Tonight, the city of Baltimore is in a state of unrest over the death of a 25-year old Baltimore city man named Freddie Gray.
The charging documents state Gray saw officers nearby and ran away, they chased him and later found a switch blade in his pocket, but nothing more. But he got arrested anyway. He later died of his injuries presumably sustained while in custody and traveling with officers in a police van.
If Freddie Gray would have calmly walked away when he saw police officers two Sundays ago, perhaps they wouldn’t have chased him, and maybe he would be alive today.
You have to pause and think about that statement to truly appreciate its impact.
In 2013, after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, many parents of black boys, understandably felt anxious. Many empathized with Martin’s parents and felt a connection to the 17 -year old who was killed by a neighborhood nightwatchman George Zimmerman.
Back then, I too, as a mom to two black boys felt some angst. The tension of the times caused me to pen a post on my political website Jenebaspeaks.com with a list of 12 things parents of black children, and especially boys, have to teach their young that non-black parents don’t.
This was number 8 on that list:
When a fight breaks out at a club, the mall, the park or anywhere, leave the scene quickly, but walk swiftly, don’t run. You running away may give off the appearance that you are guilty of something and leaving the scene of a crime.
Eventually, calm will be restored in Baltimore. There will be investigations and perhaps arrests, charges and maybe convictions, though you never know these days.
But at bottom, when we get to the part where we start redressing concerns, we really have to think about how low the bar for probable cause to arrest a person in a drug infested neighborhood in America is.
Yes, Gray had a criminal rap sheet over petty drugs and was carrying a switch blade at the time.
But that day the only thing he did which led to the chain of events that would ultimately end with him losing his life was RUN.