Race riots, past and future

The similarities between the build-up to the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the media demagoguery around the Trayvon Martin case are eerie and disturbing, as I write about here:


Could it happen again? That is the taboo question on the 20th anniversary of Los Angeles’s murderous Rodney King riots, just as another racially charged prosecution—this time in Florida—captures headlines across the nation. Sadly, the answer is yes. As the Oakland riots in 2009 and 2010 following a transit officer’s fatal shooting of a parolee made clear, the threat of riots . . . still hangs over interracial incidents of violence when the victim is black. And just as the press cynically manipulated the facts in the Rodney King beating in order to increase racial tensions, it has done so again in the Trayvon Martin shooting inSanford,Florida.

The best hope for avoiding a repeat of the L.A.mayhem, should blacks not be satisfied with the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, is that police forces across the country have learned the lesson of the Rodney King riots: that outbreaks of civil anarchy must be immediately and unapologetically suppressed.

Anniversary coverage of the LA riots has sanitized the violence and spun out a narrative that holds individuals blameless for their sadistic and homicidal destruction, placing responsibility instead on the usual suspects: the racism of the police and of society.  Los Angeles Times reporter and editor Jim Newton provides a classic version of the “we are all guilty” topos:


The Los Angeles riots represented the culmination of many failures: the failure to provide hope for young people; the failure to supply education and jobs in the numbers that would stabilize communities; the failure to engage those communities in their own protection instead of relying on harsh and coercive law enforcement.



But even more remarkably, the Los Angeles Police Chief Charles Beck follows suit, using the nauseatingly PC term for the riots, “civil unrest,” and issuing a mea culpa for the police role in them:


The result [of aggressive LAPD tactics] was a city that was increasingly alienated from the police who were supposed to serve them. That alienation culminated in the worst civil unrest in Los Angeles history.

Oh, really?  As I write in City Journal:


If LAPD oppression was both the cause and the target of that violence, why did the mobs assault the following civilians, among many others, in the first two hours of violence alone? There were the son of the Korean owner of Tom’s Liquor Store at Normandy and Florence, beaten by gangbangers while the store was being torched; the white driver of a gray Volvo, who was dragged from his car and kicked in the head by assailants yelling “It’s a black thing,” and who barely escaped in his car (minus his camera and briefcase, naturally); the white driver of a brown Jeep Wrangler who was hit by a rock thrown through the front windshield, then smashed in the face with a bottle when he got out of the jeep . . .


Interestingly, Latinos constituted a majority of the arrests during the riots, as photos of the looting would predict.   The riots began as a “black thing,” but ended up as much a Hispanic thing.  So much for the Ron Unzian view of Latinos as pacific saviors of California.  On the other hand, Hispanics were overwhelmingly the victims, not the instigators, of the most vicious crimes of violence.    While it is hard to imagine a Hispanic-initiated riot, certainly of the fury and personal predation of the LA riots, Hispanics’ eager participation suggests how fragile are the constraints of social order and how essential it is to enforce law and order with unflagging vigilance.

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