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

At the moment Denny was being attacked like hyenas on a gazelle, I sat in my office only a few miles north of the rapidly escalating mayhem. At that time I was the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization that was co-founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. But while Dr. King was known for his non-violent views, violence, arson, and death was the order of the day in Los Angeles for the next five days.

But what has changed in Los Angeles since the events of twenty years ago?

The LAPD has clearly reformed many of the old policies. Many residents of South L.A. see this as a good thing, while others are less complimentary. They say the “kinder and gentler” LAPD has created a less effective force, often forced to tip-toe on the eggshells of political correctness.

Another longstanding issue has largely disappeared from the dialogue: the relationship between Korean merchants and black patrons, then referred to as the “black-Korean conflict,” has been replaced by far more peaceful relationships. One of the main features of this change is that many of the race-hustlers who organized boycotts and protests at Korean merchants' stores have simply moved on to exploit other issues since the riots.

While the media has launched a feeding frenzy of “riot coverage,” residents of L.A. have seen no reason to obsess over a particularly ugly element of L.A.’s past. The city’s liberal leadership, however, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lecture about the need for people to “just get along.” What they’ve failed to notice is that most people think the city’s population is doing just that. Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles recently conducted a poll about the area’s race relations. They discovered that seven out of ten people think the various racial and ethnic groups are getting along just fine.

Nonetheless, members of the mainstream media continue to ask: can riots break out in L.A. again? Conditions in L.A. make this a remote possibility. However, recent events have made the possibility of urban riots elsewhere a reasonable speculation. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, black leaders have ramped up the race rhetoric and primed the pump of expectations for the upcoming trial of George Zimmerman. What if a court can’t convict Zimmerman?

That’s beginning to look highly likely. Based on the evidence that’s been made public, and seemingly just about all the evidence that exists, it now seems evident that Angela Corey, the Florida special prosecutor, overcharged when she laid out her case for second-degree murder, apparently in an attempt to appease the racial vultures that had gathered in Sanford, Florida.

Despite growing signs that convicting George Zimmerman will be a difficult task at best, Trayvon Martin’s family, national black leaders, and black activists all agree that “justice” will only be materialized by the conviction of Zimmerman. If this expectation isn’t achieved in a court of law, activists have been clear that there will be “no peace.”

The specter of black nihilism from twenty years ago hangs heavy over the proceedings in Florida.