[Freddie] Gray’s death is part of a tableau of frustration in which the dateline seems increasingly incidental. In the three years since Trayvon Martin’s death, in Sanford, Florida, public attention has been successively directed to Jacksonville, Florida (Jordan Davis), Ferguson, Missouri (Michael Brown), Cleveland, Ohio (Tamir Rice), Chicago, Illinois (Rekia Boyd), Staten Island, New York (Eric Garner), North Charleston, South Carolina (Walter Scott), and Tulsa, Oklahoma (Eric Harris)—a blurred collection of terrible redundancies. Rice was a twelve-year-old boy who was playing with a toy gun in a public park when he was shot by police; Boyd was a bystander, killed when a police officer opened fire on an unarmed man nearby; Gray led police on a foot chase chase prior to his arrest; Harris allegedly tried to make an illegal handgun sale in the moments before he was shot by a volunteer deputy, who said he thought he was holding his Taser. The Black Lives Matter movement, which has sprung up in the context of these deaths, looks at those disparate stories as sharing a common bond based in race. A too cavalier acceptance of the use of lethal force, even against those who may have committed a crime, serves to make the deaths of people like Boyd and Rice all the more probable.
Two days after Gray succumbed to his injuries, the Times published a story tallying up the cumulative effects of incarceration and early mortality on the African-American population. It found that some one and a half million black men had effectively disappeared from their communities. One of the chief dividends of racism is the blithe sense of remove that much of America has from that reality. Protesters know it, it is one source of their outrage.