April 30, 2012

Was I wrong about the Rodney King riots?

Last week in The Secret History of the 1990s, I suggested that the 1992 Los Angeles riots served as a shameful wake-up call to blacks at the nadir of the crack / gangsta rap era to check themselves before they wreck themselves, and that the relative improvement in black performance in the later 1990s may date from that turning point.

A number of commenters demurred, pointing out, among other objections, that I hadn't produced a lot of quotes suggesting that African-Americans had actually been ashamed of how significant numbers of their younger people had behaved during those three days two decades ago. 

So, I did a Google search on 

ashamed 1992 riots south central

and came up with ... not much. 

A Korean academic claims, "I was embarrassed and ashamed, because many Koreans had established a negative image among the media and the African Americans. " 


That kind of thing ... 

This isn't to say that black private individuals didn't feel ashamed by the riots, but it sure isn't part of The Narrative.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that I recall shame from the riots. Maybe Chris Rock said something about it? In any event, there doesn't seem to be a lot of remorseless bragging about looting.

I think I was like most people, in that I was (1) unmoved by Rodney King's condition for acting up, (2) unimpressed by LAPD for acting like schoolyard bullies, and (3) embarrassed that Americans would loot businesses and beat citizens who had nothing to do with anything.

Anonymous said...

Shame? Shame? No,no,no,no,no, Steve.

American culture has had rooted out it this thing called "Shame."
Only pockets of people who know what it means remain.

Simon in London said...

I think your 'Crack Wars fatalities' theory was more plausible, along with the rise in incarceration rates.

On a different acquittal, my impression is that the OJ Simpson verdict *did* act as a wake-up call for whites, in particular centrist white women with feminist inclinations - the verdict and the black jubilation resulting from it they could no longer see themselves in a common enterprise with blacks, battling together for civil rights vs the (white, heterosexual) Man. And that probably contributed to continuing acceptance, at least passive acceptance, of America's very tough sentencing policies, which in turn helped drive down crime rates.

I also think the LA riot contributed to that turn towards authoritarian views among American youth - the media didn't really have an effective 'righteous anger' narrative the way they had had with the '60s riots. Victory in the first Gulf War had also made the miliary glamorous again. Then 9/11 really turbocharged it.

Grumpy Old Man said...

If you read the lefties, it was an "uprising." Teevees for the lumpen, doncha know.

Baloo said...

My guess would be that such shame is there, but it's statistically insignificant. And was already there before, I'm sure, and maybe underwent an uptick from the riots.

Mark Caplan said...

Since, in the minds of many people, the riots resulted in the federal indictment, conviction and imprisonment of two of the LA police officers who arrested Rodney King, many rioters and their sympathizers might well feel tremendous pride for what they accomplished. Take THAT, honky pigs, for disrespecting a brother!

Whiskey said...

I still think the ethnic cleansing by Mexicans/Central Americans explains the post-King decline in Black violent crime. By dispersing the Black underclass to the outer-ring suburbs or the South.

Anonymous said...

American culture has had rooted out it this thing called "Shame."
Only pockets of people who know what it means remain.


That really ought to read: Black culture has had rooted out this thing called "Shame."
Only non-blacks know what it means.

Anonymous said...

I too tried to search for stuff from the 90's, but came up blank.

For example, I recently searched for Titanic non twitter, and I found almost nothing. Did teenage girls not tweet about their favorite movies in 1997?

It's like the internets is erasing our past!

Tony said...

Probably the percentage of blacks that feel any shame about the riots is the same percentage that vote Republican.

MC said...

Bill Cosby told people to stop rioting in a recorded message before the last episode of the Cosby Show. I'm guessing he was feeling pretty ashamed.

Anonymous said...

i think rise of hispan numbers made blacks mo careful in la.

Hurricane Katrina said...

Uhh, hello?!?

Selwyn J. said...

I remember shame/regret by several prominent black voices, but it was more along the lines of chastising the rioters for tearing up their own community, which carries the implication that if hell was raised a bit further up in the hills, well, that would've been just fine...

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know what percentage of blacks today would know what the LA riots were. Maybe half?

I think we have a tendency to overestimate the general and current affairs knowledge of the public here, especially of certain groups. Look at the surveys examining general, civic, current affairs, etc knowledge. It's abysmal.

Anonymous said...

AT the time of the OJ verdict, I was working at a very large northern CA medical center. Many of the support staff (technicians, nursing assistants) were black. They were well-paid, competent, an integral part of the hospital community, and lived middle-class lives outside.

I was in the break room with about 20 people or so when the verdict came over the TV. The blacks in the room broke into spontaneous cheers, their joy obvious and genuine. When I muttered that I didn't understand the decision, one AA lady smiled grimly and said, "Now you know how we feel."

They weren't cheering because they thought a falsely-accused black man received justice; they cheered because a celebrity black man got away with murdering 2 whites.

No one ever discussed the verdict afterwards (this was a very liberal campus),but I have never forgotten the racial ugliness that poked out at that unguarded moment.

Anonymous said...

The Negro poor having become more openly violent--especially in the form of the rioting of the mid 1960's--they have given the black middle class an incomparable weapon with which to threaten white America. This has been for many an altogether intoxicating experience. 'Do this or the cities will burn.' And of course they have been greatly encouraged in this course by white rhetoric of the Kerner Commission variety. But most important of all, the existence of a large marginal, if not dependent, black urban lower class has at last given the black middle class an opportunity to establish a secure and rewarding power base in American society--as the provider of social services to the black lower class....What building contracts and police graft were to the 19th-century urban Irish, the welfare department, Head Start programs, and Black Studies programs will be to the coming generation of Negroes. They are of course very wise in this respect. (Daniel Patrick Moynihan, letter to Nixon)

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

More sham than shame.

Mr. Anon said...

"Last week in The Secret History of the 1990s, I suggested that the 1992 Los Angeles riots served as a shameful wake-up call to blacks at the nadir of the crack / gangsta rap era to check themselves before they wreck themselves, and that the relative improvement in black performance in the later 1990s may date from that turning point."

I think it served as a big wake-up call for a lot of whites. The next one was the OJ verdict. And the most recent one was Hurricane Katrina. I wonder what will prove to be the next one? I suspect we'll find out before too long.

Truth said...

"still think the ethnic cleansing by Mexicans/Central Americans explains the post-King decline in Black violent crime. By dispersing the Black underclass to the outer-ring suburbs or the South."

Yeah, but you still think Jar-El is coming back from the planet Krypton, also.

Thrasymachus said...

Anon 7:22 has it with the Moynihan quote. There is and was no black shame because black riots always lead to more benefits for black people, for the reasons listed.

Anonymous said...

In the "Our Dumb Century" book, the Onion had the newspaper from the time the riots were going on. Headline was: "Rioters Demand Justice, Tape Decks"

I think that's one of the funnier Onion headlines. Along with the 1930s edition, "We have nothing to fear but 10 years of crippling depression"

Anonymous said...

This black guy might have been offended enough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUpPqmFzkEM&sns=em

Telling it like it is. Wow.

Simon in London said...

Mr Anon:
"And the most recent one was Hurricane Katrina..."

For people who expected New Orleans lower class blacks to behave like Nashvilleans (when Nashville flooded a few years later), maybe. Proposition Nation, We're All the Same, and Neocon, types, maybe.

Personally the N.O. black population did not behave any worse than I expected - eg reports from white British tourists trapped there indicated that NO blacks often treated them better than they treated their own people. It did show that black city government & police could not be relied on, but that was not a huge surprise.

Whereas FEMA and the Bush administration behaved with disgusting incompetence and negligence. I also felt the white local police in the surrounding suburbs should not have turned back blacks trying to flee the city. They acted as if it was a black race riot, not a natural disaster. OTOH many whites (eg WALMART) did behave well and tried to help those trapped in the city - only to be turned back by FEMA.

Anonymous said...

Shame???

There is no shame in "urban youth" culture!!!

Svigor said...

I think blacks have a "diminished capacity" for shame. I don't think culture has a whole lot to do with it.

Sociopaths don't really "get" shame, and judging from experience (and at least one study), blacks score highly on metrics of sociopathy.

I think blacks feel far more shame and guilt in the projections of Whites than they do in reality.

Mr. Anon said...

"Simon in London said...

Mr Anon:

""And the most recent one was Hurricane Katrina...""

For people who expected New Orleans lower class blacks to behave like Nashvilleans (when Nashville flooded a few years later), maybe. Proposition Nation, We're All the Same, and Neocon, types, maybe."

I don't understand your quibble with my point. Proposition Nation, We're All the Same, Necon types - is that an irrelevant group? There are a lot more of them - a lot more, by far - than there are of us, certainly among those in the crowd with political and media influence.

FredR said...

That Moynihan letter is incredibly astute, and explains, for instance, that undercurrent of blackmail you can hear in James Baldwin's nonfiction. Is it in the recent collection of his letters they released, or was it kept out?

Anonymous said...

I see nothing to believe blacks feel any shame over the 1992 riots. I don't think shame is really a black thing.

Anonymous said...

During the Jena 6 nonsense, I do recall various comment sections of reports having a pretty active debate about the need for blacks to stand up for thugs. There was a quite healthy, unabashed segment which was anti-thug. More than once, white people's willingness to condemn bad behavior from other whites was mentioned.

While the articles may be written by excuse giving "black people can't do any wrong" hacks, there is a publicly invisible segment which does see this behavior as reprehensible.

Anonymous said...

Booker Rising.

http://www.bookerrising.net/

"If Zimmerman is ruled not guilty and allowed to walk, I foresee Rodney King-type riots in the streets. Thus, is Zimmerman's fate already sealed? Will a jury decide that Zimmerman must be declared guilty of something? While Al Sharpton, the New Black Panthers, and all of the other racist race-hustling usual suspects clamor for justice for Trayvon Martin, I wonder if justice is even possible for George Zimmerman. Tragically and frighteningly, we live in a time in which the law and truth appears to be losing relevance in America."

Anonymous said...

People tend to think the black problem is limited to black violence, but the main black problem may even be more dire. It's their lack of scruples and lack of shame(that could lead them to scruples). Even non-violent blacks commit lots of 'non-violent' crime.
I used to work at a video store and my boss once hired this black guy. Nice guy, amiable, friendly, and not violent. But he got caught stealing a whole bunch of stuff. When called on it, his attitude was 'so what?'
I also used to work at Macy's and one of the black worker was caught with stolen items. What did he say? "I'm black and gay, and there's nothing you can do about it."
This kind of attitude is typical. Even before looting happens, many businesses close in black communities because too many 'good' blacks steal and feel no shame about it.

To be sure, even non-violent black behavior is connected to black violence. If blacks do something wrong, non-blacks often keep mum out of fear that the black guy will act like Omar Thorton. Even if the black guy doesn't use a gun, an angry black guy can beat up just about any non-black guy.

One time in a subway, a bunch of us saw this black guy pickpocketing an old white man, but we said nothing out of fear of the Negro. That's America.

Anonymous said...

"I see nothing to believe blacks feel any shame over the 1992 riots. I don't think shame is really a black thing."

Blacks feel shame that they didn't loot enough.

Anonymous said...

Though blacks, due to their nature, are less likely to feel shame, their lack of shame also owes to there being no pressure on the black community to feel shame.
Community/social pressure is important. In the past, whites felt far less shame--or no shame at all--about racial conditions in America because the media almost never mentioned it. It was the massive media campaign and bullying since the 50s that led to the rise of white shame. And right after WWII, most Germans were not into shame-over-the-Holocaust. That came later with endless media and educational campaigns about 'German guilt'. And no one felt shame about 'homophobia' few decades ago. Not even a liberal back then would have felt shame over thinking 'gay marriage' is ridiculous. Now, many Americans would be ashamed to oppose the gay agenda. Why? Media pressure and campaign.

When white society once put immense moral pressure on black society, blacks did feel shame in the past. And so, blacks felt a need to be a 'credit to their race' and prove their worth before whites. MLK's bargain was 'whites must change their racist ways and atone for their sins' BUT 'we blacks must demonstrate that we are good respectable Negroes and not vile
n-words'.
But no such pressure has been put on the black community for a long time.

The main story of the LA riots should be black awfulness and disgustingness, but most of media is treating it like it was some tragedy that happened 'out of the blue', like meteor hitting Earth. It'd be like saying Germans didn't start WWII but just got 'caught up' in it.
And so, why would there be black shame?

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/bm6ScvNygUU

ATBOTL said...

Part of the problem is that Steve doesn't listen to rap music.

Anonymous said...

There was one prominent black hero in the RK riots: Bobby Green. Instead of running around trying to upgrade his home entertainment system or get a new set of radial tires, he was quietly sitting at home, watching the mayhem on TV. When he saw on a news chopper feed local savages pulling Denny out of a semi stalled at a nearby intersection, Green hustled outside to (in his words) save a brother truck driver.

After he reached the scene he climbed into Denny's truck cab and drove him to the hospital. Later, some national news reporter had the gall to ask him why Denny got beaten; Green matter of factly replied:"Because he was white."

pat said...

Last week I wrote a long comment on these riots but I guess I came off a little too militant and you wouldn't publish it. Let me just repeat a couple key points.

First read Lou Cannon's book. Eight hundred pages. A great book. Almost everything I thought I knew was wrong.

My second point was that American race riots aren't very serious. The Rodney King riots were the worst of the modern race riots and they had rather low body count - only 53 deaths. We lose 53 people each year in America to bee stings. Mercedes killed about that many in a single crash at Le Mans. These things look dramatic on TV but are inconsequential to your personal welfare. They are not Hiroshima or the first day of the Somme.

The property damage is of little concern except to the locals. The main problem is the loss of grocery stores. Most other damage is quickly repaired but it's getting harder to get ethnic Jews, Koreans or Chinese to serve these black neighborhoods.

Clearly some people have calculated that race riots and civil unrest helps Obama and the Democrats. Bush never recovered from Katrina. That makes no sense but there it is.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"My second point was that American race riots aren't very serious. The Rodney King riots were the worst of the modern race riots and they had rather low body count - only 53 deaths."

But lots of people got beat up and lots of property was damaged. Also, rioting was limited to LA but spread all over the country. In the college town where I was at, some white people got beaten up by blacks over King, and that happened in other parts too. That's all gone down the memory hole.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

There was one prominent black hero in the RK riots: Bobby Green. Instead of running around trying to upgrade his home entertainment system or get a new set of radial tires, he was quietly sitting at home, watching the mayhem on TV. When he saw on a news chopper feed local savages pulling Denny out of a semi stalled at a nearby intersection, Green hustled outside to (in his words) save a brother truck driver.

After he reached the scene he climbed into Denny's truck cab and drove him to the hospital. Later, some national news reporter had the gall to ask him why Denny got beaten; Green matter of factly replied:"Because he was white.""

Mr. Green is indeed a hero and a good man.

Anonymous said...

"..an angry black guy can beat up just about any non-black guy."

So many have bought into this "black superman" nonsense. Its almost a weird neo-inversion of the Nazi (German) "superman" of ages past.

Take a look at amy strongman contest and you'll see fewer blacks then in the NHL.

Blacks only wield a mental advantage because whites have been 'psyched out' by political correctness and fears of being called a "racist" - the modern day equivalent of calling someone a homosexual in Victorian times.

Simon in London said...

Mr Anon:
"I don't understand your quibble with my point. Proposition Nation, We're All the Same, Necon types - is that an irrelevant group? There are a lot more of them - a lot more, by far - than there are of us, certainly among those in the crowd with political and media influence."

I take your point - I was giving a personal perspective; for *me* Katrina caused revulsion with the US Federal government, with Fox News (except Shep Smith's in-city reports) and with neocon types like Mark Steyn who blamed the black underclass population of N.O. for not helping themselves. If anything, I'd say the black population of N.O. behaved slightly *better* than I'd have expected, the surrounding whites behaved slightly worse, and the Federal govt behaved far worse - first inaction, then sealing off the city and treating it as a war zone.

But, apparently a large swathe of Americans actually did expect the people of N.O. to behave like white Minnesotans, and condemned them for not doing so. They also expected the city government to behave with great competence. So I suppose that may have been a wake up call for them, just as you said.

Simon in London said...

Anon:
"So many have bought into this "black superman" nonsense. Its almost a weird neo-inversion of the Nazi (German) "superman" of ages past."

As a meme, 'black superman' seems to be exclusive to the USA, it doesn't seem to exist in the UK. From my experience in the American South it doesn't seem to exist there, either - it seems to start in Washington DC and run up the coast from there.

I'm guessing it's part of a 'flight or fight' threat reaction; white non-Southern Americans decided on 'Flight' in the late '60s, then developed this meme to retroactively justify it. In 1940s Detroit white mobs would happily clash with black mobs, showing no sign of this meme. Likewise in 21st century Birmingham, Pakistani mobs would happily fight with Afro-Caribbeans - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Birmingham_race_riots - apparently unaware they were supposed to flee in terror at the sight of black rioters.

Anonymous said...

Someone's probably already said this, given the number of comments but, Google's a limited search system for say, published commentary from the early 1990s given its natural prejudice for online material. You need Nexus Lexus or JStor to see what black publications, newspapers, magazines were saying about the LA riot. I wouldn't rule your theory out...but as you once said:
Whites have got
culpability
and we have not

Anonymous said...

Re: Simon of London and Anon:
"So many have bought into this "black superman" nonsense. Its almost a weird neo-inversion of the Nazi (German) "superman" of ages past."

The other thing is that white American males, especially those on the large size (i.e. 6 foot/ 180lbs and up) seem to me to be under serious societal/media pressure NOT to be seen as in any way aggressive or even assertive (outside of sports). Otherwise they're "jerks", "sexist pigs" or "bullies".

There is no such pressure on black males -- that's for sure.

Svigor said...

Even if the black guy doesn't use a gun, an angry black guy can beat up just about any non-black guy.

That's crazy talk. Have you ever lived near significant numbers of blacks?

Svigor said...

Blacks only wield a mental advantage because whites have been 'psyched out' by political correctness and fears of being called a "racist" - the modern day equivalent of calling someone a homosexual in Victorian times.

I think blacks have an edge in fighting (and certain athletic fields), but that's all it is, an edge, on average. And yes, part of it is psychological.

Svigor said...

From my experience in the American South it doesn't seem to exist there, either

I really wish I could give some juicy personal anecdotes, but I don't want to get anyone in trouble - some of it is still an open question, legally speaking.

Anonymous said...

"Take a look at amy strongman contest and you'll see fewer blacks then in the NHL. Blacks only wield a mental advantage because whites have been 'psyched out' by political correctness and fears of being called a "racist" - the modern day equivalent of calling someone a homosexual in Victorian times."

The average white schlub fears even the scrawniest black will suddenly flip out throw a punches like Joe Frazier.