible demand” (Hart). Americans are comforted from suggesting that violence, among one another, is wrong. Ironically, the whole reason for the rioting is due to violence against Black bodies.

If a war with another country is initiated, then supporters are considered more “patriotic” than critics; it does not matter if America is right or not, Americans are expected to support it. Activist and Community Organizer, Deray McKesson said on CNN news, “I don’t have to condone it to understand it” (CNN). McKesson points out that people are hurting from systematic racism, particularly from the police (the very people are supposed to protect and serve them), and are doing their best to express their pain, in my opinion. Meanwhile, critics of the violence and/or the protests give praise to an angry mother swinging on her son for attempting to participate (ABC News)? Which one is it – violence is okay or it’s not?

Based on the current events, Americans think violence is sometimes okay. People’s feelings about when, where, and how differ across groups. I believe that some people decide that violence is okay when it’s not inconveniencing them: the moment you start destroying the city that they live or embarrassing the country that they love, it’s a problem. Where were these same people when Freddie Gray was having his spinal cord severed?

4. #RevenuesMatterMore

The financial markets have taken a slight dip, about -1%, but it’s not clear whether the decline is the result of the recent events in Baltimore. While there isn’t any economic data around Baltimore, we can make some conclusions based on the information that we do know.

Corporations don’t care about Baltimore

Baltimore is the largest American city with the headquarters of any Fortune 500 Company (Huddleston, Jr.). McCormick & Sons, which makes the Old Bay seasoning, announced on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 that it will be moving it’s headquarters from Baltimore to Hunt Valley, Maryland. For some reason, the MLB, or the Orioles’ owner, thought it was best to resume “business as usual” and the Baltimore Orioles played the Chicago White Sox in an empty stadium with no fans, costing them approximately $1,031,928, on Wednesday (Kutz). The one glimmer of hope is that CVS, who had a store set on fire, has continued to pay its employees this week and is still deciding whether or not it will reopen the damaged location (Wells).

If we review the corporate landscape of Ferguson, then we see that the corporate and government initiatives value revenue over people. Ta-Nehisi Coates, of The Atlantic, recently published a report called “The Gangsters of Ferguson,” where he calls to attention the motive of policing in Ferguson: money (Coates). The investigation of the Ferguson Police Department by the United States Department of Justice, found that the City was heavily focused on making money by generating revenue of off black people (United States Department of Justice). Here are few highlights of the DOJ report:

  • “City officials routinely urge Chief Jackson to generate more revenue through enforcement.”
  • “Patrol assignments and schedules are geared toward aggressive enforcement of Ferguson’s municipal code, with insufficient thought given to whether enforcement strategies promote public safety or unnecessarily undermine community trust and cooperation.
  • In its budget for fiscal year 2012, however, the City predicted that revenue from municipal fines and fees would increase over 30% from the previous year’s amount to $1.92 million; the court exceeded that target, collecting $2.11 million.

By contrast, Emerson Electric, a Fortune 500 company that is a global manufacturing and technology company with an annual revenue stream of $24 billion, is headquartered on West Florissant Avenue (down the street from Ferguson). Emerson benefited from small property taxes, roughly $68,000 last year, by receiving a low property value assessment (Johnson). This isn’t surprising to me, but what is interesting is that the City made an aggressive effort to tax and police the poor, Black residents instead of re-evaluating the taxation levels of it’s many corporations.

Baltimore People

Baltimore is the largest city in one of America’s wealthiest state, based on state income; the wealth is driven by government and contracting workers. Home to over 625,000 residents, Baltimore’s population is 63.3% Black Americans; Black Americans make up 12% of the nation’s population (United States Census Bureau-State and County). Below is a chart comparison of poverty lines (United States Census Bureau- American Fact Finder).

Baltimore

 

Conclusion

America has a values problem. Some would argue that it’s human nature to look out for one’s best interest, but my question is at what cost? Let me guess – at the expense of someone’s spinal cord and life. In this week alone, I’ve spent hours reviewing “good, bad, and ugly” comments on social media, watching CNN monetize the Freddie Gray tragedy and condone the name-calling of Black children, listening to people rant about peaceful action now that it’s inconveniencing them, and waiting on corporations and business leaders to do or say something. Still waiting…

 

Bibliography

ABC News. ORIGINAL: Angry mother beats son for participating in Baltimore riots. 27 April 2015. 30 April 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRlmCf1Kj2o&gt;.

CNN. Baltimore Community Organizer: “Broken Windows Are Not Broken Spines”; “We’re Looking For Justice”. 28 April 2015. 30 April 2015 <http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/04/28/baltimore_community_organizer_broken_windows_are_not_broken_spines_were_looking_for_justice.html&gt;.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. The Gangsters of Ferguson. 5 March 2015. 1 May 2015 <http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/The-Gangsters-Of-Ferguson/386893/&gt;.

Hart, Benji. Baltimore’s violent protesters are right: Smashing police cars is a legitimate political strategy. 28 April 2015. 30 April 2015 <http://www.salon.com/2015/04/28/baltimores_violent_protesters_are_right_smashing_police_cars_is_a_legitimate_political_strategy/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow&gt;.

Huddleston, Jr., Tom. Baltimore unrest affects businesses, MLB and NFL teams. 28 April 2015. 1 May 2015 <http://fortune.com/2015/04/28/baltimore-riots-cvs-orioles-ravens/&gt;.

Johnson, Walter. Ferguson’s Fortune 500 Company. 26 April 2015. 1 May 2015 <http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/fergusons-fortune-500-company/390492/&gt;.

Kutz, Steven. The economic consequences of an empty ballpark. 29 April 2015. 1 May 2015 <http://www.marketwatch.com/story/empty-ballpark-could-cost-orioles-1-million-today-2015-04-29&gt;.

Mosbergen, Dominique. Female CEO Says Women ‘Shouldn’t Be President’ Because Of ‘Different Hormones,’ ‘Biblical Reasoning’. 15 April 2015. 29 April 2015 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/15/ceo-women-shouldnt-be-president-cheryl-rios_n_7067564.html&gt;.

United States Census Bureau- American Fact Finder. American Fact Finder. 1 May 2015 <http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk&gt;.

United States Census Bureau-State and County. State and County QuickFacts. 31 March 2015. 1 May 2015 <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/24/24510.html&gt;.

United States Department of Justice. “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.” Federal goverment. 2015.

Wells, Carrie. CVS still deciding whether to reopen riot-damaged buildings. 30 April 2015. 1 May 2015 <http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-cvs-riot-update-20150430-story.html&gt;.

Wikipedia-Civil Rights Leaders. List of Civil Rights Leaders. 25 April 2015. 29 April 2015 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civil_rights_leaders&gt;.

 

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One thought on “What are America’s Values? Four Values that the Baltimore Riots Confirmed

  1. Pingback: The Meaning of Empathy | The Lucesco

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