Disclaimer: This piece was written in regards to the riots that took place in Baltimore, Maryland on and after April 25, 2015. It is not in reference to the peaceful, organized protests that took place on that day or throughout the week. Thank you, peaceful demonstrators. Your work has not been in vain.
Maryland is a small, Mid-Atlantic coastal state that envelops our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. If you’re not from the east coast, you might not have any concept of where this state lies on the map. I happen to come from the middle of the state, from a great town called Bowie—no, not like the musician. More like “Boo-ie.”
That means that, for me and others from the area, frequenting Baltimore, Annapolis, and D.C. was not unusual. We tend to feel a sort of ownership over all these familiar towns.
Down here in Miami, I am proud to tell people about where I’m from. I am a proud Marylander. But here’s the thing: I usually tell Miamians that I’m from the D.C. area, because most people down here don’t know what or where Maryland is. (Nope, not the Midwest. Try again!).
Rioting Sets Us Up for Failure
But after today, people are going to know who we are and where we’re from—and not in a good way. Today’s protests, in “honor” of the deceased Freddie Gray have put us on the map, just like Ferguson.
I get it. These riots were formed in an attempt to bring justice to his name and to our race, as black Americans.
But, we’ve got it all wrong. I don’t want to begin to discuss how riots have the opposite effect of what the initial intentions might have been. I will note, however, that rather than bringing justice to the view of our race, these “racial justice” riots create a polarizing effect, setting race against race. And, unfortunately, the race that keeps losing is our own. Don’t you see?
In “Honor” of Freddie Gray?
Is this about Freddie Gray or is it about race? And if it’s about race, why are we out there doing things to make people hate us more, furthering the divide and setting ourselves up for more hate crimes? Why are some of us out there attacking innocent bystanders? Sounds familiar.
I can only hope that the investigation brings justice for Freddie Gray and peace to his family. I can only pray that all of the truth comes to the light, whatever that truth may be. Why?
Freddie Gray was a Baltimorean. A Marylander. A black man. In so many ways, one of my own. I want to see justice. I want to know why the police made the decisions they chose to. We all do.
But, inciting violence only perpetuates the divide. Using violence to express our distaste for the outcome of what happened to a black person in police custody only causes more policemen to feel the need to protect themselves (at potentially extreme measures) when approaching a black suspect. We are digging the hole deeper.
Now when I tell people I am from Maryland, I will do so with just a tinge of anxiety on the tip of my tongue—well aware that the next comment will be about the nature of our citizens in the face of adversity. I probably won’t have to explain where it is anymore, though. Everyone will know. Now they have seen it, stained by the bitter taste of revenge.
I’ve seen it, too. Watching videos from today’s protests, all I can wonder is, “Is this my state?” I don’t recognize it. I see Camden Yards in shambles. I see black citizens throwing full, metal trashcans at white bystanders at Pickles Pub. I hear about the Orioles game being put on lockdown. I see young men throwing rocks and bricks at other people. This is not the Maryland I know and love.
I know we have all had a good laugh about the Baltimore benches touting, “Greatest City in America,” but why? Why is it so funny to value where we are from?
Now that I am living in Florida, I am able to see more clearly what makes home so beautiful: access to the Appalachian Mountains, the city, and the sea all at once. The flavors of our cuisine (I see you, Old Bay). The cherry blossoms that emerge after a long, icy winter.
Making a Difference: Reclaiming Maryland
Why participate in endless debates about whether or not the riots are a just cause? Why, from the comfort of our couches, should we bring attention to something that does not warrant any positivity to our state and the human race, as a whole?
What can we Marylanders do for our state? We can shed some positive light on Baltimore and Maryland. Let’s show everyone what our home looks like—in its recognizable form. Let’s share what we love about our perfectly beautiful, colorful, ethnically diverse region. Maryland has now been put on the map across the nation.
Is it crazy to think that sharing what we love about Maryland will make any difference? Maybe. But it’s crazier to think that we would let ignorance represent everything we know and love about it. We can’t stop the riots with our words, but we can have our say about our Maryland. Let’s reclaim Baltimore and #putmarylandonthemap #forgood.
Please, share what you love about Maryland in the comments, and share your photos on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with our Maryland hashtag, #putmarylandonthemap !
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.