I wasn’t going to comment on Baltimore, but the memes and muddy reasoning going around are bothering me so much. I’ve seen a couple of memes which imply that Freddie Gray’s death isn’t worth getting upset over, because of his long criminal record. Along the same lines, Geraldo Rivera’s popular Facebook post compares Gray’s death to the death of the NYC policeman a few days ago:
Sitting behind the wheel of his patrol car, the officer was questioning ex-con Demetrius Blackwell about a suspected weapon when the perp whipped out the handgun and shot Officer Brian Moore at point-blank range….As far as I know, no civil rights marches are planned. Nobody deserves to die in police custody….Officer Moore has died. He was 25, just like Freddie Gray. Don’t cop’s lives matter too? Where’s the outrage? Where’s the demonstration?
Let’s be very clear on this. The outrage over Freddie Gray’s death was because he apparently died an unjust death, at the hands of the very men and women who are supposed to enforce justice. You don’t have to support rioting and looting to understand that his death was an outrage. Officer Brian Moore’s death is no less tragic, but it is less outrageous; rather than being a victim of a corrupt police force, he was the victim of a criminal. If the shooter had gotten away scot-free, that would be an outrage. But he is currently being held without bail and charged with murder.
If the police involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest had gotten away scot-free, that would have been a second outrage. The fact that they manhandled him in the first place and expected to get away with it shows the corruption and double-standard in Baltimore’s police force that got people outraged to begin with. The fact that the six officers in question have now been charged with Gray’s death is reasonable cause for calming this outrage. Obviously, the system that led to this corruption still needs to be examined, and I certainly don’t have any solutions. But the fact that the officers are facing justice means that legitimate outrage has served its purpose.
Notice that, by demanding outrage for Officer Moore, Rivera is implicitly saying that the outrage over Freddie Gray is illegitimate. He doesn’t understand that Moore’s death doesn’t require a demonstration or a “civil rights march,” because civil rights were not an issue, and because his killer has been brought to justice. He’s missing the point of the outrage over Freddie Gray’s death, and I think he’s hinting at his belief that Gray’s death did not matter as much as Moore’s, since Gray was a criminal and Moore was a cop. To Rivera’s credit, he does say that Gray did not deserve to die the way he did; but his misunderstanding of the situation, I think, contributes to the mindset that produced the memes I referred to earlier. This is what I find most upsetting of all. Before you pass on one of these memes or quotes, please ask yourself: do you really want to live in a society where it’s illegal to murder good people, but it’s fine to murder criminals?