Condemning the Baltimore Rioters? Try Channeling Miko Peled Instead

I’ve been reading quite a bit about Baltimore, for a multitude of reasons. David Palumbo-liu, of Salon, captures well one of my frustrations:

Too common as well are the liberal narratives that on the one hand deplore the killings and yet firmly and sanctimoniously insist that violence is never justified. The condemnation of the violence came from the mouth of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and was quickly picked up by the president, who echoed the language used and the judgment proffered.

What does that smug, sanctimonious attitude accomplish? Another Salon post, this one by Julia Blount, sheds light on how counterproductive this thinking is:

Every comment or post I have read today voicing some version of disdain for the people of Baltimore — “I can’t understand” or “They’re destroying their own community” or “Destruction of Property!” or “Thugs” — tells me that many of you are not listening. I am not asking you to condone or agree with violence. I just need you to listen.

If you find yourself in the “violence is never justified” club, let me suggest a different perspective for you.

One of the amazing personal stories I’ve read in recent years is that of Miko Peled. Peled is an Israeli and the son of a Matti Peled, a general in the 1967 war. In 1997, tragedy hit the Peled family when Miko’s niece was killed by a suicide bomber.

Peled could have lashed out, but he chose a different path. He sought to gain an understanding of what would cause a young person to end his life that way. So he began reaching out to Palestinians. He has since become one of the leading speakers on the plight of Palestinians. If you’re interested, here’s Youtube link.

Yes, Peled is extraordinary. But if Peled can do what he did, put his grief aside and try to understand what caused a Palestinian to kill his niece, surely any White American can put his or her sanctimony aside and try to understand what brought things to a boiling point in Baltimore (and, before Baltimore, Ferguson). In other words, instead of condemning the rioters, I’m suggesting, try to understand what drove the rioters to riot (and what will fuel future riots if no changes are made).

Here’s a starting point, also from Julia Blount at Salon:

You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to, but instead of forming an opinion or drawing a conclusion, please let me tell you what I hear:

I hear hopelessness
I hear oppression
I hear pain
I hear internalized oppression
I hear despair
I hear anger
I hear poverty

If you are not listening, not exposing yourself to unfamiliar perspectives, not watching videos, not engaging in conversation, then you are perpetuating white privilege and white supremacy. It is exactly your ability to not hear, to ignore the situation, that is a mark of your privilege.

But don’t stop here. Reach out to your Black friends. If you don’t have any Black friends, make them. But if they’re affluent Blacks, and they validate your sanctimony, discount what they say. Dig deeper. Read Black journalists out of the mainstream. Read Michelle Alexander. Read Chris Hedges.

Or, if you’re not up to that challenge, at least spare the rest of us your sanctimony, okay?

21 thoughts on “Condemning the Baltimore Rioters? Try Channeling Miko Peled Instead”

  1. I heard a very interesting perspective on the radio the other day on the Diane Rehm show. A caller said that he was there during the riots in Watts in the 70s, and he pointed put that people in that area were only served by one grocery store, in other words it was the middle of a “food desert”. He said that many of the looters looted that storebecause they knew the store sould be closed for several weeks and they feared that they would be cut off from bus transport to other parts of the city and therefore not have access to food for several weeks. In other words they looted the store because they didn’t want to starve. The same thing happened in New Orleans. Not all looting is done for that reason, but those that loot for food or diapers can be, if not forgiven, then at least understood. Thise who have never been without food or transportation may find it hard to understand the desperation of others. Some looters in New Orleans were in need of insulin to treat their diabetes, without it they would die, can we understand that? I would certainly loot under those circumstances. Some looters left money behind to pay for the things they took are they looters or just peoplein great need for whom services were not available. A lot of people do not understand what it is like to live from paycheck to paycheck, from day to day, knowing that only on next Friday can you have enough money to buy food. If some event causes the banks and thestores to shut down before then what are you to do?

    • Interesting perspective indeed.

      And, for what it’s worth, if the need is great enough (the examples you gave might not meet the threshold) it will negate criminal culpability. For example, if your kid needed medicine and you could show that he would have died if you didn’t break into the pharmacy to get it (that is, no other options), it would overcome the burglary charge.

      • And how do we fit looting the liquor store, throwing bottles and rocks at the police and burning down the senior center into this exculpatory narrative. For once I agree with President Obama. The rioters were thugs. It feels so good to be bipartisan.

        • You can’t even grasp how “throwing bottles and rocks at the police” fits the narrative? Really? The police are terrorizing poor neighborhoods, John, not just in Baltimore, but nationwide. And one reason this is happening is that legislators have cut taxes to the point where cities and towns are using fines and traffic tickets to make up for the cut in revenue sharing from the state. That’s what the Justice Department unearthed in Ferguson. And that’s contributed to the atmosphere in those cities and towns that has led to the death of Black citizens at the hands of the police. So, one could argue that if legislators had acted more responsibly, a few of those deaths may have been avoided.

        • When John Kavanagh talks about bipartisanship, the context should be the US Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez, now under indictment for influence peddling.

          Sure, John has not yet been indicted, or targeted for his UNLAWFUL conduct in office, but the longer he stays in office, the more likely his bribery schemes will be the subject of investigation by bona fide law enforcement officials. Some of those schemes have been set forth on the Arizona Eagletarian.

          On the other hand, regarding Baltimore, it’s shamefully clear that our “good friend” John has NO CLUE about the relationship of causes and effects when it comes to legislation. (Surely he’s heard of the law of unintended consequences, which definitely applies here and very much to most of the misguided legislation he pushes in Arizona).

          Especially when he pushes for preemption of regulation by municipalities of matters for which they have sole responsibility. Take trash collection and processing, for example. Him and his ALEC-owned fellow robots having the audacity to divorce authority from responsibility on that pressing issue. Do they teach anything in police academies about the importance of having proper authority when an officer or agency has a particular responsibility?

          He has his head wedged so far up… well, it’s obvious he can’t tell the difference between his elbow and other parts of his anatomy.

          Be watchful, John. Arrogance like yours doesn’t go unpunished forever. Mwah!

    • All the looting can be explained. Some of it for understandable reasons like you cited. But most of it doesn’t come close to qualify as humanitarian reasons. You know what I am talking about: The televisions, the radios, the stereos, the cameras, the air conditioner, the clothes, the furs, the music stores, the music instruments, the car parts, the power tools, the wig shops, etc., etc. etc. And it certainly doesn’t justify setting fire to the stores after you have looted them.

      Were you aware that the CVS Store that was looted and burned had taken the City almost a year of negotiations to get the Company to build it there? Their specific concerns were robberies and, in the event of a riot, looting and arson. The City provided them with special insurance against such perils as part of the agreement to build. They hired employees from the immediate area. It was like the Company had a crystal ball. They won’t be back.

  2. Two observations on condemning the rioters:
    1. It was ok for both sides to condemn the rioters (Fox News, President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake among many others) until a liberal commentator declared it non-PC and the mayor and many liberals retreated from the statement. You have to wonder how much of that reaction was true re-examination of the position versus politics.
    2. Are the rioters oppressed, at least politically, given that the city government, city attorney and police leadership are all black? How can a group in political control be oppressed, at least politically oppressed? What dynamic is happening there?

      • Nothing suggests that. I have not heard anyone even imply something so absurd. I certainly do not believe that.

      • Bob,

        I would be interested on your take on my two observations. After all, blog postings are supposed to be about discussion.

          • You know, every time you start nipping at the heels of the Senator when he posts here, you remind me of one of those people you always see at political rallies. They’re usually lurking around the edges holding a sign with their “message” scrawled in marker on a peice of cardboard. Sometimes they are dressed in an outlandish costume to drive home their point. And at some point, they disrupt the rally by shouting out something that no one ever understands until they are hauled of by the police. They accomplish nothing, no one understands what they are talking about and, yet, they feel they they have scored scored some BIG points.

    • Senator Kavanagh, what is the justification for a “rough ride” ever? That is, the taking of a person, putting him/her in a police van without a seatbelt, and then driving in such a way that the person is injured and possibly killed. What community good comes from that?

      • Nothing justifies a “rough ride” and if that is what happened, the person or persons responsible would be and should be held criminally liable.

    • I’ll bite.
      1. What a silly thing to say about Obama and the mayor changing their minds based on “liberal” commentators. The Mayor mentioned this morning they will be reviewing video and charging people with crimes. Indeed, a fellow turned himself in at the behest of his family and his bail was set higher than any of the 6 policemen and woman. Equal justice under the law?
      2. Are they oppressed politically? Apparently not. Are they oppressed economically. Check the statistics. You can check other big cities too, where generational poverty and few opportunities exist.

      “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
      Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird.

      • “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird.

        Do you use that same generous philosophy when judging conservatives?

          • I have to be honest, your answer surprises me. It is exactly the way I feel. It is always nice to encounter such an attitude.

  3. I have given some thought to your defense of the rioters in Baltimore, and I have come to the conclusion that you tend to go for the underdog in conflicts, whether it is the Palestinians or the rioters in Baltimore. I understand that because it is always possible to find reasons or rationalizations for why the underdogs do what they do and it is easy to empathize with them because they are the underdogs. It is equally easy to find reasons or rationalizations for demonizing the oppressors and creating reasons why they deserve punishment for their actions. Of course, once their side is chosen, it is equally easy to ignore the transgressions of the underdogs and to ignore the positive attributes of the oppressors.

    Having said that, I understand why you want to attach noble intent to the looters and the arsonists, instead of possibly acknowledging that they are opportunists and criminals taking advantage of demonstrations to do what they would always do given the opportunity. It makes it more palatable to think of them as freedom fighters than as the criminal idiots they are.

    You will never hear me say that violence doesn’t have a place in a movement or that violence is never an acceptable form of grievance resolution. It can have an important place in a movement. But the looting and the arson in Baltimore doesn’t further any cause, nor does it relieve any pain or frustration. It is simply criminal thuggery taking advantage of what might well be a legitimate protest to work it’s damage.

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