L.A. Riots: Twenty Years Later, Many Changes but Same Rhetoric

Over the last week, the mainstream media has approached the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles riots as if it were the run-up to the Academy Awards. One breathless reporter from a national network asked: “Can you find me some Korean merchants who had their stores looted and burned?” Others asked me if I could locate black folks who had looted.

While I obviously rejected this nonsense, one local television station featured an interview with Henry Watson, a local thug who had literally danced a jig on Reginald Denny’s head in 1992. The unrepentant Watson told the reporter he would do it all again if a Florida court doesn’t find George Zimmerman guilty. Watson explained that when he had his foot on Denny’s head, he was thinking about one thing: “white America.”

I suppose NBC thought this made for great television.

The Los Angeles Times devoted two days of sympathetic front-page coverage to an interview with Rodney King, the drunken motorist who took LAPD officers on a high-speed chase that ended with him being beaten into submission. After winning over $1 million in a city settlement, King is now broke, an alcoholic, and a routine law-breaker. As the interviews revealed, King seemingly has no interesting observations about much, including the riots or his beating.

Is any of this really news?

It obviously isn’t, yet the liberal mainstream press will exploit urban nihilism from twenty years ago to hint that racial issues from that time continue to haunt us today. Divisions do exist, but today they are mostly nurtured by the mainstream media on one hand and by opportunistic black leaders on the other.

Twenty years ago, Los Angeles revolved around a liberal political axis, just as it does today. It was no shock when local political elites declared that L.A.’s riots were a “rebellion” against racism, the police, and poverty. But while that era’s LAPD routinely engaged in a particularly robust “command and control” policing, by the 1990s a liberal-dominated Los Angeles (with a black man, Tom Bradley, as its mayor) was hardly a West Coast imitation of Selma, Alabama.

The predictable liberal viewpoint that racism was the major cause of the riots masks another reality. Like other major cities, Los Angeles’ poor black neighborhoods suffer from the effects of the 60s-era welfare state which bred black anger and dependence. Compounding this was the Black Power movement that challenged the integrationist stance of most civil rights leadership. They argued that “power comes from the barrel of a gun,” and claimed that America “owed things” (including slavery reparations) to black Americans. This justified the looting of televisions, refrigerators, and sofas from local merchants.

These conditions gave rise to homicidal street gangs, sloppy attitudes about education, family structures that had come apart at the seams, and a predatory black leadership that promoted Afrocentric schemes and preached victimization.

The late 1980s were the zenith of a devastating crack cocaine epidemic that swept South L.A., something exploited by gangs, all with homicidal intentions. In South L.A. ,there were 143 homicides in a twelve square mile area from Watts to Inglewood. At the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues, the Eight Tray Gangster Crips lurked. This was one of the city’s most notorious street gangs.

On April 29, twenty years ago, a jury in Simi Valley handed down a “not guilty” verdict in the trial of the four police officers charged with beating Rodney King. By later that afternoon, dozens of Crips, local hoodlums, and other criminal elements pounced. They began attacking non-black motorists at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. It was here that local thugs, including Henry Watson, beat white truck driver Reginald Denny nearly to death.