Black Lives Matter and the Freddie Gray Effect

Feb. 22, 2016 / By

Speaking at the funeral for Freddie Gray last April, to a Baltimore church overflowing with mourners, the family’s attorney said, “many of us are here not because we knew Freddie Gray personally, but because we know hundreds of Freddie Grays.”

Almost a year later, as the trial for the second police officer charged with Gray’s murder is set to begin, the country continues to be plagued with the challenges of egregious police shootings, broken trust between law enforcement and Black communities, and the related gross income inequality that many feel fuels the mistreatment by officers.

Freddie Gray’s life of poverty, dropping out of school, brushes with the law, and being brutally arrested by police is the story line of many Black men throughout the country. But having his spine severed in the back of a police van was the rare and tragic event that made his story a national sensation.

Freddie was raised in one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest cities in America. He lived in a small row house with his disabled mother and two siblings. Freddie suffered lead poising while growing up. Exposure to the lead paint in the house caused Freddie to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities. Baltimore’s public school system, among the very worst in the country, was ill equipped to deal with Freddie’s and so many other children’s learning disabilities. With little support, Gray struggled in school. He eventually dropped out in the 10th grade.

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