The Baltimore Riots and the Colorlessness of the Human Soul

On April 12, 2015, 25 year old Freddie Gray, an African American, was taken into custody by Baltimore Police. He fell into a coma while being transported, and died on April 19th due to, according to reports, a spinal cord injury. The cause of this injury is still unknown.

What started as a demonstration – protesting his death while in police custody – evolved into a full-blown riot. While the details of his death are still shrouded in mystery, regardless of whether it was due to police brutality or a self-inflicted wound, it is fair to say, at the least, that police transporting him failed to take the proper measures to ensure his safety and protection.


Black, White, and the Color of Discomfort

Did police use unnecessary force when apprehending Freddie Gray that led to his death? This central question is one that we all hope will become clear with time. However, the implications of the case goes further and deeper than one man’s death or the ethical (not to mention the legal) responsibilities of one police department. The riots have re-ignited public discourse on countless issues ranging from racism and police brutality, to gun control and the merits (and the proportionality) of civil disobedience.

The racially charged protests have aggravated the perception by blacks that they are being racially targeted by police and white society at large, while the resulting chaos has reinforced the perhaps politically incorrect perception held by many whites (but never uttered in civilized discourse) that black society is “out of control”. This vicious cycle is often referred to in passing in everyday life, but are there elements of truth in the perceptions and stereotypes held by either side?

Here’s one interesting FBI crime statistic from 2013. The number of blacks murdered that year was 2,491, of which 2,245 were committed by other blacks. Thus, over 90% of the blacks murdered that year were at the hands of other blacks. Blacks committed 47% of all murders in 2013, despite the fact that blacks consisted of only 13% of the entire U.S. population. While it may be politically incorrect and uncomfortable to admit, these numbers seem to suggest that the black community has a problem with crime that is disproportionate to its population.

On the other hand, the same statistic also shows that out of the 3,005 whites murdered that year, 2,509 (84%) were committed by other whites. This means whites have more to fear from other whites than they do from blacks, suggesting that the perception of the “dangerous black community” is more an issue to be reckoned with inside the black community.

Compounding the racial dimensions of the riots is the question of what constitutes a proper level of force when police apprehend an individual. The case differs for each situation, and ranges from the opaque, where a suspect that may (or may not) be armed slowly walks toward a police officer who has his weapon locked on his target, to clear cases of police brutality, as seen reaching back to the days of Rodney King. In a society with close to 90 firearms per 100 people, the police are required to make quick life-or-death decisions in not-so-clear situations. Finding the fine line between self-defense and police brutality will continue to be an issue as long as the nation prides itself on retaining the right to bear arms.

Finally, the riots themselves have struck a nerve with much of America. While the issues of police brutality and racism certainly merit scrutiny, attacking the nearest gas station or looting the corner CVS will only reinforce the negative perceptions held against the black community. This cannot become the new normal or a template on how grievances are expressed.


The Baltimore Riots and the Colorlessness of the Human Soul

The Transparency Beneath

“The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.”

Those were the words of Victor Hugo, a 19th century French poet of the Romantic Movement. His words should have particular resonance in light of the chaos that is currently engulfing Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray.

In addition to the myriad of issues surrounding his death and the subsequent civil unrest, there is a much deeper question that needs to be addressed, and its lessons internalized.

After the outbreak of these riots, many have called for the nation to return to God. But what does that mean? If our vision of God were a manifestation of who we believe we are and what we aspire to become, then what exactly is that vision? What vision of ourselves do we see when we look within ourselves and open our eyes to what’s being reflected from our souls?

From Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr., America has learned and re-learned the lessons and the costs of bigotry and racism in order to live up to its founding principle, and the immortal declaration that “All men are created equal”. What drove those two towering figures in American history wasn’t simply a philosophical declaration or an axiomatic humanism alluding to the equality of men. What drove them was a profound and transparent belief in a God that created and nourished the souls of men and women throughout history; a transparency equaled only by that of the human soul that resides beneath our skins.

Are we truly equal? After all, aren’t we constantly inundated by our differences, not only of appearance, but of talent, wealth, and physical well-being? How, in the end, are we to believe in the ideals of equality when some are born into wealth and opportunity, while others find themselves forced to carry a cross from birth?

Master Ryuho Okawa, founder and CEO of Happy Science, has long taught the truth behind our birth and our lives: that the true nature of humanity is our soul, and that our Earthly lives are simply a medium for our spiritual growth; that the true nature of our souls is colorless, only to be colored by our thoughts, and shapeless, only to be formed by our beliefs; that the magnificence of our souls is equaled only by the fairness by which we are born into our individual circumstances; by our own choice.

If ever the human soul needed an ideal, now would be the time. Only by realizing the truth behind our souls can we find gratitude to those who were born into wealth to create a better future, acknowledge the nobility of those who chose to be born into bondage to liberate his peers and give hope to the less fortunate, or realize that regardless of our birth or creed, what matters in the end are the choices, beliefs, and the deeds that we have accumulated throughout our lives.

America maybe at a crossroads between being consumed by its differences, or rising above to unite around a higher ideal. The latter will require America to dig deeper, and to discover the vision of God that resides hidden beneath the founding ideals of the nation.

The Baltimore Riots and the Colorlessness of the Human Soul
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