Lessons unlearned from the ‘92 LA riots
This weekend marks 100 days of the Trump administration. This milestone also coincides with a very important anniversary. Twenty-five years ago, April 29, 1992, riots exploded in Los Angeles after four policemen were acquitted after being charged with the violent beating of Rodney King, caught on video for the entire nation to see.
According to The Los Angeles Times, 63 lives were lost in the riots, with the estimated total economic cost pegged at $1 billion, with $735 million in property damage and 1,550 buildings destroyed or damaged.
But this is more than a fact of national history for me. It is personal history. I was there.
After years on welfare, I had turned my life around after my Christian conversion. I left behind the nihilism and emptiness of the welfare state culture and became an entrepreneur and publisher. My monthly magazine was sustained by advertising. But my operation and my customers were in South Central Los Angeles, where the riots occurred. I lost everything.
What has happened in black attitudes since that explosion of despair and violence in 1992? Despite trillions of dollars in spending targeted to help these communities and a black man being elected twice as president of the United States, prevailing attitudes among blacks in America seem to continue to change for the worse.
Remember those words of Barack Obama when he debuted on the national stage, giving the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004?
“There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”
It sounds so nice but, unfortunately, polls indicate that, even today, this does reflect what most blacks think. Blacks have decidedly different views than whites regarding identification with the founding principles of this country and their place in it.
In 2009 when Obama was elected, 72 percent of blacks, per Gallup, said, “racism against blacks is widespread in the U.S.” In 2016, this was up to 82 percent.
Sixty-five percent of blacks, compared with 32 percent of whites, say that “government should do more,” and 29 percent of blacks, compared with 62 percent of whites, say that “government is doing too much.”
And, again according to Gallup, “Fifty-eight percent of whites have confidence in the police, compared with 29 percent of blacks.”
In a new poll by Pew Research, 32 percent of blacks compared with 53 percent of whites, think that the Supreme Court should base its rulings according to “what the U.S. Constitution meant when it was originally written.”
It could not have been clearer to me back in 1992 that the violence that destroyed Los Angeles would lead nowhere for blacks. It is equally clear to me today that the attitude among blacks that their futures lie with the responsibility and money of others will continue to lead nowhere.
Despite a complicated and hard history, blacks need to trash the cynicism they harbor against this great nation, founded on the principles of freedom — a cynicism for which they are paying the greatest price. Only by embracing the principles of freedom and self-government can black Americans truly define a new path and participate in the American dream.
We all should look to the words of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural, “With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…”
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education.