No Justice - No Peace
Baltimore, Maryland was the scene of civil unrest in April and May 2015. It all started with the evidently unprovoked death of a young black man by six police officers: three of who were white and three were black. I drove to the City to experience first hand the events unfolding.
A resident asked me: "why are you here?" My answer was simple--I was there to observe and not photograph "angry black men" because that appears to be the mainstream media approach to these events. I thought that question important: why was I there? I knew I was there to photograph the protests and turmoil but also I wanted to give some context to the underlying reasons why the unrest was taking place.
In my observation, the issue of Race is not the primary factor; instead it is one of class struggle. The Baltimore slums, the location of Freddie Gray’s arrest and resulting civil unrest, is home to a large African American community that appears to be largely abandoned by society at large. The streets of this neighborhood are lined with abandoned homes; boarded and burnt out homes remain next to dilapidated row houses that are home to many families and children. The plight of these Baltimore residents is found in most American cities: crime-ridden hopeless neighborhoods kept in line by brutal force of their respective city's police departments.
I thought it to be noteworthy when a Crips gang lieutenant told me that their unity with the rival Bloods gang was causing concern for the police force because if the gang members were not fighting and killing each other, they would be twice as strong to fight the powers in charge largely responsible for this ongoing class struggle.
The news indicated that the Baltimore African American community is experiencing 37% unemployment rate. It may not be enough for the Government to simply provide affordable housing, as they have, if the residents of these communities are not employed, do not have the resources, they are marginalized and do not feel to be productive members of the Society in which they live. Where there is so much hopelessness coupled with a sense of unfairness and powerlessness, unrest and violence appear to be the inevitable results.
In the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was killed, I did not see one grocery store, although bail bonds offices, easy loan stores, liquor stores and small stores filled with junk food were easy to find. What kind of a future can the children – and there were many – growing up in these slums expect? When will the next violent uprising occur?
In the end, the chant “No Justice - No Peace” resonated strongly with me. While criminal justice is primal; economic justice is also an integral part of the theory of Justice that, should it become a reality, will most likely lead to Peace.