For Trinidad bloggers living in the United States, the riots in Baltimore is the latest chapter of a seemingly endless story of police aggression towards young black men in the US.
Protests and looting began in the city following Freddie Gray‘s death. Baltimore police arrested the 25 year-old on April 12. He died a week later from spinal injuries, allegedly sustained in police custody. On May 1, prosecutors charged four police officers with manslaughter in Gray's death.
The protests have reinvigorated #BlackLivesMatter protests online and offline. The hashtag has been tweeted 245K times in the last week and 481K times in the last month, according to the social analytics site Topsy. #BlackLivesMatter was first used three years ago on April 11 by @NeenoBrowne after black teen Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.
Chicago-based, Trinidad-born Patrice Grell Yursik departed from her usual fare of beauty and fashion on Afrobella to share her thoughts on Baltimore:
It’s hard to write light when your heart is heavy. And right now, my thoughts are wrapped up in darkness, in distress and in stomach churning worry for America – particularly the city of Baltimore. It’s yet another name to add to a list that’s too long, another city in turmoil, another case of police brutality that should provoke sadness and empathy but instead stirs up assumptions, retorts and defensiveness. Watching the news these past few nights has been disturbing to say the least. I hate to see what’s happening in Baltimore and I hate how the media is covering what’s happening in Baltimore.
With regard to the media's framing of the riot story, Afrobella explained that “there have been some terrible reports filed and inaccurate stories written, and there has been some really thoughtful, intelligent coverage”. In sharing the latter, she wanted people to remember the motivation for the riots:
This is happening because Freddie Gray’s horrific death is part of an awful national pattern of behavior that needs to stop.
On Tumblr, Soul Sistrin illustrated the extent to which the #blacklivesmatter hashtag was being ignored:
Every article I’ve read about Freddie Gray underlines the fact that he was innocent. But even if he had committed a crime, he didn’t deserve the brutality he received. But we have to make sure to remind people he’s innocent for the public to believe that what happened to him was an injustice. That’s how much Black lives don’t matter.
#black lives matter
Trini Like Salt had had enough, saying it was time for white people to step up:
I don’t want to hear about your outrage at the riots.
I don’t want to hear of your hand-wringing and self reflection.
I don’t want to hear how sad you are that it has come to this.
I don’t want to hear of your sympathy for or derision of the protesters.
All I need to hear from you is that you will do something about the police killing and maiming black human beings with impunity. That’s it. Nothing else.
If you have nothing to say about black men being lynched on the daily, I want nothing to do with you. Black lives do not matter to you. So you do not matter to me.
The blogger was also incredulous at the claim that Freddie Gray severed his own spine, later posting a statement by Gray's family rejecting that implication and commenting:
That someone had to actually make this statement makes me sad beyond description.
Many bloggers referred to President Obama's statement on the riots. Afrobella said:
It feels like history is repeating itself again and again in an endless loop that’s destined to break. And we have to learn these lessons and make real changes soon, before this happens again. And again. And again. Because this could happen in Detroit. Or Miami. Or Chicago. It can happen anywhere, and it’s happening everywhere.
Trini Like Salt, who agreed with Obama that America could solve the problem if it really wanted to by paying attention and considering the plight of young black kids, ended on a slightly more hopeful note:
Not those people’s.