The television images out of Baltimore were difficult to watch earlier this week.
Angry youths looting and setting their neighborhood aflame. Police officers in riot gear, restrained, but forced to respond.
The scenario would be shocking if it wasn't so predictable. Such mayhem has almost become an American pastime as we watch the replays over and over again on television. This time the unarmed black male whose death is in question is 25-year-old Freddie Gray. However, by next week it will be someone else and we will be right back where we started.
It seems we have a national epidemic when it comes to the police-involved deaths of unarmed black men. Was this happening all along? Or is it now becoming more visible because of smartphones and social media?
My guess is the latter.
For those who may have missed it, here's a quick recap.
Gray was being transported in a police van on April 12 when he suffered "serious medical distress." He died a week later of a severe spinal injury, according to authorities, but it's still unclear when or how the injury occurred. On Thursday, police handed over their investigative files to prosecutors. Details were sealed from the public, but there's now evidence indicating that the van transporting Gray had made a stop that was not previously reported, according to media reports.
And so the plot thickens.
Gray's death has ignited demonstrations, not only in Baltimore, but also in places such as New York City and Denver, which is understandable. But I wonder what it will take to make real change.
One thing I know for sure is that rioting isn't the answer. Burning down the neighborhood you live in makes as much sense as holding your breath for more oxygen. As a community, we have to find other constructive ways to deal with our frustration and teach our children to do the same.
One mother got so angry at her son for being a part of the looting that she slapped him upside the head on national television. Under normal circumstances, she probably would've been vilified by the public. But, instead, she was praised.
She's a black mother who was in fear of her son's safety and willing to step up and do something about it. Maybe we need more mothers to do the same.
In recent protests, we've heard the slogan, "Black Lives Matter." I agree 100 percent. However, it's what you do with the black life that you've been blessed with that's most important.
So as this latest scenario unfolds, I hope we will go beyond the usual tactics and do some real soul-searching.
It's time we use our lives for better - not worse.
Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.