Blacks riot in Watts in 1965; have things changed?
By Don Valentine
The New York Times reported in 1965, “…the predominantly Black Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, racial tension reaches a breaking point after two white policemen scuffle with a Black motorist suspected of drunken driving. A crowd of spectators gathered near the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street to watch the arrest and soon grew angry by what they believed to be yet another incident of racially motivated abuse by the police. A riot soon began, spurred on by residents of Watts who were embittered after years of economic and political isolation.” The rioters eventually ranged over a 50-square-mile area of South Central Los Angeles, looting stores, torching buildings, and beating whites as snipers fired at police and firefighters. Finally, with the assistance of thousands of National Guardsmen, order was restored on Aug. 16.
Let’s ask if in the 50 years since the Watts riots has America evolved in the challenge of racial tensions? The cynical person will reflect to Ferguson, Tex. and the horrific murder of nine church members in Charleston. Their argument “Is so has it been and so shall it be”. That 50 year old New York Times depiction might make you think that nothing has changed. It does sound very familiar.
I happen to live in the state of reality and notice some fluctuations since that incident. We now have a two term President that looks like the rioters. Who thought in 1965 that would ever happen? We have had two Black U.S. Attorney Generals. The latest being a female Attorney General. Rosa Parks never thought those accomplishments would be made in American history.
Americans share a past of over 400 years of Black subjection. This will not be erased in a 50 year period. We can pray that it will not take another 400 years to balance the scale. It seems certain by the election of the current President that the window has opened for future changes. All races have to be resolute to keep it open, because the temptation of racism still persists. Dr. King historically said “I have seen the Mountain Top…” but we have not crossed it yet! The current President did not get elected by the 13 percent of the Black electorate. We as a Union have made great strides. The process is not completed and we need to continue the discussion of our discords.