There’s a narrative that is solidifying about what caused Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore two weeks ago. Not the medical causes (the Medical Examiner has said that the medical cause of death is blunt force trauma), but the circumstances/environment surrounding it.
The narrative that’s floating around is this: West Baltimore killed him. Or more precisely, West Baltimore being a high-poverty neighborhood is the ultimate underlying issue in Freddie Gray’s death.
This narrative is a cop-out.
A little over a week ago, Charles Blow said at the Othering and Belonging conference, “when they pull a gun, you can’t pull a resume.”
Yes, there are issues when it comes to how law enforcement treats communities considered poor. No doubt about that. But, as Charles Blow reminds us, law enforcement doesn’t really see class when they are pulling out their guns/batons/tasers/etc.
Freddie Gray did not die because parts of West Baltimore have high concentrations of poverty. Freddie Gray died because he made the mistake of making “eye contact” with a police officer and ran. That’s it. He died because making “eye contact” while black is enough to cause “reasonable suspicion”.
So while there is a need to talk about all the other issues that plague West Baltimore and other places like it, let’s not use those other issues as a way to avoid the fact that policing in this country is racialized and has been from the start.
“When they pull a gun, you can’t pull a resume.” From Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to Tamir Rice, law enforcement has looked at black bodies as something that needed more control than others and should always be looked at with suspicion, no matter what action they are taking. Until that is recognized/acknowledged, there will continue to be more Freddie Grays.