I find this, from a Washington Post profile of Gray, revealing:
“We’re just hurt,” said Angela Gardner, 22, who had dated Gray, though not exclusively, for the past two years. “He was so loyal, so kindhearted, so warm. Every time you saw him, you just smiled, because you knew you were going to have a good day.”
Good ol’ Freddie. But wait:
Friends said Gray never held a real job and spent his days hanging out in Sandtown. Money he used to buy designer accessories from Prada, they say, came in monthly settle*ment checks from a lead-paint lawsuit against the owners of the house where he grew up.
One friend, the owner of Toak’s Progressive Bail Bonds, was also Gray’s bail bondsman.
“He wasn’t mean-spirited. He was always respectful,” the bondsman, Quintin Reid, said. “He was one of the little happy-go-lucky guys who visited his mom every day.”
He was a layabout who had a bail bondsman the way other people have an auto mechanic. Turns out he needed one. More:
Court papers describe a disabled mother addicted to heroin who, in a deposition, said she couldn’t read. The suit alleged that peeling paint from walls and *windowsills contained enough lead to poison the children and render them incapable of leading functional lives.
In a report filed in court, one expert said that Gray was four grade levels behind in reading but that tests did not show a disability that would keep him from holding a job. He had enough skills to work as a mason, it concluded.
A court docket notes a settlement order in 2010, but the amount is undisclosed. Attorneys on both sides declined to comment.
Court records show Gray was arrested more than a dozen times, going back to when he was 18, mostly in Gilmor Homes and mostly on charges of selling or possessing heroin or marijuana. He had a handful of convictions, and his longest stint behind bars was about two years.
He had two pending drug cases when he died. In one, he was charged with a felony, accused of selling heroin by police who said they had witnessed hand-to-hand exchanges and found drugs in a small potato chip bag hidden in a drainpipe.
Hear me loud and clear: any and all cops who mistreated Freddie Gray must be held accountable in court for their actions.
But let’s not lie to ourselves about who does more to make Baltimore a hell for its poor black residents. It’s not the Baltimore cops; it’s the Freddie Grays. The unwillingness of the Jesse Jacksons and the Michael Eric Dysons to confront the role that black individuals and black communities play in perpetuating this cycle of violence and despair makes them hard to take seriously.
“It is easier to fight the victim rather than the source of the darkness,” said Jesse Jackson. Do we even have to wonder what the Rev. Jackson considers to be the sole source of the darkness?
If every Baltimore cop, in every instance of contact with a community thug, observed perfect protocol, that would do absolutely nothing to prevent the Freddie Grays from preying on their own communities. (And do not be deceived: the victims of the Freddie Grays are almost always black.) Gray was a hoodlum. Even hoodlums deserve to be treated fairly by the police, who, holding a monopoly on force in this society, must be held to the highest standards of conduct. But Baltimore’s core problem is not police brutality. Baltimore’s core problem is Freddie Gray, and the culture that manufactured him.
“Society” can and must reform the police. But Society can’t do much of anything about the culture that generates Freddie Grays. The collapse of order within and among those inner-city communities and its members, of which fatherlessness is likely the chief effect, perpetuates the cycle. Most people know this, which is why they listen to what people like Jesse Jackson and Michael Eric Dyson say, and don’t take it seriously, because they understand that these men are talking around the problem.
How do we save the Freddie Grays from themselves? No idea. It can’t be done by federal programs alone (left-wing solution), and it can’t be done solely by bootstrapping (right-wing solution). It really does take a village to raise a child, but what happens to that child when the village has collapsed? Again, I don’t know how to begin to solve this.
But I know that scapegoating the Baltimore police — that is, blaming them for the entire social disaster that is poor black Baltimore, as distinct from holding them responsible for their allegedly brutal actions in this and other cases — is a dodge. It’s easy to blame the police, because it appears that they really are blameworthy. But if you think that arranging your emotions to focus spite only on the police is sufficient to end the conditions that created that hoodlum Freddie Gray, you are lying to yourself.