The reactions to the arrest-related death of Freddie King in Baltimore are as varied as you’d expect. Some of them defy comprehension, while others show careful, clear thought.
It’s not easy to excuse arsonists and looters, but it is possible to understand them. You try living with the profound weight of both poverty and racism, day after day, year after year. At best, your outrage overflows when a Freddie King dies, and you join a street protest that you know, deep down, will do little other than give your more violent impulses a non-violent outlet. At worst, you’ve been shortchanged so often and in so many ways that you never experienced the self-respect that would have restrained the mindlessness of the mob you’ve joined. Sometimes, when a scream of outrage isn’t enough, there just isn’t any other way to let the injustice out than an act of rage. I’m not condoning it, mind you, but I do have to try to understand it.
The reactions of some of our public actors are no easier to condone, but they are harder to understand. Just a few of them will give us a sense of the range of these outrageous responses.