I was in high school when the riots happened. They affected me quite a bit and, while I was living in Florida at the time, they unfolded on CNN in nonstop coverage. The riots reinforced my belief in firearm ownership and how fragile civilization and order are, particularly among the lower classes. It wasn’t simply that crime exploded, but that any kind of united action against the police quickly overwhelmed the forces of law and order. The riots lasted more than a week. And we watched people getting beaten up and stores burned and looted and, most dramatically, complete shamelessness. Joking and laughing as fires were lit and defenseless people were dragged from their cars and pummeled.
I was also struck by the stupidity and nihilism of it. What kind of person burns down his own neighborhood? Pounds someone into near death in a wolf pack? I wondered from time to time during my years in Chicago if they could happen there too. In the early 90s, the racial tension in Chicago was palatable. Whatever illusions I had about racial harmony and the like after growing up in a comfortable suburb were totally destroyed by the LA Riots, the widespread racial divide over the OJ verdict a few years later, and the day-to-day anti-white hostility often seen on the South Side of Chicago. I was living in one world, and the mostly minority underclass might as well be from another planet. I don’t know what profound lessons are to be learned from all this other than the fact that liberalism is wrong and built on lies and disinformation.
Twenty years later, it’s amazing how the riots have been mostly forgotten. Or covered up. 100 year old lynchings and the Jena Six get CNN specials, but the riots, not so much. There’s not much that can be said positively about them, after all. Burning down neighborhoods, shooting fireman, and racist killings of white and Asians are not exactly the stuff of romance and memory. It was the symbolic equal and symbolic opposite of the civil rights movement. As official racism, segregation, and overt discrimination ended, a new set of problems emerged that were characterized by illegitimacy, violence, and extreme hostility among the underclass. The LA Riots just showed these things in extreme relief. The riots complicate what for liberal America is their greatest triumph.
Each age has its unique sins. But on one side of the divide we have Jackie Robinson and those dignified lunch counter protesters, well dressed, nonviolent, and polite in the face of cruelty. On the other, we have brutality and hatred, the mirror image of the racist order that liberalism endlessly reminds us of to the eternal shame of America.
The Los Angeles Riots were horrible. And, based on how easily the same groups just got riled up over Trayvon Martin, we don’t seem to have accrued social capital–in spite of intervening events–to prevent something like the riots from happening again.