“Fires” Not Yet Extinguished

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Riots in Cambridge, MD. Credit: Carl Snowden's Facebook page.

Half a century ago two cities erupted in rebellions and melee. The cities were Cambridge, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan.

On July 24, 1967, there was a conflagration. The fires that burned in those cities were not extinguished. They endure to this very day. The “fires” are poverty, inequality and injustice. There is a tendency in America to equate peace with justice.

It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who noted, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” It is a lesson fifty years later that America sadly has yet to learn.

H. Rap Brown became the convenient scapegoat for the rebellion that took place in Cambridge, Maryland that night. After all, it was H. Rap Brown who famously said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on July 27, 1967, that “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” Who can deny this?

The reflections and remembrance on what happened in Cambridge and Detroit carry a similar narrative in main stream media. A “riot” occurred followed by “looting.” The National Guard was called in to restore “law and order.” There is a tendency to look back on these anniversaries through rose colored glasses. The ignorance of history is only superseded by the arrogance of those in power.

As Malcolm X once noted that those who are exploited, oppressed and degraded daily are expected to “suffer peacefully.” Don’t stop suffering, just suffer, “peacefully.”

On the anniversary of these rebellions and despite the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, with its proactive and constructive recommendations, another “disorder” will occur soon somewhere in America. Why? Because the conditions that created the riots continue to exist. Injustice, inequality and poverty all exist in America today. In 2014, there was the “disorder” in Ferguson. In 2015, there was the “melee” in Baltimore. On August 13, 2016, a riot began in the Sherman Park neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after a fatal police shooting of a black man. Earlier this year a “riot” took place in Portland, Oregon.

In the coming years, people will look back on these disturbances and they, too, will be marked in time by an anniversary. We know how to shout “no peace, no justice” and how to observe infamous anniversaries.

What are the lessons that we have learned from Baltimore, Cambridge, Detroit, Newark and other cities with disturbances?

A Luta Continua!

Carl Snowden is a political and civil rights leader in Annapolis.

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