After a day of unrest and rioting in Baltimore on Monday, April 28, the tension between its citizens and law enforcement lessened a bit on Tuesday with few arrests made, mostly over refusal to adhere to a local-government-mandated curfew. The scenes on Monday of burning buildings, destroyed cars and general anarchy invoked memories of similar fiery images not just in Ferguson, Missouri, some eight months ago, but also Los Angeles in 1992.
On the 23rd anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, Game decided to forgo speaking on social media as he had done in the August death of Ezell Ford in his native L.A. and instead penned an op-ed for Billboard to discuss the riots, the disenfranchisement of young African-American men across the country and what little may change post-Baltimore.
I witnessed and was a part of the ’92 riots in Los Angeles, and you know the damage that did — not just to Los Angeles, but Watts, Compton, South Central and those areas. That happened when I was 11 years old. I remember looting and throwing bottles and jumping on bottles, jumping on police cars and just being angry. At the moment, it felt great. I felt like, you always hate the police for whatever reason. It all seemed cool for the moment, but now I’m 35. Looking back at what we did as a collective, a young black collective, we ruined our own neighborhood. Those stores which were in our neighborhood were no longer there and the other stores were 5 to 10 miles away, and it crippled our parents to have to venture out even further. I feel like we’re seeing the same things happening in Baltimore.
I’m not there [in Baltimore] to gauge the balance between now and the ’92 riots, but I understand the anger. I understand people wanting to be heard and being tired and fed up. I feel what happened to Freddie Gray was just another reminder of the neglect of the African-American youth in America and us as people. Look at how long we’ve been victims of the world. From slavery, from not being able to vote, up until our children. Young black men in general are targets. People [are] using unlawful force to take our lives. We’ve seen kids shot [and] beaten. We’ve seen everything. At the end of the day, we get fed up.
I’ve watched CNN the last few days, and they’ve called those kids “thugs” and “animals.” Everybody’s not a thug, man. We’re calling these young black kids and our youth “animals” and “thugs,” and it makes them more angry. We’re doing that when you’ve got thugs and animals that are police officers, firemen [and] congressmen. In Jeezy’s voice, you’d call that “corporate thuggin’.”
The last time there were riots in Baltimore were in 1968 when Dr. King was killed. It’s not like people are walking out of their houses on a regular Tuesday or Wednesday and setting buildings or cars on fire. It’s always in a state of unrest and people are tired. I’m not taking away from any other race, white or Latino, but I’m talking African-Americans, just black people in general. The struggle and strive of black people just to get to an equal level. I’m not talking about Obama being in office [because] that’s amazing. That’s great. It’s another item we’ve accomplished; it’s something we can put on the walls and in the history books. But that’s minute compared to the struggle we’ve fought just to be looked at as an equal race for hundreds of years.