Over the last couple of days, I have seen the city I grew up only 45 minutes from in pain. I had family at Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles, who were forced to stay in the stadium for an hour after the game because the streets were not safe.
I never thought the day would come when I would write my opinion in the Daily Mississippian. I have always tried to keep my personal thoughts away from stories because I want to uphold ethical journalism. However, I have seen my friends on social media go to war over their opinions on the events that have taken place in the city so many I know call home.
I am not writing this article to defend or condone the death of Freddie Gray. I choose to wait for the evidence before I make such judgments. My reason for writing this is to assure people that Baltimore can have a future, and it can be a positive one.
Many students at my high school did not grow up with the same privileges I did. I had two parents who were very positive role models, a place to sleep, a roof over my head and food on the table. Many of my classmates came from broken homes or a home without a father or a mother in their lives.
I won’t begin to pretend like I know what it’s like to grow up in a violent environment, which so many of those who are angry did. When I was told by a friend to put myself in their shoes instead of condemning them, I realized that might be the real problem: too many are growing up in a negative world.
Although I didn’t grow up in the same environment, I believe I have experiences that relate to what is going on in Baltimore.
I had four friends I considered family shot to death in their own home. I also was molested when I was young. Because of these experiences I have vowed that for the rest of my life I would never become the violent monsters that brought hardship on me and I would do everything in my power to prevent it from happening to others. That is what we need to do to heal our city and our country. We need to prevent our youth from experiencing the hardships that we experienced, and we need to make sure they don’t become like those who cripple our society. It all starts with us. It doesn’t matter your race, age or gender. You can be a positive role model to the so many youths that need them. Education is the way out.
We need to teach our children not to condemn when someone thinks differently from them, but to understand their point of view. We need to teach them to not make the mistakes we did. We need to teach the lessons of those who changed the world for the better.
Police brutality is real. It is a huge issue. There are many bad cops in the world and many citizens who have been mistreated by police, especially in Baltimore. However, there are also amazing police officers that serve and protect their communities, and I would hate to imagine a world without them.
Just recently images have been released of an African American man fist-bumping police officers. There is another image of a young boy passing out water bottles to police officers. As I am writing this I see a video of people of all races, genders and ages locking arms in Baltimore to stand against violence in the city they love. One day the citizens of Baltimore will look back at this and say that we learned from this. That we united to heal our city.
I am no saint. I will admit that I am guilty of many the things I am preaching against, and I have made many mistakes in my life that have harmed others. But I believe that the healing of Baltimore starts with us. Thank you to those who protest peacefully against injustice, and thank you to the brave men and women who keep our streets safe.
Ryan Schmelz is a senior broadcast journalism major from Baltimore, Maryland. You can follow him on Twitter at @schmelzlikeryno.