Allen Bullock, 18, turned himself in after he was photographed destroying a police car during the Freddie Gray unrest in Baltimore. His bail is currently set at $500,000—more than that of any of the six officers charged in Gray’s death. 
NBC News screenshot

To fully understand the racist, socioeconomic politics alive and thriving in Baltimore, look no further than Allen Bullock.

The 18-year-old was arrested after he and several other teens brutally beat a Baltimore police car with an orange traffic cone. In the end, the vehicle looked like it went toe to toe for 12 rounds with Iron Mike. The windows were bashed, the hood was destroyed and the windshield hammered. For a moment, those teens did to that police car what many throughout the nation believe six police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death did: They murdered it.  

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Only in the NutriBullet mix of Baltimore, racism, poverty, police and a dead young black man would you have an 18-year-old who helped destroy a car facing more jail time and a higher bail than any of the officers charged with Gray’s death.

#PoliceCarsMatter.

And here is the kicker … wait for it. … It was Bullock’s mother and stepfather who encouraged him to turn himself in, believing that they were doing the right thing. Now, since that day, Bullock has been in jail awaiting trial for the destruction of a car, and I don’t know how someone can sit on the outside looking in and not see the fuzzy math of Baltimore logic as this:

Police cars > black lives.

How are the residents of Baltimore supposed to believe in a system that values a police car more than a black man’s life? Currently Bullock is charged with eight misdemeanors—ranging from malicious destruction to rioting, which can carry a life sentence. His parents can’t afford to pay the $500,000 bail to get him out of prison, so he waits.

Just so the optics are clear on this:

Bullock beats a police car and his bail is $500,000.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van, who faces the most serious charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder in Gray’s death, has bail of $350,000.

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And this is why the black mom who found her son in the street during the unrest and beat him back into the house has been hailed as “mom of the year” in some black circles: because there are those of us who know that throwing a rock at a police car can get you killed. Just as selling “loosies” on a New York street corner can get you choked to death, or walking inside a Wal-Mart with a toy gun that is sold at that Wal-Mart can get you fatally shot. That black mom wasn’t going to turn her son in to the authorities or let the police sort it out; she went out of her house and brought hers home.

Bullock’s parents have stated that they wish they had never told him to turn himself in.

“By turning himself in, he also let me know he was growing as a man and he recognized what he did was wrong,” Bullock’s mother, Bobbi Smallwood, told The Guardian. “It is just so much money.”

Maybe he smashed the car because he was upset about Freddie Gray’s death. Maybe in the moment he raged, he lost it, saw a traffic cone, picked it up and slammed it through the window. Maybe the crowd behind him cheered when he was done.

It’s all speculation at this point, but what isn’t up for debate is that when faced with the option of bringing more heat on himself and his family once the police found out, he chose to turn himself in. And that to me is the saddest part of all. Black young men and women don’t get to make mistakes. There are no do-overs, no apologies in this climate; just a lot of bullets, dead black bodies, families grieving and social media eruptions. And then we wait like a movie on pause, hoping for a morsel of justice, because that’s how starved we are. 

Which is what makes the case of Allen Bullock so bizarre. With all eyes trained on Baltimore as the injustice and killing keep spreading as if they’re on a 50-city tour, the police still saw fit to charge the kid with everything imaginable. Normally, when the world is watching, you straighten up, fix your tie, comb your hair over a bit and act as if you aren’t who they say you are.

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But it’s hard just to look at the visuals on this knowing that a young man is dead, six officers have been charged and the only one who sits in jail is Bullock—who destroyed a car. And as far as Baltimore is concerned, for that crime, he must pay.

Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.