On the surface, the story of the unrest in Baltimore recently is a familiar story about police brutality and racism. But the glowing embers of civil unrest that were fanned into flames last week by Freddie Gray’s death is likely a systemic problem in America whose karma can be traced back to slavery. And more recently, four decades of middle class and working class jobs leaving American cities and the economic devastation that’s caused.
In West Baltimore, where Gray lived and was arrested, more than half of people between 16 and 64 are unemployed. In this podcast, Jeff feels into the anger and hopelessness in impoverished communities stripped of opportunity, and how that resentment is expressed at different stages of development, as well as responded to by the powers that be.
Excerpt | The media’s role in the story of the Baltimore protest
The long game of overcoming racism isn’t just a matter of how people are treated by the police or how the laws are written or enforced. The final piece happens in our hearts and minds as we really, really look into what it is to be like another person, and engage the venerable spiritual practice of exchanging oneself for other. ~Jeff Salzman
Measured in terms of death, destruction and injury, Jeff points out, the violence last week was about one tenth what it was during the riots in 1968. We can talk about how bad things are, and we can talk about how far we’ve come, and both perspectives are true.
A funny thing happens as we develop–we become more sensitive to injustice, and act to rectify it. As we act to rectify it, we become ever more sensitive to it, and on it goes, so that the gap between our ideals and our reality never closes.
The result is that less and less violence gets more and more attention. The news on TV is intended to hook our nervous system so we stay tuned, Jeff says…
“Obama talked about the peaceful protesters, and how sad it was that one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, which is what happens. Yet, thousands of demonstrators did it the right way. Obama said, ‘The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore has handled this appropriately. Expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.’”
The unfortunate fact about violence is that it actually works—in the short term. A week of protests in Baltimore didn’t get near the level of attention as they did when they started to turn violent.
It was announced on Friday that the state attorney of Baltimore has brought homicide, manslaughter, and misconduct charges against the six officers involved. Hopefully justice gets done in this case, both in regards to the police officers, as well as the looters and arsons. But the larger conversation this engenders is the engine of our evolution.
“What’s ultimately going to overcome racism on this planet is the increased ‘mongrelization’ of the human race, which is well underway” says Jeff. “That will continue with the increasing number of bi- tri- and multi-racial babies. I think this is a characteristic of the sacred world to come.”
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