I watched with everyone else this week as Baltimore erupted into riots to protest the death of Freddie Gray. Black vs white, thug vs cop – and hard to tell the difference sometimes between those last two, the lines were so blurred.
And I watched the heroic acts of kindness, because even frustration over racial inequity isn’t black and white, and the lines were blurred there too.
And, then, inevitably, the dirt on Freddie Gray, blurring his status as a martyr.
Apparently, he had a record for distributing narcotics. Several times.
See, some people say, he wasn’t such a saint after all!
Which is hardly the point. As far as I know, we don’t have the death penalty in this country for distributing drugs, for running, for mouthing off. And even if we did, it wouldn’t be death without benefit of a jury and at the hands of the police.
And that is the point. I didn’t know Freddie Gray. Didn’t know if he helped old ladies across the street and only sold drugs to feed his crippled child. Didn’t know if he was the scum of the earth who kicked puppies and fed them the drugs he sold. Didn’t know him, and didn’t matter.
It is human to be frustrated when someone shows no respect, or makes the same bad choices over and over. I get why police are frustrated. But I attended a Citizens Police Academy in Fairfax, VA, and I saw firsthand that good cops are trained to deal with that frustration, given extensive training on all the steps to take before something escalates into the lethal.
Because the police are supposed to be the ones with the training to deal fairly and firmly with the saints and the sinners. And, whoever Freddie Gray was, he deserved due process. It wasn’t just Freddie Gray’s back that broke, it was justice’s.
So, please don’t tell me about Freddie Gray’s sordid past. Because even not-nice people have rights.