For Baltimore

When I hear on the news “they are burning their own neighborhoods”

I remember how refugees detained half-a-world away protest
by sewing their own mouths shut,
how overcast stitches of twine finish the cut edges
of faces that might otherwise unravel
into howls.

Which is more silent: a stitched mouth
or a crushed larynx?

(Freddy Gray howled, the last time we heard him speaking.)

In one corner of my mind, gratitude mixes with grief
for a city still shouting even as
its voices



Links on the situation in Baltimore — especially as regards media coverage and issues of violence/nonviolence — follow below the jump. 

(via David Ellington Wright)
(via David Ellington Wright)

Before this weekend, I was woefully under-informed about the history of the police in Baltimore communities. If you’re in the same situation, two good places to start are here and here.

Ta-nehisi Coates, as always, authors a must-read:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

Rebecca Solnit has been — in the words of my friend Sherri — “a one-woman truth brigade today” on Facebook. See here, here, and here. Excerpt from her third post:

Urban uprisings are not necessarily great tactics for social change (though sometimes they are) and they’re not nonviolent direct action. We already know that. But before you criticize some young people of color for not engaging in nonviolent tactics, ask yourself: am I actively engaged in nonviolent tactics for social change on these issues? Or am I quietly acquiescent with the system that perpetuates the violence that makes their lives impossible?

And from, how One Tweet Shows the Hypocrisy of the Media’s Reaction to Riots in Baltimore. (h/t David Wells)

[If you’re curious about my reference to refugees sewing their mouths shut? Here is more on that.]

My thoughts go out to the family and friends of Freddy Gray tonight. May they find peace and healing in their grief. For the people of Baltimore — and of so many other hurting communities — I wish for you safety, healing, and justice. A true justice, which must mean (in the words of Mychal Denzel Smith) “a lasting justice that values black life.”


7 thoughts on “For Baltimore

  1. Such an important issue. Thanks for your thoughts.

    A columnist from the Washington Post– I think it was EJ Dionne–pointed out that white guys right all the time over stupid stuff like winning or losing a ball game. And then we act like blacks who have been so oppressed are such horrible people when some of them do a similar thing, but for a much more understandable reason.


    1. EXACTLY. I have such a fierce hatred for respectability politics, which is what I see in a lot of the black-people-rioting discourse: “You should act nicely, ask politely, and by all means, KEEP YOUR TEMPER. You don’t want us to think you’re just animals, do you?? You only get to make your point once you’ve conceded MY point about how you all were totally outta line and now completely regret everything — at which point I still may decide not to listen to you. But if you don’t apologize, then everything is DEFINITELY all your fault.”

      Substitute “emotional and irrational” for “just animals,” and you’ve got the ur-respectability-putdown for women. And for black women specifically? When they get talked about at all, there’s NO END to the f#ckery misogynoir can conjure up.


    1. I understand about not knowing what to say, or how to say it — and knowing at the same time that silence is a worse option. I’m glad this piece spoke to you. Thank you for sharing that with me!

      Liked by 1 person

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