When Iggy Azalea sings about trashing the hotel, she is being “fancy.” When a kid from Sandtown, Baltimore, trashes a liquor store, he is being a thug. When young people from the University of Maryland burn cars after their team wins, they are getting a bit rowdy. When young people from Sandtown burn a car, they are thugs.
I justify none of these things: neither celebrity, celebration, nor rage is a good reason to burn someone else's property. Years of abuse don't make it okay to loot a store, any more than years of rising up the ranks in Wall Street make it okay to loot the economy.
I have too much respect for the potential of the young people stuck in Sandtown to suggest that their only recourse is to steal and destroy, though I recognize that when we're enraged past our breaking point, our first reaction is generally irrational.
I said that music won't solve every problem. I'll say something similar here — it will take more than smiles and hugs to make Sandtown-Winchester a neighborhood that inspires hope, rather than despair. Filing charges against the six officers who arrested Freddie Gray for no particular reason is a start. But I hope that all of the media attention will result in concrete changes in the Sandtown-Winchesters that exist all over the country. A 16 year-old male resident of the area told Congressman Elijah Cummings that he felt he was “in a casket and can't get out.” Is this okay?
Lonnae O'Neal's excellent article on Sandtown suggests that this nation might be embarking on an “Urban Spring.” I hope so, but I also hope not, because we know how the Arab Spring turned out. I have no easy answers. As Jim Wallis says in his book, On God's Side, it will require a two-pronged approach: Personal responsibility for those who are currently trapped, and community responsibility so that at least the casket will be ajar.