It was time to get back in the work saddle today, so I woke up early, did some reading, research, and writing, and then spent the afternoon on grading and class prep, most of which I did down in Fells Point after a blustery bike ride down the hill. I hate riding in the wind, even more than in rain. Those 25 MPH gusts feel downright scary when they poof you into traffic! But I wasn’t going to drive downtown, and I wanted to be there for Baltimore’s march against racism and for justice for Trayvon Martin, so I threw my hoodie in my bag for later (not because I am Trayvon Martin–my race privilege ensures I won’t be–but because I respect the rhetorical approach), and rode squint-eyed against the wind over to Patterson Park and then back down to Fells Point. I got to the rally site about ten minutes early, and there were already tons of people. This case has hit a serious nerve, and the outrage was palpable. Folks were waving signs, chanting, and cars were honking and trucks were blasting their horns. As we moved into the street it felt like a wave. I haven’t been to a rally and march with this many people since, oh, I don’t even know–maybe the NYC rally after Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. People were streaming in from all sides. I walked for awhile next to a woman with a sleeping baby in a tiny baby hoodie, a bag of Skittles tucked under his arm. That baby could be Trayvon Martin, and it is simply wrenching. Even more wrenching is how regular violence like this has become, how normalized. More eloquent people than I have had much to say about this event, about problems with the “innocent victim” rhetoric that continually renders whole swaths of victims invisible and about the limits of looking to the (in)justice system for redress when police and prisons are the source of so much violence against African Americans in this country. Rallies are happening all over, because the issues raised in this case are ubiquitous, and they aren’t going anywhere. This part where some lives are deemed more valuable than others, where one’s identity results in a massive increase in the risk of premature death, this has to stop. I snapped this picture as we walked toward City Hall. That sign has Malcolm X’s face on it, and his quotation, “You can’t have capitalism without racism,” and those people on the bridge were snapping pictures of the growing crowd for all sorts of media and a police helicopter hovered overhead against the blue sky. Yep, we’ve got some structural issues here that aren’t going anywhere; this has to be more than a media phenomenon, all of us on our phones and taking our pictures and blogging our blogs; and oh yeah, they’re watching. I left the rally to fetch my bike, returned for awhile to chant and watch and listen–an older woman whispered “yesterday” as she passed by, in response to “When do we want it?” and I thought about how frustrating it must be to spend a lifetime with the same chants–and then rode back up the hill against a strong headwind, passing lots and lots of people walking from their cars on their way to City Hall. This is why I’ll be attending the revolution by bike.
The first thing I said to my wife in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy was, “This is proof that Public Enemy was dead on.” Their iconic B-Boy in the crosshairs logo was a rational choice in the 80’s and now!
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