Baltimore shows how we change narratives

April 30, 2015




Baltimore was burning Monday night.




Riots, caused by the mysterious, unexplained death of Freddie Gray, lasted long into the night.


Gray was arrested on April 19. Put in the back of a police van with what bystanders described as a broken leg, he later died of unexplained spinal injuries.


The family’s attorney, Billy Murphy Jr., said Gray’s spine was “80 percent severed at his neck.”


Gray was arrested because he ran after making eye contact with the police. The police have said they think there was no warrant out for his arrest, and the only thing on him that could be described as incriminating is a switchblade.


Gray did have a lengthy criminal record, including charges for manufacturing narcotics and burglary, but the police have only said they thought he was immediately involved in criminal activity.


The details of the arrest are very vague.


The van Gray was in stopped twice before it reached the station. The first time it stopped he was put in leg irons.


And, somehow, somewhere along the way, his spine was almost completely severed, and his larynx was crushed. Arresting officers say they used no force.


Similar to the situation in Ferguson, protests over his death were soon taken over by opportunists, thieves who saw an important protest on the relationship between race and authority in this country as a means to steal and burn.


But we cannot — I repeat, we cannot — allow them to change the conversation.


The rioting and arson perpetrated by these people cannot become the focal point.


Is it disgusting? Yes. Is it opportunistic? Yes.


Is it helping the situation? No, never. It distracts media and law enforcement attention away from dealing with the original problem.


At the end of the day, we have to remember what started all of this.


The media sometimes has a propensity to swap up narratives, to change the focus to whatever will sell. “Black man loses life to police” one day, “Black rioters burn down Baltimore” the next.


By all means, the news should report what is happening. The citizenry should form opinions on what is happening.


But you cannot consider what is going on in Baltimore and think “Those looters are destroying people’s property, how sick” without thinking about what caused this violence.


Sure, people’s businesses are being destroyed, and that is legitimately terrible. Those were people’s livelihoods.


But a man lost his life, in a way that is being kept secret. A spine does not just shatter. A voice box does not just collapse.


What is more important, a building, or the life?


John Sadler is a junior journalism and English major from Extension who serves as editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to jts040@latech.edu.


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