that is not exactly the order in which things happened.
But I need to back up for a moment. What happened at the peaceful Freddie Gray protest in front of City Hall earlier yesterday (my photos below) was that thousands of us who gathered there understood that any one of us could have been Freddie Gray: dragged screaming with a trailing limp leg into a police van, taken on a Baltimore Police Department illegal "rough ride" without a seat belt, spine broken, making three stops in a 40-minute trip to the police station including, incredibly, one to pick up another prisoner, with no medical attention whatsoever, and ultimately dying days later of horrible injuries. All because of his making eye contact with a cop and running.
It could have happened to me the morning I was swarmed by a squad of Baltimore undercover narcs on my way to record a commercial in New York City for my ad agency. It could have happened to the young guy next to me in the crowd at the rally who was trying to keep hold of his toddler son. It could have happened to the heavy-set guy at the protest who climbed the cement base of the City Hall flagpole and yanked the ropes until the fluttering American flag came plummeting downward to throaty cheers. It could have been, and it could yet be, any one of us ending up on the coroner's slab at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department.
Race violence here in Charm City began long before crowds kicked in police cruiser windshields yesterday outside Camden Yards stadium during an Orioles game, and before Zero Tolerance policing targeted poor people of color on the street for harassment and arrest, and before the War on Drugs made militarized policing the norm in low-income communities of color, and even before Jim Crow and lynch law.
In fact, race violence in law enforcement began the first day that the first white lackey was paid a pittance to pursue and capture the first runaway black slave.
So things did not "turn" violent at Camden Yards yesterday after many of us gathered peacefully at City Hall. What happened was that decades of an arrogant, notoriously corrupt, racially-discriminatory occupying-army Baltimore police culture -- with which too many of we non-Caucasian citizens are far more intimate than we would like to be -- is, once again, boomeranging in the form of rebellion. We are talking about a police department and a police union so extreme that they pushed through legislation denying the police chief the authority to discipline officers. This is a city that has paid nearly $6 million in police brutality lawsuits since 2011. The contempt with which many Baltimoreans of color regard law enforcement is well-earned.
But this time there is a twist: As someone said to me a couple of months ago, the recent American avalanche of publicized police killings of unarmed black males does not reflect a sudden turn toward brutally violent and racist policing. It reflects, instead, the mere fact that millions of people now walk around carrying cell phones that can globally transmit incidents that have heretofore gone on with little or no public evidence. All of a sudden, police who kill with wanton and racist recklessness are now sometimes forced to do so on worldwide video.
This is a game-changer for the bubble of white privilege. It does not make it impossible for whites who have never actually seen such events before to continue to deny that they happen. But it makes it a lot harder. So we are now seeing a kind of rainbow movement for law enforcement justice that has not existed since the 1960s and 1970s.
And we are also seeing -- as is also true with the progress in LGBT rights -- a wicked backlash among those holdouts for privilege who cannot handle reality.
So what happens now?
The one thing we know for sure is that it is now much harder to avoid taking a position.