This is about the recent Baltimore riots and, more specifically, the reactions to it partly by people I know. If you’re sick of hearing about this topic, be forewarned. It is also likely to be long and meandering just like the conversation that sparked it. I stayed out of the conversation because I did not want to interact with the kind of people which it attracted and I could not think of any constructive way to pithily say what needed to be said. Plus, this is Facebook we’re talking about here. Nuff said.
It all started with a friend posting a link to the Baltimore riots with the personal comment, “Looks like a great application for rubber bullets. There’s nothing that protects these people, as they are not “peacefully” protesting.” Normally, I would let a tone-deaf and completely lacking of a shred of empathy comment go because, again, Facebook. You have to pick your battles and the rest of the conversation got worse very quickly. But since I’m here writing about it, rubber bullets kill people. By making that comment, you’re basically condemning a certain amount of the rioters and likely some innocent bystanders to serious injury or death. Not to mention, “these people”, seriously? How you use words matter. Using “these people”, “those people”, “you people” is using language couched in a very long history of racism. You may not mean it as racist, but it sure makes you sound the part. That a person would use language like that shows a profound lack of historical context at the very best. How difficult would it to have come up with “these rioters”?
I continued to read the comments because I’m stupid. What followed was, again, many comments that can, at the very best interpretation, be considered as showing a profound lack of historical context. The one comment that really set my teeth on edge was from a person who apparently gets all her history lessons by reading Bill O’Reilly books because she said the following when commenting about how horrible these rioters are: “What did the black community in America do when Dr. King was shot? Murdered, some say, by the whites in power who didn’t want the blacks to be equal. What did they do? Burn down buildings? Throw bricks at cops? Etc? No. They MADE A DIFFERENT CHOICE.” Holy fuck me with a sharp stick, Batman. This comment shows just how completely Martin Luther King Jr.’s message has been usurped by the Right to attack any sort of violent actions by Blacks in America. I felt sure that someone would have corrected that ahistorical drivel so I continued reading. Not a single word. For those of you that may be unaware, some of the worse rioting in American history happened after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Hundreds of people were killed. Not to mention, marches by the good Doctor also sometimes turned violent after severe provocation by police. Police often are the instigators of riots either on purpose, Birmingham for example, or accidentally as some evidence out of Baltimore is now showing where it appears they prevented school children from getting home in a timely manner by cancelling bus and train routes that they use, thus forcing large groups to congregate in small spaces and then came at them with full riot gear.
The same woman also had the nerve to suggest that people would just ignore her opinion because she was white: “I’m not wrong. I’m just white, so my opinion doesn’t count, right?” Um, no. You are wrong because your opinions are so obviously based on a severe lack of understanding of the issues at hand that you should be embarrassed to even state an opinion. This is a fundamental problem with humanity that causes many wrongs. People feel like they need to have an opinion. You don’t. It’s ok to say, “Race relations in America have a complex and vast history and my life is too busy for me to even try to get into it so I’m going to just sit back and soak up the conversation about this topic I know nothing about.” I don’t exclude myself from that criticism as, I’m sure, I am at times guilty of it. That’s again why I try to pick my battles on Facebook to topics I know a fair amount about.
The conversation then turned Religulous. The true source of these riots is lack of morals and loss of faith. That sort of nonsense. Things are bad now because of lack of faith in God, but things are better than they were then because of God. My view is that things are as they always have been and very little has changed. (*sarcasm* But Obama!) Again, I tend to ignore stuff like this unless I have something useful to say and I would have this time too except that the original poster then said what you see in the subject line. Here’s the entire context: “Most Americans believe that the world owes them something. Regardless of race, college students indicate that they deserve a job, those without means believe that they’re entitled to welfare, those without health insurance believe they’re entitled to health care, etc. Wealthy people and those in power feel they deserve the lifestyle they want, even at the expense of others. Most young people believe they deserve 15 minutes of fame. The fact is, people aught to care for one another and one another’s needs, but in the grand scheme of things, we all deserve hell and anything better warrants profuse gratitude.” I am not sure I have ever heard a sentence more filled with poison than that last sentence. That it is also couched in the context of a religion of supposed peace makes it all the more vile. Anything better than hell warrants profuse gratitude. Profusely grateful to whom? I am poor and have cancer and my governor refused Medicaid expansion which means there’s no money to pay for my treatment and I’m going to die, but thank you government! Profusely! I lost my job because of the at best immoral and at worse illegal actions of a few people and the government rewards those people by bailing them out and not prosecuting them, but at least I get food stamps so I don’t die of starvation for a limited time dictated by a group of people who can not even begin to imagine the situation I am in, but thank you government! Profusely!
There is an idiotic attack against Atheists that asks, If Atheists don’t believe in God how can they believe in right and wrong? It’s idiotic because there are plenty of examples of Atheists being just as moral and upstanding as any Theists. Not high praise, I know, but the point is Atheists are subject to the same mutually agreed upon morality as the rest of the world but just disagree with the source of said morality. If religion in America is going to continue on the “we all deserve hell and anything better warrants profuse gratitude” track that it seems to be on, Atheists are going to win this morality battle just as surely as same-sex marriage proponents will win theirs.
I should also mention that I don’t mean to sound like the entire conversation was horrible. There are some very intelligent and well thought out responses to a lot of what was talked about. There are people, both black and white, that seem to get it. We’re still a long way from the end of this particular conversation, though.