Making Sense of Baltimore and Beyond

By Israel Rojas-Moreno ‘16

The riot that launched a revolution.

The riot that launched a revolution.

“What do you think about the situation in Baltimore (and similar issues around the U.S.)?” The question was posed to over 30 Boothies across the demographic spectrum (race, gender, nationality, etc.). What follows is a representative sample of responses highlighting the need for conversation.

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“I don’t know a ton about this… racial inequality is clearly an issue, but violent protests are not a solution.”

“There is a real clear need for reforms. We need more body cameras and need to train police better on how to handle themselves.”

“The riots are ridiculous and don’t solve anything.”

“I was not following until people started rioting. Then I wondered, ‘Why the hell are people rioting?’ Then I learned about all the peaceful protesting. Although I disagree with the rioting, I understand the human need to be heard.”

“People are fed up. I don’t condone the riots, but its people who have no voice… The regularity is troubling, you wouldn’t expect this in the U.S.”

“Moving here and realizing, ‘this is the experience of black people?!’ I can’t imagine having to have grown up this way.“

“I heard from some friends, ‘I don’t trust police,’ and wondered if they were talking about Brazil. Was surprised to hear this is happening in the U.S.”

“I don’t know enough to have an opinion. Shit like this doesn’t happen in Canada.”

“I don’t know, you should ask African-Americans.”

“A lot of focus has been on retraining police officers. Until there are consequences [for the abuse], this will continue to happen.”

“There isn’t a space for people to talk in the middle. One side says support the police, one side says f*** the police. I feel like you can be supportive [of police] while recognizing they should be held to a higher standard and prosecuted for violations and abuse.”

“The [media/Facebook] reaction does injustice to Baltimore. It’s a much better place than what the Media portrays and more complicated than Facebook posts say it is.”

“There is a long and direct line between slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, and the use of police and other state institutions to subjugate a whole group of people. When people run out of alternatives, violence becomes the alternative. In fact, this country was founded by people who did the same things long ago.”

“Growing up in the environment where plenty of people were incarcerated or shot… the war on drugs is being fought in the wrong places and the wrong terms.”

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It was clear some students had given this more thought than others. That’s ok. There are no exams about this. But the complexity and scale of the problem means the burden of finding a solution cannot fall on any single group of people. All of us will benefit from having the University of Chicago on our diplomas. How many of us will have taken the time to understand and acknowledge the challenges facing the communities minutes away from our classrooms? Can we find a collective sense of obligation to achieve something that truly distinguishes our community? I don’t know what that is. But I hope we are willing to find out.

Israel is the Perspective Editor at ChiBus and enjoys stirring the [melting] pot.