All parents know that children throw temper tantrums when they want to be heard. My son was three when he threw one of his most memorable. Shoving things off the living room table, crying and screaming because he couldn’t get his way, his father grabbed, picked up, and shook him with a stern yell. The boy never acted out like that again. But he definitely got our attention. This week, I witnessed a temper tantrum from the children of Baltimore. Hundreds planned April’s Baltimore Riots taking place after the funeral of Freddie Gray. Angry over his unjustified death by the hands of police, high school students named the riot after a movie, The Purge.
Initially, I didn’t believe it, scoffing at a local reporter’s claims relating the riots to fiction. But my mouth dropped when a family friend from Baltimore shared details of how her high school daughter showed a flyer Saturday afternoon promoting Monday’s purge. The flyer was like an old school party promotion, except instead it pushed the after-school “extracurricular activity” of trashing the local mall and causing mayhem in the name of Freddie Gray. Many of us witnessed the results on social media and TV. Rocks thrown at officers, kids tear gassed, pulled off school busses, apprehended, fires burnt, buildings and streets left ablaze.
Although I don’t condone riots, the outbursts are understandable. After seeing the same story week to week – another black man or woman shot dead by those hired to serve and protect. After seeing us march for years, particularly within the last 8 months since Mike Brown’s Ferguson murder in August 2014, our shoes and sneakers are worn. Our patience has thinned in seeing another unpunished officer walk free on paid leave or approved for a vacation to the Bahamas. We project our anger at the TV screen and in water cooler conversations full of shaking heads and sucked teeth. Some of us lack sleep, eating, feeling tension of frustration in our backs, projected through the tapping of pissed social media posts through our fingers. Many of us march to release this frustration, using it as an exercise to work out our inner rage and show our constitutional right.