I first met Emery Robinson at Albert Leonard Junior high school in, New Rochelle, NY. He was two grades behind me, a 7th grader when I was in the 9th grade. He was known as a manchild, not only in terms of size, because he was much bigger than most 9th graders even then, but because he had the physicality and presence of a young man. He could have easily passed for 17 or 18 years old when, by my recollection, he could not have been much more than 11 or 12.
His face, however, betrayed his youth; cherubic, at times shy, an easy laugh and mischievous smile, he was what one would refer to as “not a bad kid,” to indicate someone who was a bit mischievous but not malicious. Because of his size he made the basketball team, though it did not seem as if he had a great interest in basketball. He gravitated to kids who were a little older, bolder and who occasionally got into trouble, petty theft, but no violence to my knowledge. In my home town, junior high school was a pivotal point in the lives of many poor and not so poor, black, brown and working class kids from many diverse backgrounds. The ones who smoked reefer first were the first to experiment with hallucinogens, the first to inject cocaine and perhaps heroin and from there, among the first to contract HIV/AIDS, which back then was a death sentence. Emery was spared this fate, this particular end to his life.
The mainstream media is getting the story wrong with regards to the Baltimore Uprising taking place. Journalists are lazily positing a direct connection between the Freddie Gray protests and the riot that broke out after Freddie Gray’s funeral.
But that’s not the full story.
Most of the media are ignoring the fact that the Baltimore Police Department escalated the situation by releasing a press release during Freddie Gray’s funeral that claimed that Baltimore’s most notorious gangs—the Bloods, Crips, and Black Guerrilla Family—were forming a dark alliance to “take out” police.
Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.
Jim Bourg / Reuters
TA-NEHISI COATES APR 27, 2015
Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.
The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:
By LAWRENCE BROWN PublishedAPRIL 9, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
Another white police officer has shot and killed yet another black person—this time it’s Walter Scott, who was killed by now-former officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina. As the body count of black lives and level of trauma inflicted on the black community continue to climb, we are confronted with a critical question: Why do the police keep shooting and killing unarmed black men and women?
American history reveals that black people’s relationship with the police has been one of attempted subjugation since the birth of the nation. Whether slave patrols or the Black Codes, whether the 3,959 lynchings of Black people between 1877 and 1950 or a neo-slavery system of convict leasing, the history of American policing is replete with the message that black lives don’t matter.