“Where’s the Outrage?”

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?

image: Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun

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2 thoughts on ““Where’s the Outrage?”

  1. Whatever Freddie Gray did or didn’t do, he certainly didn’t deserve to die. However, in calling his death an injustice, you rely on several unproven assumptions. (1) You say that Gray died “at the hands of” the police. The police have been accused of causing his death by the District Attorney, but that is just an accusation at this point, not a proven fact. (2) You say that Gray was “manhandled” by the police. Again, there is no evidence of this. The only thing we know for sure is that they didn’t strap Gray in as they were supposed to. I repeat, at this point it has not been established how Gray received his fatal injury. It may have been accidental. It may have been caused by Gray himself when, as one witness claims, he was banging his head against the inside of the van and trying to injure himself. We just don’t know. And I think it’s outrageous that the police have been charged with murder. For them to have been guilty of murder they would have had to intend for Gray to die. It’s obvious that the DA was pandering to the mob by bringing this charge. A few other considerations: with Gray’s extensive rap sheet, he certainly would have been well-known to local police. So mentioning Gray’s arrest record is not as gratuitous as you make it out to be. The DA charged the police with false arrest. Yet he was a known felon whom police suspected of carrying out a drug deal, he may have been carrying an illegal switchblade, and he acted suspiciously when approached. Under these circumstances, an arrest seems quite reasonable. Finally, let’s remember that three of the cops were black, so it’s hard to see how blaming this incident on racism is legitimate (not that you did this). What a horrible situation! I don’t know what to do about it either, but I’m waiting to see if these police can get anything close to a fair trial.
    ~Abba

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    • Abba, that’s a good point. I meant to suspend judgement until the trial was done, but you’re right–I fell into the trap of assuming that the 6 policemen were guilty. I find it very hard to believe that he could have hurt himself that seriously by himself, or that all the witnesses who saw the police handling him roughly were lying, but you’re right, nothing’s proven yet. I mostly wanted to point out that, if the protesters truly believe that Gray’s death was unjust, they have a right to be outraged, whether or not he was a criminal. (_Not_ that they have a right to riot, but that they have a right to protest and demand justice.) I object to the sentiment that says people have no right to be outraged, whether or not his death was unjust, because he was a low-life. I think that in context, that’s what those memes with his rap sheet were saying. They were saying “this creep isn’t worth worrying about.” I hope they get a fair trial, too. I can believe that they might be guilty of negligence or even indirect manslaughter, but yeah, it certainly doesn’t seem like murder.

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