What’s the Real Ask in Baltimore? And What About Tel-Aviv?

What’s the Real Ask in
Baltimore? And What About Tel-Aviv?

By

Leonard Zwelling

         The performance of the police, the crowds, the demonstrators
and the mayor leaves a whole lot to be desired in Baltimore. People said things
they don’t really mean and did things they will live to regret. Freddie Gray is
dead and 6 police officers have been charged with a host of violent offenses.
The mayor appears to be a deer in the headlights and despite the objection to
the word “thug” used by both the mayor and the President as being racially
charged, looting and destruction did take place and did not need to.  At the end of another week of tension (except
for the Orioles who played to empty seats), Baltimore is still on edge.

         Why?

         The glib answer is another black man died under suspicious
circumstances in police custody and the State’s Attorney has charged the
involved law enforcement officers with felonies. Looting and burning of
businesses in Baltimore has made what was already a difficult rebuilding effort
that much more difficult. This destruction was putatively in response to the
police brutality but most commentators think there is a lot more to the
problem.  There are parts of Baltimore
destroyed in riots in 1968 that still had not been rebuilt. Unemployment is
still very high, especially among young black men. In general, this population
is being decimated by murder and incarceration, let alone drugs and drug
dealing. These are major social problems and they are not limited to Baltimore.
So now, what is the solution?

         As with so many of the social problems facing the United
States: income inequality, same-sex marriage, health insurance and access to
quality medical care, education and jobs, the critical discussions that would
engage the American people in an exchange of ideas for solutions has yet to
take place. Leaders such as the President have not sought to create an
environment or a structure for this interchange despite the access to social
media and instant expression of points of view.

         Why hasn’t the President gone to Baltimore or Ferguson or to
any of the places where racially charged tensions have broken out in violence?
He’s our first black President. If he won’t do it, who will? Al Sharpton
straddling the limits on network news anchoring and social activism is not the
answer.

         The lack of leadership in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. is
staggering and very difficult to get your brain around. To me this all seems
straightforward. Get off your duff and get on the ground in Baltimore and at
least make people think you care. That cannot be that hard and not doing so is
inexcusable, but it is what we have come to expect from an aloof, arrogant
President who doesn’t really think politics is his business.

         My suggestions are simple ones:

1. Mr. Obama, get your tuchus to Baltimore. Walk the
streets and make those who put you in office believe in you again.

2. Visit the schools and figure out how to get money to
them so that the next generation of black and Latino young people grow up in a
world in which they believe they have a chance to fulfill their ideal of the
American Dream and really do. Bring the First Lady.

3. Stop spending more in the Middle East than you spend
in the US. Government largesse should begin at home.

4. Create even greater incentives to get businesses into
underprivileged zones with tax breaks and then teach those in the neighborhood
how to support the businesses and not destroy them.

5. Crack down hard on crime like the looting we saw, but
encourage peaceful demonstration, perhaps through faith-based programs that
link civil disobedience to community service. Have a march to feed people, for
example.

It
is simply unacceptable to me, a child of the 1960’s, to see all this happen
again after a black man was finally elected President. The disconnect between the
election of November 2008 and the riots now seem like bad dreams of a country I
thought we left in the streets of Watts, but clearly we have not.

And
most of all, we must raise the level of consciousness and mindfulness of one
and all about our built-in prejudices, own them and then strive to get past
them. It is more than acceptable to understand your own imperfections. However,
it is unacceptable to act on them.

Finally,
now that riots have spread from the US to Europe to Israel where white Jews are
beating up on black ones, can we agree that skin pigment is a major impediment
to peace? Here, there and everywhere!

We
look different, but we want the same things. Now let’s act like it.

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