Why you should have more sympathy for protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson

The chaotic protests and looting in Ferguson last year and Baltimore in the last week have created understandable concern about the rule of law in these cities and elsewhere.

Who cannot help but admire the mother who disciplined her teenaged son who she thought was throwing rocks at police?

This mother’s actions seem to show that 1)the people protesting are misguided thugs and 2)all that is needed is a bit of discipline to get things under control.

Such a reaction is understandable but unfortunately ignores the realities of the lives of people in Ferguson and Baltimore and their interactions with the government. Once you begin to dig down into how police and local government have, for years, oppressed the people in Baltimore and Ferguson, you cannot help but feel some sympathy for residents there.

Let me put it to you this way: if you lived in the poorer parts of Ferguson or inner-city Baltimore, chances are you would feel helpless and angry at the police and the government too. Would you riot? Perhaps not, but you would at least understand why other people are protesting.

Before going on, let’s remember how the United States was founded. It was a violent revolution against an oppressive government. History shows clearly that the British government was considerably less oppressive to the majority of people in the colonies than the police and local governments of Ferguson and Baltimore today. It is simply a fact that the vast majority of colonists never had to deal with a British government official. If you were a landowner in Connecticut or New York or Virginia, you might go your entire life without ever seeing a British “oppressor.”

So, why did the colonists rebel? Because of taxes (which were ridiculously low compared to today) and because the British government was denying basic rights to people in the Americas that were granted, for the most part, to people in England. It is true that colonists read about and heard about oppression of other people, but the vast majority of white colonists never suffered any oppression from government themselves. (It is worth remembering that the situation was obviously different for the slaves).

Yet, in an environment of relatively light tyranny, the colonists nevertheless wrote founding documents expressly intended to limit and control police power. The colonists recognized that they had unusual liberty, and they wanted to protect and enlarge liberty for future generations.

Do the people of Ferguson and Baltimore have liberty today? No, they do not.

If you are going to comment on this article, I would request that before you do you please read two articles:

This one about Ferguson.

And this one about Baltimore.

Let me summarize: the government in Ferguson acted like Mafia dons. Government officials, mostly white, saw it as their job to extract as much revenue from the people, mostly black, as possible. They did not see it as their job to “serve” the people. They saw it as their job to mug the people.

Think I am exaggerating?

Ferguson officials repeatedly behaved as if their priority is not improving public safety or protecting the rights of residents, but maximizing the revenue that flows into city coffers, sometimes going so far as to anticipate decreasing sales tax revenues and urging the police force to make up for the shortfall by ticketing more people. Often, those tickets for minor offenses then turned into arrest warrants.

Police officers were judged not only on the number of stops they made, but on the number of citations they issued. “Officers routinely conduct stops that have little relation to public safety and a questionable basis in law,” the report states. “Issuing three or four charges in one stop is not uncommon. Officers sometimes write six, eight, or, in at least one instance, fourteen citations for a single encounter.” Some officers compete to see who can issue the most citations in a single stop.

In one email, the police chief, who also oversees the municipal court, brags to the city manager about how much revenue it is generating. Ignoring that conflict of interest is a recipe for a justice system that bleeds the powerless of their meager resources.

Consider the case of this poor woman:

We spoke… with an African-American woman who has a still-pending case stemming from 2007, when, on a single occasion, she parked her car illegally. She received two citations and a $151 fine, plus fees. The woman, who experienced financial difficulties and periods of homelessness over several years, was charged with seven Failure to Appear offenses for missing court dates or fine payments on her parking tickets between 2007 and 2010. For each Failure to Appear, the court issued an arrest warrant and imposed new fines and fees.

From 2007 to 2014, the woman was arrested twice, spent six days in jail, and paid $550 to the court for the events stemming from this single instance of illegal parking. Court records show that she twice attempted to make partial payments of $25 and $50, but the court returned those payments, refusing to accept anything less than payment in full. One of those payments was later accepted, but only after the court’s letter rejecting payment by money order was returned as undeliverable. This woman is now making regular payments on the fine. As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541.

How would you respond if you lived in a city that routinely behaved this way towards its citizens, and nothing could be done because the same people keep on getting elected no matter how they treat the people?

How about Baltimore?

$5.7 million is the amount the city paid to victims of brutality between 2011 and 2014. And as huge as that figure is, the more staggering number in the article is this one: “Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil-rights violations.” What tiny percentage of the unjustly beaten win formal legal judgments?

If you’re imagining that they were all men in their twenties, think again:

Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson. Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

Consider the case of this poor 87-year-old grandmother:

The 87-year-old grandmother was named Venus Green. A former teacher with two college degrees, she spent her retirement years as a foster parent for needy children. She was on her porch one day when her grandson ran up crying for an ambulance.

He’d been shot.

The article goes on to tell her story from a legal document in her successful lawsuit:

Paramedics and police responded to the emergency call, but the white officer became hostile. “What happened? Who shot you?” Green recalled the officer saying to her grandson, according to an 11-page letter in which she detailed the incident for her lawyer. Excerpts from the letter were included in her lawsuit. “You’re lying. You know you were shot inside that house. We ain’t going to help you because you are lying.”

“Mister, he isn’t lying,” replied Green, who had no criminal record. “He came from down that way running, calling me to call the ambulance.”

The officer, who is not identified in the lawsuit, wanted to go into the basement, but Green demanded a warrant. Her grandson kept two dogs downstairs and she feared they would attack. The officer unhooked the lock, but Green latched it. He shoved Green against the wall.

She hit the wooden floor. “Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up,” Green recalled the officer saying as he stood over her. “He pulled me up, pushed me in the dining room over the couch, put his knees in my back, twisted my arms and wrist and put handcuffs on my hands and threw me face down on the couch.”

After pulling Green to her feet, the officer told her she was under arrest. Green complained of pain. “My neck and shoulder are hurting,” Green told him. “Please take these handcuffs off.” An African-American officer then walked in the house, saw her sobbing and asked that the handcuffs be removed since Green wasn’t violent. The cuffs came off, and Green didn’t face any charges. But a broken shoulder tormented her for months.

The Baltimore Sun wrote a very well-done article in 2014 detailing extensive police brutality in the city. You can read it here.

I will say it again: if you lived in inner-city Baltimore or the poorer parts of Ferguson and had to deal with government officials like these on a daily basis, you would feel helpless and upset. You would sympathize with people protesting against this system, hopeful for change.

This of course does not excuse looting and violent acts against people and property, which did happen in both cities. But the first step toward making things better is sympathy and understanding of the feelings of the people who are rioting. You cannot resolve a problem without trying to see things from the perspective of other people, whose feelings must be considered.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

50 thoughts on “Why you should have more sympathy for protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson

  1. I agree with almost everything written here, but I think you go to far to suggest that the residents of Baltimore or other such cities do not have liberty. These are U.S. citizens with the right to vote and to put into place politicians that will change things. They are not deprived of their essential liberties or rights of citizenship. Violence is justified against tyranny only after democratic and alternative channels have been tried and found wanting.

    I thought this was a pretty interesting article worth thinking about:


  2. Baltimore is 60% black (more or less) they have a black chief of police. The police force is over 50% black. The city council chairman is black as are 8 of the 15 members. The mayor is black. More importantly they have had a democratic party monopoly since the 1940’s. Progressive democrats.

    So the people of Baltimore voted for and got the government that they wanted. It’s too late to complain about it now. They wanted a black progressive democratic government and that’s what they have. Of course democrats are known for providing corrupt crony governments, that should come as no surprise to anyone.

  3. Agesliaus wrote: “So the people of Baltimore voted for and got the government that they wanted. It’s too late to complain about it now.” Well, Americans voted for Obama and Bush, not once but twice! Each! I complain about that almost every day. Part of being part of a republic means that you can recognize that your fellow citizens make huge voting errors, and you still get to complain about it. I think more and more Americans are waking up to the reality that their choices are horribly restricted between Establishment politician A and Establishment politician B, and this applies even more to city government. Let’s hope the people of Baltimore and Ferguson elect true reform candidates, but my cynical side says it will never happen. This does not mean we cannot have sympathy for the people forced to suffer under such governments.

  4. Well said Geoff and I’ve been making the same points to others.

    Daniel, liberty is about more than just voting. I do think the solution is ultimately at the ballot box. However the dirty secret is that to run requires resources. Maybe that is itself in part due to so many voters being stupid in how they become informed about voting. While I’m sympathetic to that view the reality is that when you have a poor, disenfranchised community with no access to good schools saying what they could in theory do seems secondary to their understanding what they can do. That is you and I look at this with a background where we’ve been exposed to good government, where we understand civics, where we haven’t become so cynical about the corruption of politicians. That’s not the world many of these people come from.

    Further we live in a system of checks and balances. Even if you elect a good representative for your region you have no vote on representatives from other regions. And your representative is limited (by design) in what they can accomplish.

    Finally if you are raised in these communities you have a very good chance of running afoul of the law. But until your probation is finished you are not eligible to vote. (At least Maryland lets convicted felons vote if their probation is over) This excludes an awful lot of the poor communities in question so that they simply aren’t represented.

    So even if there is a very good point that the solution is via the ballot box let’s be honest about the challenges that brings for the poor and the disenfranchised.

    Finally, let’s also note that a lot of the problems aren’t with elected officials but are with the police unions themselves. And that’s a lot harder to change than simply electing good representatives.

  5. Daniel O, that was an excellent article by the National Review. It is not contradictory to believe that 1)people shouldn’t loot and riot 2)Democrats are ruining city government in almost all large American cities and 3)people should have sympathy and understanding for the suffering of many people in Baltimore and Ferguson. You can believe 1, 2 and 3 at the same time.

  6. Geoff,

    I did live there, for a short time. Almost 40 years ago I spent part of my full-time mission assigned to a suburban area near the Ferguson MO community. We lived in the neighboring city of Florissant. At the time, Ferguson was just a wide spot in the road.

    My impression from daily contact with the people of this area is that they lived quite happily. Though we were not ever really an integral part of community affairs, I never heard anyone complain about being oppressed, or having unusual trouble with cops.

    Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but I can only conclude that something happened since that time that has brought trouble and turmoil to the area. When I was there, it was a very peaceful place. We had 4-of-July picnics, baseball games, and fireworks by the river.

    What has gone wrong?

  7. Very important information to understand and use as we develop opinions on situations like this.

    Thanks for writing it up so well.

  8. Jim, the population makeup of Ferguson shifted within the last decade or two. So the Ferguson when you lived there and the Ferguson of today are quite different. I think, as National Review has frequently noted, a big problem is that the Ferguson PD is run by collecting fines. That places bad incentives on any police force. Second, people were fairly apathetic in voting practice which made an already bad situation worse. As the link Geoff provided notes, there were also bad incentives at the broader government level. Having all these smaller districts in a metro area frequently creates bad incentives. (Something that the Salt Lake metro area ought keep in mind – and that I think we’ve sometimes seen with regards to West Valley City)

    While it’s easy to point to Democrats running cities (and there’s some degree of truth in that) the problem much more is a problem whenever any particular party dominates. Thus it’s applicable to Utah as well. The problem is that, for better or worse, when you have one party dominating that the real decisions get made in caucus or at least in the primaries. Most people don’t vote or participate in the primaries let alone the caucuses. (And despite naysayers saying this is easy, there are compelling reasons for this along practical lines) That means by the time the final election rolls around the significant decisions have already been made. That is the way two party dynamics function can cause inherent problems in more local elections.

    I’m not sure of the solution since our political system strongly incentivizes a two party system. Some places like California are trying election reforms to make for more competitive elections with significant choice for median voters. We’ll see if those reforms work or instead cause new problems.

    While I’m not terribly sympathetic to cries of apathy towards caucuses, I do think that general voter apathy is a large issue. Not just about voting but even becoming informed about issues. Most people pay a lot of attention to Presidential elections yet by design the President has far less influence in the aspects of government that affect people day to day. Ideally everyone should be very involved in local elections. Yet I suspect most voters couldn’t name their representatives to the state senate or house let alone their representatives in city our county governance.

  9. God has paid us the ultimate compliment: He holds us responsible and respects us as free, rational beings. He has given us this freedom through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The concepts of individual freedom and personal responsibility are at the very center of the Atonement. As Lehi noted, the sacrifice of the Messiah removed from us the consequences of the Fall of Adam, which bound our bodies to death and our spirits to hell. Being redeemed from the Fall, we are “free forever, knowing good from evil; to act … and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day. … Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man” (2 Ne. 2:26–27). In the words of the second article of faith, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”

    By Elder Robert S. Wood (March 2002 Ensign)

    The actions of these rioters is evil and they are responsible for their own actions. What is life here on Earth but a test of our ability to turn away from evil actions and follow the Lord’s precepts instead.

  10. I would be careful to make judgments based on articles from The Atlantic. You are going to get biased information from both sides, so unless you’ve actually lived there or served in law enforcement there, it’s really hard to say. Anecdotal experience says you’re going to have some bad apples in law enforcement, but it is an extremely small percentage, especially in the case of Baltimore if you think it’s a white on black issue. I have no problems with peaceful protests, but violence and criminal mischief are not justified. There were about 65 murders in my county a year or two ago, of which about 55 were blacks. Most of the murders, of blacks and whites, was drug related in some way, shape or form. That doesn’t even account for the number of other violent acts, again almost all being black on black. The crime problem is multi-faceted and a simple position of “blacks are oppressed by the white man” doesn’t come close addressing the real issues.

  11. Aren’t the police part of the overall lawlessness in Ferguson and Baltimore? They are openly abusing the people, ignoring constitutional restraints and human dignity, and unnecessarily using deadly force against black citizens. They do not seem to see themselves as constrained by the rule of law.

    US police have killed more people in the last month than the police of any European country in decades.

    It is sick to see the shock and outrage by white Americans at scenes of somewhat violent protesting — a burning police van and CVS pharmacy — and their silence as to Freddie Gray’s broken spine. “But he had a record of prior arrests!” And that justifies police breaking his neck/spine after arrest while en route to booking?

  12. IDIAT the figures on police abuses in the Atlantic are matters of public record. They may be biased but the fact is that it’s a very broken police system and has been acknowledged as such for years.

    Agesilaus, we are free but we are also held accountable relative to our understanding. To use those scriptures to discount individual understanding seems misleading. If true, then those who held racist views in the 19th century are accountable for those views in the exact same way that a person today would be if they held the same views. I suspect you’re not willing to make that sort of judgment so why would you make that judgment for those raised in horribly broken family, exposed to violence and crime, often abused themselves, and given almost no opportunity to lift themselves out of that environment. That doesn’t mean what they do is right. But it does suggest God in his love will judge them in terms of their understanding and opportunities. In any case while we can judge what is or isn’t wrong it’s only God who can judge the individual in an absolute sense.

    In any case, as Trond notes it’s not just the rioters who are part of the lawlessness. If we say only a small percent of the police are guilty we should also note that only a small percent of the community are guilty of wrong doing in the riots. Let’s not have a double standard here. If anything it is worse for the police given their responsibility and duty. Where much is given much is required.

  13. I was raised in a single parent home where my Mother was rarely there. I more or less raised myself. But I never had any problem understanding that arson, attempted murder and pillage were wrong. I don’t think that when these people appear before the Lord at judgement day that the excuse “I was depraved on account of I was deprived.” will be sufficient. We are tested within our abilities to resist wrong doing.

  14. Let me expand on that: are you saying that the Lord has placed these people in a situation where they cannot resist evil? That he has given them no opportunity to turn toward the right?

  15. Sympathy is impossible for us non-slave-descended folks; and I’m not just being snarky–this is an important distinction, and an important limitation in non-slave-descended American populations when it comes to understanding real plight. Joseph Smith, I believe, understood something of what the future would hold for former slaves simply ushered off the plantations with nothing: generations of people who have had no, to still little, or at least far less of that underpinning of family and societal impetus to succeed which most of us have enjoyed from infancy.

    Empathy now, that is something I can work on. Thank you for posting all the links and your thoughts. It helps to be reminded so I don’t judge too harshly the riotous reaction as solely and simply evil and criminal. No, that idea lets the rest of us off the hook too easily. There is deep and deeply rooted frustration there and for those in circumstances who do not even see a way out, where we see a way up, what other response should we expect from time to time until either enough generations pass away that there is enough critical mass of slave-descended people who are thinking of a way up like “we” (meaning everyone else of any race who gets how America is supposed to work) do instead of despairing of seeing a way out, or, well, what else is there? What can hasten this transformation besides the gospel message of strong families, work, service, and love? Well, we can certainly add appropriate police oversight to that list even if only part of the evidence is admitted. States issue civil charters and I guess should examine them from time to time. Nauvoo anyone?

  16. Best estimates put the number of Black Americans who can trace their ancestry back to a slave at less than 40%. Furthermore other populations, mine ancestors for example the Irish, were treated as no better than slaves. The institution of indentured servants is another example of people being treated as owned property for the length of their servitude. The Chinese laborers used to build the railways out west were treated worse than slaves.

    But no other population seems to have ‘suffered’ as much as the blacks. At least in their own minds. What happened to my great-great-great-grandparents doesn’t seem to have any impact on my life or the lives of anyone else that I know. Maybe if you are the rich scion of a family whose wealth was created in 1850 it would affect you.

    That is just a lame excuse to justify bad behavior

  17. I see the history of these developments in St. Louis and in Baltimore. But notwithstanding, I feel no particular compulsion to admit my part in the lawlessness and anarchy. Criminal behavior is the choice of those who commit the illegal acts, no matter what hypothetical justification. As I said, Ferguson used to be a nice peaceful place, when I was there. And I did my best while I was there to make it better. I have no reason to confess “mea culpa”. It isn’t me.

    An enemy hath done this.

  18. Progressive policies in all levels of government have been particularly damaging to blacks and hispanics as they destroy the family structure and promote dependency. Look at the record for Amerca’s urban areas for the past hundred years.
    I have experienced police brutality first hand and when people learn that my son is permanently disabled as a result of a completely unjustified taser attack by police they always assume he should sue for damages. No lawyer has been willing to tangle with those responsible and his first efforts at retrieving documents was met with a warrant claiming he had committed a crime when he asked the reason seven policemen were in our home attempting to take him into custody without an arrest warrant. After several years of court appearances the attempt was made to get him to settle for a $100 fine on a charge of disturbing the peace. He held his ground, requesting a trial and the opportunity to face his accusers. None of the prosecution witnesses showed up at the trial and the effort to blame him was abandoned. A pyhrric victory considering that triple tasers in his back have left him greatly debilitated due to permanent nerve damage. At least he didn’t die immediately as could have been expected.
    Church history includes enough stories of persecution by government authorities to warn the heedless.
    Not just black communities have abusive and delinquent police. Police in other cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada have a reputation as well.
    Rioting is not effective unless the objective is publicity to draw in non-locals looking for excitement.
    As for me, I keep a low profile and pray that all the signs of an impending apocalypse are true.

  19. Agesilaus, I’m not sure where you got that figure regarding slavery. I suspect you’re confusing statistics on DNA admixture with having at least one ancestor who was a slave. The best study I’ve seen is by Thirkelle Howard and she estimates that 85% to 90% of black Americans are descendants of American slaves but that 40 – 70% have European ancestry (primarily from rape of slaves).

    Regarding resisting evil I’m certainly not saying people can’t resist evil due to circumstance. However I am saying circumstance affects how we judge people’s abilities to resist evil. The whole point of the false traditions of fathers is that parents can lead children into error giving Satan power. If what you said was true (that environment and what they were taught by their parents doesn’t matter) then parenthood itself would not matter. But we’ve been forcefully told how important it is to raise our children in righteousness and truth. (See D&C 93:38-40)

    More significantly Christ’s strong command about judging not ought inform how we views people in these circumstances. (Matt 7:1-5) Quoting from Pres. N Eldon Tanner:

    It is not possible to judge another fairly unless you know his desires, his faith, and his goals. Because of a different environment, unequal opportunity, and many other things, people are not in the same position. One may start at the top and the other at the bottom, and they may meet as they are going in opposite directions. Someone has said that it is not where you are but the direction in which you are going that counts; not how close you are to failure or success but which way you are headed. How can we, with all our weaknesses and frailties, dare to arrogate to ourselves the position of a judge? At best, man can judge only what he sees; he cannot judge the heart or the intention, or begin to judge the potential of his neighbor.

    Also note that in particular the Book of Mormon warns about the false traditions of parents which led the Lamanites for “dwindle in unbelief.” It seems quite clear from the Book of Mormon that when children are not instructed properly they are caught up in these false ideas. The Book of Mormon is clear that because of these traditions the Lord is merciful to them. (See Alma 9:16-17) It’s hardly surprising we see it in our own nation.

    While serfdom and the similar treatment in the Americas (especially the south) has some similarities with slavery, there is a huge difference in degree. However I think those that point to the contemporary problems of inner city blacks typically point to 20th century government policies such as Jim Crow laws, discrimination in housing and a lot else that happened after the second world war. While others faced discrimination the level and range of discrimination blacks face in the 20th century by the hands of US government is unlike what European immigrants faced – especially those in the 20th century.

    Also, note that I am not excusing behavior. Explaining behavior is not the same as excusing it. I am saying that for those caught up in this environment who feel they have no hope and when even those who should be serving them oppress them it’s not at all surprising they lash out in frustration. I would too. And, as Geoff noted, this was at the very root of our nation’s history.

  20. Clark, if I may say so, you are extraordinarily well-informed on this issue. I also like the distinction between excusing behavior and explaining behavior. You cannot solve a problem until you understand it. So, if we want to solve the problem of inner city unrest, we must understand what is motivating it. It does us no good to stab around at “solutions” when we don’t understand what is causing the unrest in the first place.

  21. I am no fan of modern police, considering them jack-booted enforcers of unConstitutional laws. Perhaps twice in my life I called them to look into questionable activity, but wonder if I would for serious problems. Despite friendly terms with a cop family, there would be no way I would interact with him while in a uniform. All that aside, I want to answer a question:

    “Let me put it to you this way: if you lived in the poorer parts of Ferguson or inner-city Baltimore, chances are you would feel helpless and angry at the police and the government too. Would you riot?”

    No, I would move and the sooner the better. There is a reason I don’t live in California or Colorado, or ever would. As a commenter at another site put it, these riots are great advertisements for small government and the NRA. I don’t have a problem with a one party Republican state because I vehemently disagree with the Democratic Party. Besides, the problems are over exaggerated because often too many Republicans act like Democrats so things even out in the end mostly without the extremist leftist ideas . I can’t say the same for Democrat controlled legislatures who don’t seem to have any conservative leaning members.

    You ask for one sided sympathy, while ignoring the pressure on police to follow laws that are stupid and problematic; ones that are mentioned in the post itself while attacking the law enforcement. No, I don’t have sympathy for either side because they have not given me any reason to have it. Every time I am asked to and try, some idiots on one or the other side remind me why I picked up the old X-Files mantra for my own: Trust No One (Except God of course). Don’t blame me for something my ancestors had nothing to do with and even if did are long dead, and on the flip side make excuses for others on the same grounds. Why can’t I be angry and get away with it? I could answer that question, but it isn’t prudent.

  22. “You cannot resolve a problem without trying to see things from the perspective of other people, whose feelings must be considered.”

    Which is why there will be more of these events throughout the country. The system generates so much revenue for those in control that they wont stop until the country’s wealth is squandered and then we will all feel like the people of those two communities. Read your book of mormon ladies and gentlemen, it doesnt end good for those that reject the saviors message.

  23. When I used the term “slave-descended” I was certainly differentiating a specific class of people. I have read the stuff on Chinese and Irish immigrants, and others, but those were not multiple generations born into slavery. And indentured servitude is inherent with the concept of a possible end to that servitude. We speak of prisoners becoming institutionalized and it is a real phenomenon. Well, slavery did the same thing. We stripped a people of any know-how for survival off the plantation. And add to that the real fact that African tribes missed the whole European enlightenment thing and lacked the literacy of Chinese society driven by a written language and you have a tremendous vacuous space to fill. A people with no or little culture of education outside that necessary for tribal needs to begin with then stripped of even that tribal system of control and families split and then split again as fathers are sold off to other places, etc., is not equipped to make the changes necessary to fix their own problems without great struggle and much time, even many generations. We may not be guilty of those offenses but we are all obviously paying the price for the “sins” of our forebears, and yes, the descendants of slaves of African origin are still largely not being raised within the American paradigm through which the rest of us view the world and ourselves and our possibilities.

    So, I empathize and would like to see more public effort and discourse on how to inculcate in the minds and hearts of the people I have identified those desires, hopes and skills necessary to lift themselves out of these doldrums they seem to be forever floating in.

  24. A challenge with distinct physical features that denote “otherness” is that it becomes easy for people to profile and discriminate at a distance. This is the situation for various ethnic groups throughout history.

    I take great comfort in the twin ideas that 1) an omniscient God will judge us all and 2) that I have loved every individual on this world for an eternity before today.

    I think if more truly feared God and loved their neighbors, the violence we have been told of would be mitigated. I don’t say eliminated, because we are human.

  25. Finally, an assertion for which I can legitimately add “mea culpa”. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am human.

    And when King Benjamin teaches that “the natural man is an enemy to God”, I read that as inclusive too.

  26. What would be useful are counter-examples: current American cities (population over 100,000) where government is done best.

    I lived four very happy years in the center of Baltimore, so I have had many thoughts on the latest news. Perhaps I’ll get around to writing some of them sometime, but there may not be any point. That closing line, “You cannot resolve a problem without trying to see things from the perspective of other people, whose feelings must be considered,” applies in a lot of directions, and few want to.

  27. I’m curious — would you feel differently if all those people you participating in the violent rioting and looting were members of the church? If you watched the 10:00 pm news, and saw you local black Young Men’s president running out of the CVS, would you still be sympathetic? I live in the gulf south, have been here all my life. I know a decent number of black members. At least with respect to the ones that are active, I don’t think they are sympathetic at all with the way their fellow black Americans are acting in Ferguson or Baltimore. Not that they aren’t Democrat or left leaning or believe all is right between blacks and whites in America, but they would not agree with what’s playing out on the streets. Like some have mentioned, if you throw up the wall of white privilege, then the conversation stops. If you believe everything I say or do is the result of white privilege, then there’s not much sense for me to even try to be empathetic. All our ancestors were slaves or servants at one time or another. We can’t live in the past, nor should we make excuses for those who do.

  28. Jetboy I would move too. And most of Baltimore has. However for these people who are so poor, that’s not really a practical option.

  29. Folks, Baltimore is a city with a lot of dysfunction, but there’s a lot more to the place than this week’s newsworthy events. The Freddie Gray part of the city is just one part. Baltimore’s population is down from its post-war peak, just like every other city that spread out into the suburbs when cars provided an option other than crowding a family into a rowhouse.

  30. For those of you who think not enough attention has been paid to the area where this Gray lived look at this:

    I’m not sure if the link will work. But since 1985 various funders have spent over $180,000,000 on this area of 10,000 residents. That’s $18,000 a head with no appreciable improvement in the area. Probably because the democratic cleptocrats in charge have driven most businesses out of the city and state.

  31. Ok it .didn’t work use your search engine to find:

    “Lack of ‘Investment’ Is Not the Problem in Baltimore”

    and the article will pop up.

  32. Throwing money at the problem will not solve anything.

    We cannot solve problems using the same mentality that created them.

    Yes, I WOULD feel differently if I knew these rioters and looters were members of the Church. My level of expectation is much higher. We have sacred covenants and higher standards to keep that the world scorns.

    I am disappointed, but not shocked to learn that others do not necessarily adhere to the same standards.

  33. John, while it’s been quite a few years since I was last in Baltimore (around the Wire timeframe) I really loved the city the times I’ve visited. It’s a gorgeous city without all the negatives that cities like the New York area have. It’s sad that government there is so dysfunctional that businesses flee and the populace suffers.

  34. “William Richardson, who works for Baltimore’s Department of Juvenile Services, stands in front of a group of about 30 eighth-grade boys in the school cafeteria.

    ‘Why have white people been killing us since slavery, and they’re still killing us?’ one student asks.

    ‘All these police officers are killing black dudes for no reason,’ says a boy named Montrel.

    ‘If a cop asks what we’re doing, and we’re not doing anything, do we have to answer?’ another wonders.”


  35. The problem is that will not get the honest answer to their question: why are the police more interested in blacks. The reason is that they commit criminal acts completely out of proportion to their representation in the population. Half of all murders for example:

    Today blacks are about 13 percent of the population and continue to be responsible for an inordinate amount of crime. Between 1976 and 2005 blacks com­mitted more than half of all murders in the United States. The black arrest rate for most offenses — including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes — is still typically two to three times their representation in the population. Blacks as a group are also overrepresented among persons arrested for so-called white-collar crimes such as counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement. And blaming this decades-long, well-documented trend on racist cops, prosecutors, judges, sentencing guidelines and drug laws doesn’t cut it as a plausible explanation.”


    Until that situation is freely admitted in public discourse nothing will change it. Blacks who dare to mention it are quickly hammered down, Bill Cosby for example.

  36. ” ‘Why have white people been killing us since slavery, and they’re still killing us?’ one student asks.”

    The sad fact is that far more black people are killed by other black people than they are by white people, even though there are more white people in the populous. I believe that Politifact indicated that 93% of black homicides were from other black a few years ago.

    Yet, even with such disproportionate numbers, the narrative remains that it is the white people that are doing the killing, as shown in Trond’s post. I wonder if that is not part of the problem. Yes black lives matter. Look at what is really taking them. And that does not even address the disproportionately higher levels of abortion among blacks, as well.

  37. I remember a time in the past where leaders was killed and the populace the leader represented stayed their hands. They cried and wept. They did not wreak their revenge on the neighboring towns believed to have participated in the deaths.

    In fact, the likelihood that the populace would rise up and rage at the death of their leaders was believed so certain that reports of the devastation were forwarded to the governor. Luckily the governor desired to know for himself, so visited the allegedly ravaged towns. No violence or destruction.

    I could wish that governor hadn’t acting in a way that facilitated the deaths of the leaders, but at least he didn’t facilitate panic and justify retribution on the populace that had been deprived of its leaders, the way a previous governor had done.

    [Of course speaking of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the actions of Nauvoo citizens, Illinois Governor Carlin and Missouri Governor Boggs.]

  38. I remember a time when a people were being invaded by troops sent by their government. Harsh rhetoric was used by the people’s leaders, and the people were very tense. When a group unrelated to the government passed near one settlement, the people of that settlement killed all of the adults and older children in that group. All of the people of the settlement, except one, were pardoned by their government. Should we be glad that restraint was used in dealing with that situation?

    I think we need to show love for all those who feel pain, regardless of whether we think they brought the pain on themselves or not or something in between. Of course, some of those rioting in Baltimore are outsiders taking advantage of a bad situation. Those deserve a different level of punishment from those who are protesting the treatment they have suffered.

  39. Agesilaus, the politics of Baltimore have definitely been corrupt and incompetent over the past 40 years leading to many of the problems now besetting the city. It’s unfortunate that so few cities seem willing to focus their attention on the status quo of leadership, usually liberal democrat, that has led them to where they are. Police unions are still a sacred cow despite being a huge contributing factor in police abuse and corruption. All that said I think Republicans also have a bit of the blame by completely writing off a significant portion of the population and not even trying to appeal to these voters. I think we’re starting to see these poor decisions, especially those made since the 90’s, coming home. Although I see no evidence that either Democrats nor Republicans have any plans to change.

    As for why blacks are involved with crime at higher rates, unless we ask why that is the case I’m not sure we are solving anything. While it’s true police treat blacks different due to these crime demographics that doesn’t justify treating individuals differently. We live in a land that’s supposed to be guided by rule of law where we are all equal under the law. When that’s not the case we’ve left our constitutionally guided principles and have lawlessness. Blaming all the problems on the police is of course to miss the root problems. But blaming the problems on those in poverty is also to miss the root problems.

    That said I think there are lots of clear things we could do that would improve things. Changing how we deal with the war on drugs being an obvious one. Changing how schooling is done is an other. Seriously changing how police unions can halt anti-corruption is yet an other. Making it easier for people to participate in politics yet one more. There’s lots that could be done. Mark my words. Six months from now we’ll see none of those changes.

    DD, I think you are quite right to note parallels from our own history.

  40. The root problem is that welfare policies helped destroy the black families by only paying welfare to women who lived without a husband in the home. The Moynihan report warned of this 50 years ago at the start of LBJ’s Great Society programs. Moynihan was an assistant Labor secretary and later a democratic senator from NY. He warned that the policies would lead to the complete destruction of the family in Black society. The absence of responsible fathers led to the criminality we now see in Black society.

    But what do you do about this? How do you create functional families out of the mess that exists now? Forcing a cocaine dealing man back into a home doesn’t seem like a functional fix. Throwing money at the problem is completely useless. We’ve been doing it for 50 years and IIRC the total spent of these destructive programs is approaching ten TRILLION dollars.

    And making it harder, the problem cannot even be discussed in public. Doing so instantly brands someone expressing the honest truth as a racist. Blacks are in a state of denial and until they recognize that their lives are not going to improve unless they themselves work at fixing the problem. I suppose it’s like what they say about alcoholics and drug addicts, until they hit absolute bottom and decide that they are going to fix their lives they never will.

    I don’t think the Mountain Meadows affair is in any way comparable to these riots. These are not political riots, they aren’t attacking police stations or other government buildings. They are breaking into places that have merchandise that they want, stealing and destroying the property. It’s just unleashed criminality.

  41. Actually I see the amount spent on the programs is $22,000,000,000,000 not the ten trillion I mentioned above. And our National dept stands at 18 trillion. We could be 4 trillion in the black if we hadn’t wasted this money. We spend one trillion a year additional on these programs.


  42. I don’t know that the behavior of those perpetrating the Mountain Meadows Massacre was violent triumphalism of a superior group against a despised underclass, as appears to be the case between the mostly-white police involved in the recent deaths of certain Black men. In some ways, the actions of those who perpetrated the Mountain Meadows Massacre, beleagered underdogs who believed they were under threat, is more similar to the members of the Black community who have allowed themselves to become involved in violent reactions to the recent deaths of individuals in police custody.

  43. While I am not from nor have I been to Baltimore or Ferguson, I get the pain and I understand why the suspects ( not calling them thugs) are rioting and looting. It comes from anger and desperation. .

    I am a strong believer of the notion that we as a human race, should not look the other way, nor condone the abuse of any humans and we should stop condoning police brutality, saying that a suspect deserves to be harmed, or that he should not have run away or should not have talked back to law enforcement. There is no justification for killing or abusing a suspect.

    We as humans, must speak up and say, no more brutality, no one, even a law enforcement officer does not have the right to hurt people. Abusing their power and hurting suspects, is wrong. Instead law officers should just bring the suspect before the courts.
    If a person breaks the law, just keep him standing upright, handcuff him, don’t slam him to the ground and put your knee in his head, or damage the suspect’s body, just because he broke the law. That is wrong!! Just arrest him, if he did a wrong.
    No people would want to be constantly harassed by law officers. No race wants their sons and daughters abided, maimed, and killed. We all love our young girls and boys. We have got to do what is right.

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