Baltimore, a city that prides itself on charm and grace, is now in the national spotlight because of its prolonged failure to live up to those aspirations in the treatment of its citizens.

Unfortunately, what we are witnessing in Baltimore is the direct result of decades of mistrust between law enforcement and the communities they patrol. It is evidence of what occurs when some of those who swore to protect and serve instead choose to abuse and neglect. This mistrust is not an epidemic limited to Baltimore. It is a pandemic that infects every major city and too many rural communities in America. The killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Pearlie Smith and countless others verify this.


Our people in Baltimore are tired of second-class citizenship in a first class city. This is why we witness a great city ignited. As long as this racial caste system exists in America, we will continue to see what Malcolm X described as "reactions against police brutality." We have worked to form a non-violent movement against police brutality. Despite this, as the family laid Freddie Gray to rest, violence prevailed.

Let me be clear, violence is unacceptable. However, I do not have to condone it to understand from whence it originates. As stated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, "A riot is the language of the unheard." Yet, a violent minority has exploited this situation at the expense of the unheard. They will not hijack the quest for justice.

Many of our people were wrong, but that does not change the fact that their frustration is legitimate. We must use one of the lessons learned from the 1968 riots which ravaged this same community: that people are more prone to destroy their community when they do not see themselves as having or being a part of one. The members of our community are hurting. Therefore, we cannot waste this opportunity to seek and implement real solutions that help communities heal. Baltimore can serve as an example of how we can build our communities and maintain focus on the goal of positive change.

To that end, as cars burned and the media sensationalized foolishness Monday night, there was a group of community leaders including preachers, politicians, the Nation of Islam and the 300 Men, who marched up North Avenue to restore the calm the police could not. Baltimore is uniting. We will show this country how a community committed to peace and justice can and will overcome chaos to diffuse tensions and restore peace. We will redirect the frustration of those who feel they have no productive outlet into real, tangible progress for a better Baltimore.

As law students, we train to secure the quintessential credential required to change society. Our organization is filled with members who are well positioned to serve our communities as future leaders and lawyers. It is up to us to develop the legal strategy and government policies that improve our society, so negative passions can no longer build.

I am asking each chapter to begin to lead conversations with your entire community. We must share with all our peers that this is more than a Black Law Students Association issue — more than just another black issue. This is an American issue that requires everyone to stand for justice, fairness and equality. There is a difference between peace and silence. Peace must be demanded.

This is an issue that could strike any American city and has unfortunately stricken mine. Every American must realize this issue is real and rampant. More importantly, every American must work together, as a whole community, to find sustainable solutions to a problem that must cease and desist.

In the coming days, the National Advocacy team of the BLSA will provide details on next steps for our organization. As we complete our semesters and final exams, I ask that each of us reexamine why we came to law school. I implore you to commit yourself to excellence and service for our people.

Caylin A. Young is a student at the University of Baltimore School of Law and chair of the National Black Law Students Association. His email is chair@nblsa.org.