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Drawing the Wrong Lessons from the Rodney King Riots

"Root causes" are nothing more than another series of liberal myths.

by
Abraham H. Miller

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April 30, 2012 - 3:02 pm
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April  29, 2012, marked the twentieth anniversary of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. As with all such prior anniversaries of riots, in the days ahead the black poverty industry will predictably mobilize to tell us that we have not done enough to eliminate the root causes of the riots.

There will be the worn and angry calls for more poverty programs and greater redistribution of wealth. In the past, on these anniversaries, some have self-righteously spoken of our obligation to ambiguous notions of fairness and social justice, amid a heavy claim on our “responsibility” to those who ran through the streets of our cities while pillaging, burning, and killing.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the famed but flawed Kerner Commission Report on the riots of the 1960s, Vera Kimble, of the Eisenhower Foundation, called for nothing less than an infusion of thirty billion dollars into America’s ghettos. Certainly, this would have been as successful as all the prior government programs that threw money at the inner city.

For the racial industrial complex, a riot is a crisis not to be wasted: The seeds of a future eruption are contained in the past one. Only by spending more government money, on the urban sinkholes where riots erupted, will we spare ourselves from dealing with the conflagration next time.

The truth about riots is that after tens of millions of dollars in research funding, we really have no idea why they occur. Yes, we know the precipitating events of riots, but root causes are nothing more than another series of liberal myths. They are the preordained conclusions of social science research that is strong on ideology and embarrassingly weak on science.

In this world of faux science, relative or actual economic deprivation, status inconsistency, anomie, and even the creation of a new black middle class all emerge as causes of black riots.  All of these are variants of the frustration-aggression (if frustration, then aggression) hypothesis, which allegedly manifests itself in black rage.

Black rage, according to its proponents, is a seething and explosive phenomenon lying dormant in the black community waiting to come to the surface.  White racism causes black rage.  Blacks are not responsible for its consequences.

Colin Ferguson, a black man, slaughtered six white commuters, random victims, on a Long Island commuter train. Leftist attorney William Kunstler argued, unsuccessfully, that Ferguson, whose actions were dictated by black rage, was also a victim, a victim of white oppression that created black rage.

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