7 Social Media Responses To The Baltimore Riots That Educate Us And Give Us Hope For Humankind


While some responses to the riots that broke out in Baltimore after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died in police custody have been deeply problematic — Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the protesters "thugs," for example — something surprising has been happening on Twitter and Facebook: Many of the social media responses to the Baltimore riots have been inspiring and thought-provoking. People have been sending out educational messages about institutional racism and police brutality, issuing reminders that this situation is unique but part of a larger problem, and contextualizing the protests within history and within the rest of the world.

We've seen social media at its best and its worst recently: While some tweeters were slamming Hillary Clinton's appearance, others were creating humorous campaigns to support her; while some were attacking women in gaming, others were rallying around ending sexism in the tech world. And here, with these responses, we see more examples to add to the "best" list from hose who are urging us to use the Baltimore riots as an opportunity to learn and to become better, both as individuals and as a society.

1. The Economist points out that the U.S. is doing something wrong.

This infographic posted to The Economist's Twitter page shows us that citizens dying at the hands of the police is not an inevitable product of any criminal justice system. Japan and Britain have both seen no deaths from police shootings during the latest available year. The post links to an article further exploring how other countries' police forces have achieved success without resorting to extreme measures.

2. Historian Crystal A. DeGregory takes down comparisons between Baltimore, Ferguson, and literally everything.

Dr. DeGregory, whose research areas include black education and the Civil Rights Movement, reminds us that every situation is different and not all "riots" are created equal.

3. New York Times Magazine staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones nails the problem with "thug."

Hannah-Jones, who has written about race for many publications including ProPublica, calls our bullshit in pretending that "thug" is a racially neutral term.

4. Slate writer Jamelle Bouie takes on those objecting to the protests.

Bouie reminds us that we don't have to agree with police brutality and racism or violent protest tactics.

5. Occupy Wall Street critiqued the use of the word "riot."

Some in support of the protest are advocating the term "uprising" instead, since "riot" contains negative connotations. But, as Occupy Wall Street illustrates with this Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, a "riot" is not a senseless act, but the necessary rising of voices that have been silenced.

6. BuzzFeed's Alp Ozcelik points out a double standard.

Ozcelik, a product support specialist at Buzzfeed, points out that when uprisings happen in other countries, we assume it's the government's problem, yet in the U.S., we often treat it as the protestors' problem. Why? I'm guessing the racial dynamics have something to do with it.

7. Benjamin T. Moore, Jr.'s Twitter feed basically says it all.

Moore, who blogs about politics and religion at The Whirling Wind, explains exactly why people are angry about how the police and the media have handled the protests. I want to embed everything written and curated on his Twitter feed, but one highlight is his observation that the police's actions have been worse than the protesters'.

Another Twitter user named Benny took a screenshot of a list Moore created on Facebook of all the African American killed in the hands of the police, reminding the public that this issue is bigger than Baltimore:

Comb through these accounts and the hashtags #BaltimoreRiots and #BaltimoreUprising to broaden your perspective on the protests and how people are responding to them — because who says social media can't be educational, even when it's sobering?