All eyes have been on Baltimore this week, with many media outlets concentrating on the violent protests of Monday night. But Baltimore Councilman Nick Mosby, who is the husband of Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, sees what many media outlets are missing: Talks on the peaceful protests from the majority, the real story of Freddie Gray and police brutality, and the systemic issues that made those protestors feel they had to be violent in the first place.
“I want to make it very clear: You can’t allow folks to break the law and destroy private property,” Mosby told MTV News. “But it’s critically important we see the context of why we’re here and not so much focus on West Baltimore, but really focus on the plight of urban America."
There are larger scale issues built within the systems in Baltimore and many other urban areas in the United States that "plague" the communities, Mosby said, including "unemployment, lack of development, educational structure and overuse interactions with law enforcement."
"All the failed policies of the past have reared their heads," Mosby said. "I think we can look at the looting and look at the rioting and say they’re incensed because of Freddie Gray, or we can take a deeper dive into it and try to solve the problem.”
Mosby wants us to look at the stories of individuals and to stop trying to make superficial changes to large scale issues. "I always say we’ve got to turn the faucet off. We can’t continue to go to the bathtub with a cup and take water out and dump it on the floor. Where have we gone wrong?"
Mosby, like many Americans, believes that in a fair world, we would all have the same opportunities, no matter what zip code we're from. "We tell that to our children, but it’s not necessarily true, especially in urban America." Young people in urban America are blamed when they don't meet certain criteria, but few people try to help them with the opportunities they need to get out of poverty.
"We look at the policies of the past that have failed these communities: Reaganomics, stop-and-frisk, mass incarceration, the prison pipeline,” Mosby said.
The cycle is deep, it’s long-lasting, and it’s vicious: “You look at the area where Freddie Gray is from, and it’s the highest percentage of folks returning home from Maryland prison, which drives the unemployment rate, which drives the illegal activity rate, which drives from an over-enforcement of law enforcement activity. It’s like an ecosystem that feels like a trap to many individuals in these communities.”
Where do we go from here?
We’re looking at complicated, systemic, interlocking issues here. But when asked how MTV readers can make a positive change, Councilman Mosby said, “We need to supply our school systems with the tools that they need. No Child Left Behind did some damage. Our teachers are forced to teach to a test rather than teach to individual students.”
Urban America also has extreme unemployment rates, which not only stems from a lack of good jobs to begin with, but also job training and readiness programs. “Through the industrialization of America, great American cities like Baltimore lost a lot of the factory, industrial type of jobs,” Mosby explained. “They moved away."
Baltimore, he said, has great hospitals and tourism, but people in Baltimore aren't necessarily being taught how to do these jobs. "We didn’t prepare the folks for the jobs coming for the future," he said. "We should be preparing people for jobs coming down the pipeline.”
The media’s obsession with Monday’s protests also overshadowed the issue of police brutality, which many peaceful protesters are saying we should really be concentrating on.
“The first part is speak up,” Councilman Mosby said. “A lot of times we’ve become conditioned to be victims of police brutality and take it as, ‘This is what occurs in my neighborhood and this is why I don’t trust [police].”
Peaceful protestors might say that they have been speaking up and they still don’t feel heard. Councilman Mosby suggests that it is more possible to change the system from the inside than we might think.
“Secondly, it’s important for folks to change the structural things that allow law enforcement to get away with police brutality." He pointed out citizen review boards that are meant for holding police departments accountable for dealing with police brutality.
"Other things include the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights [in Maryland], which provides the opportunity for a police officer not to give a statement within the first ten days, and then they can extend the period.”
Another way? Get involved with law yourself. This includes everything from voting to being a juror to possibly becoming a police officer. “At the end of the day, the best police officer is one who understands the environment and knows the people and has a relationship [with them],” he said.
Mosby said about 70% of police in Baltimore live outside of the city and might not understand the community there. Some of them might also have implicit or explicit biases that can get in the way of fair policing. "It’s important to have police officers who are in and embedded in a community and understand the fabric of those communities they serve.”
Councilman Mosby is proud of all the young people coming out to peacefully take a stand and help make positive change for the future.
“We’ve got the international attention to shine the light on this,” Mosby said. “It’s amazing to see so many young folks participate in peaceful and productive protest, and really exercising their voices. ”