There are times when events happen in the world at large that are so significant that you remember vividly exactly what you were doing at that exact moment.
For me, the announcements of the attempted assassination on Ronald Regan, the death of Marvin Gaye, the "not-guilty" verdict of OJ Simpson and the first bombing of the World Trade Center are among the my top five off those moments and as iconic as they are, there is one moment that stands out so much that I remember the exact date.
"April 29th more power to the people..." - Ice Cube "Wicked"
I remember starring at the TV in disbelief as Los Angeles TV stations covered the rioting, looting and the real life Allstate mayhem going down at the intersection of Florence and Normandie.
The inexplicable acquittal of the four police officers who were infamously videotaped beating Rodney King lit the fuse on a powder keg that was South Central Los Angeles.
For years before the the videotape surfaced Black and latino residents of LA complained about the racist officers and policies of the LA police department. Their claims that they were harassed and brutalized on a regular basis among other accusations were systematically denied, covered up and ignored. The verdict only confirmed what many believed; there would be no justice when it's "just us" (meaning Black and Brown people).
Also adding to the anger of "the people" was the perceived gentrification of their neighborhood by Koreans who owned most of the stores and property in South central. They felt oppressed, powerless and disenfranchised.
But most of all, when the not guilty verdict was read, they felt abused and victimized.
Far be it from me to be a harbinger if doom, I much rather be considered a catalyst for discussion and change. So in that role I must ask: How much has really changed in the part 20 years? How far have race relations progressed in the past generation? How far/closer are we to another LA riot.
When President Obama was first elected there were people ignorantly professing that we were now living in a "post-racial" America. The reality of the situation is Obama's election has probably snatched off the feel good Band-Aid that racism has been festering under since MLK was killed and exposed the truth of how white people truly feel about Blacks.
No longer is the prejudice covert and subtle.
The Internet and the anonymity that it provides had made it easier and more convenient for people to spew their hate and intolerance from the comfort of their homes and with the convenience of their smart phones.
This is evidenced by comments left on various webpages reporting on the recent Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman case that had gripped the all the nations attention.
Some examples of some of the comments:
[...] Well, reluctantly, we shall push back until we too may be inclined toward violence.
It's a shame really blacks hitching their free mules to the wagons of race-hustlers.
[ ] The kid was looking for somebody to rob.
[ ]What about, how the boy was a druggie thug?
[ ]Its to bad the punk Trayvon had to die.He wont be able to steal any more or rape white women,become a stinking pimp,Sale drugs,I think Im going to cry.
[ ]I mean, it's been going on for a long time but now there's just no pretense: the USA is being run like a 3rd world country. I can see why a group of baboons is called a Congress.
[ ] Black on white racism rears it's butt ugly, stank azz head again.
A black kid gets hiself kilt for beatin on a His-paniced ..and shot da punk ..an right away it's the white manz fult NOT !
Even a police officer was recently fired for his lack of sensitivity and judgment when he posted the comment "dress like a thug - die like a thug." in the comments section of a website discussing Trayvon Martins murder.
According to a recent Gallup poll on the subject, Blacks and non-blacks are deeply divided among their opinions on whether or not race lead up to Martin being killed. Opinions are also split as to whether or not Zimmerman would have been arrested had he been Black.
Amazingly, 46% of non-blacks do believe that Zimmerman would have been arrested if the unarmed teen he shot was white.
Many in the Black community would like to paint George Zimmerman as a racist and focus their fury at him as the trigger man. The fact of the matter is Zimmerman was an overzealous cop wanna-be who got in over his head when he racially profiled and shadowed Trayvon Martin, got his %#&@$! beat (maybe),then panicked and pulled the trigger on an unarmed teen.
He's a murderer, no doubt, but he's probably not a racist. The target most deserving of the community's wrath is the legal system that is once again denying justice to a young Black murder victim.
Twenty years after LA went up in flames we are setting another scenario where there is"no justice when it's just us".
"...we just might see a sequel!" - Ice Cube "Wicked"
Anger from both sides is being misplaced and not since the previously mentioned OJ acquittal has so much racial tension been felt in the air.
The Miami Herald reports that a group of armed neo-Nazis are patrolling the Sanford, FL area, saying they are "prepared" for
On the other side, the"New Black Panther Party"have offered a $10,000 "reward" (a euphemism for bounty) for the capture of Martin's killer.
In a move that surprisingly has not yielded criminal charges, famed Hollywood movie director Spike Lee, known for race centric movies like "Do the Right Thing"and "Jungle Fever" sent what he mistakingly believed to be Zimmerman's address to thousands of his followers on Twitter.
The words "Long Live Zimmerman"
were found spray-painted on the side of Ohio State University's black cultural center last Tuesday morning.
On Friday a writer for the conservative publication, Taki's Magazine wrote a piece inspired by Black parents having a discussion with their children about how to prepare for and deal with racism.
In his column he states "There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too," He then details some of the advice he gave his children about black people. This includes some shocking tips such as:
-Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
-Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
-If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
-Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
-If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
- Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.
- Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.
- Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.
- If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.
But as outlandish as his "advice" is, the most shocking point that the self-described "mild and tolerant racist" shares is his belief that "the mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites."
And tragically, as I was writing this article it's been reported that police in Tulsa, Oklahoma have arrested two white men in connection with a shooting spree that left three Black people dead and two wounded--and sparked fears of a hate crime in the community.
George Santayana d.1952 said " Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." (The Life of Reason Vol.1, Reason in common sense 1905-06).
If we as a people (Americans) don't get it together and let go of ingrained prejudices and unfounded anger, more of our young are going to die and more of our cities are going to burn.
These are AVOIDABLE tragedies.