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Opinion

Opinion

No peace without justice

April 29, 2012

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Twenty years ago today, my hometown burned.

I had moved to Miami the year before and there is, let me tell you, something surreal about watching on television from a continent away as places you’ve been and streets you know are smashed and burned.

The Los Angeles riots happened because justice did not. They happened because a white jury in the far flung suburb of Simi Valley looked at video of four white cops bludgeoning a black drunk driving suspect, Rodney G. King, so viciously that even Chief of Police Daryl F. Gates said it made him sick — and yet, pronounced them not guilty of any crime.

To acknowledge this is not to lionize the rioters. You do not lionize 54 deaths and a billion dollars in property damage. You do not lionize what almost killed Reginald Denny, beaten nearly to death for the “crime” of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong color skin.

But one need not lionize the rioters’ method of expression to empathize with the message they expressed. Namely, a certain frustration, a certain sickness at heart, a certain outrage at being betrayed by justice — again.

It is an experience far older than the L.A. riots — and as relevant as the shooting of Trayvon Martin. On the surface, perhaps, the two incidents have little in common: the then-27-year-old drunkard beaten so badly after a high speed chase that his body and mind still bear the scars, and the unarmed 17-year-old boy shot to death by a neighborhood watchman who thought him suspicious because he was dawdling and looking around.

They are not dissimilar, however, in one telling aspect: delay. It took a ruinous riot and a new federal trial for Rodney King to receive anything approaching justice. It took 46 days, uncounted public demonstrations and the appointment of a special prosecutor for that process even to begin for Trayvon Martin. Historically, that has always been the problem when African Americans seek redress of grievances pregnant with racial overtones. Justice comes slowly, grudgingly, and grumblingly, when it comes at all.

I hear all these warnings not to “rush to judgment” in the Martin case, and it is sage advice. Yet I find myself wondering: when is the last time I saw anyone who is not black look at one of those episodes where the justice system failed African-American people — look at Trayvon, look at Jena, La., look at Tulia, Texas, look at Amadou Diallo, look at Abner Louima — and say, unprompted and unambiguously, that thus and so happened because of race. Outside of the most far-left liberals, they seldom do. Even when it is as obvious as a cockroach on white satin, it is something most cannot bring themselves to admit.

And yes, I know someone wishes I should just shut up about it. I hear that a lot. Indeed, more than once, someone has actually told me there’d be no racial problems in this country “if you didn’t talk about it.” What a piece of logic that is: ignore it and it will go away.

Such people, Martin Luther King once observed, mistake silence for peace. Silence is not peace.

As we count the lessons we have learned since L.A. burned, count that as one of the lessons we have not. Here is another: Justice too long delayed is justice denied. As protesters often put it: “No justice, no peace.” 

Sometimes, I wonder if some of us really understand what that means. With the L.A. riots now 20 years behind us and the Martin case before us, it is a good time to consider those words afresh, consider them in light of our noble ideals and too-frequent failings, consider them as if it were you, looking for recourse after justice failed you — again.

Because, you see, that slogan is not a threat. It’s not a prediction. It’s not even a warning.“No justice, no peace” is a certainty.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

There is an interesting and at times disturbing show called "What would you do?" on ABC.

It uses actors to set up situations, and then films the responses of those around them.

The most recent one set up a scenario of somebody obviously trying to steal a bike - when asked, they said it wasn't really their bike, or it would be soon, or is it yours? Etc. They were using hacksaws, bolt cutters, and even a power saw at one point (the white guy escalated to that when nobody intervened).

When the person doing this was a young white male, virtually nobody tried to stop him, called the police, etc. When it was a young black male, many people intervened and called the authorities. When it was an attractive young woman, men jumped at the chance to help her.

The two young men were wearing the same kind of clothes, answered questions the same way, with the same attitude, etc.

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weeslicket 1 year, 11 months ago

the following link is not exactly what i read in TIME mag 5.7.12, but it is pretty close.

http://ideas.time.com/2012/04/19/inside-the-racist-mind/ the racist mind (pppsssssstt: we ALL have one)

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

In the coming riots, liquor and electronics stores will be hardest hit no matter what sort of people own them.

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Liberty_One 1 year, 11 months ago

It's interesting how little Pitts thinks of black people. Apparently, he thinks black people are prone to violence and rioting and great care should be taken not to provoke them.

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tbaker 1 year, 11 months ago

Pitts sanctions violence. What a crank. If people rioted everytime they didn't like the outcome of a trial, what would we have? Thunderdome? If people don't like the outcome of this coming trial, they have a Ballot Box.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

**Reuters had a news article I read concerning George Zimmerman. Whether he is guilty or innocent of murder is not for me to decide. That is what our courts are for and I won’t make any assumptions one way or the other. But the story this news article told was unlike any that we’ve heard from the mainstream press since the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Had this story been told of the real background of George Zimmerman, of the neighborhood he lived in, and the escalating crime rate that was occurring which had everyone in the neighborhood concerned (black and white), I wonder if we would have had the outbreaks of violence across the nation we’ve seen the past couple of weeks. Would the New Black Panthers have been so willing to put out a bounty on a man, dead or alive (and still no action on this by our ill-named Department of Justice)? Would NBC have doctored the Zimmerman 911 call to make it appea r more incendiary than it actually was had the climate not purposely been prepped by, again, lies and half-truths? What if the news media actually did its job of reporting the news and didn’t make it up to sell copy?

Lies have the power of destruction behind them. We must all forgo the temptation to only be willing to hear what we want to believe and accept. A lie told often enough and long enough never turns into the truth. It’s up to us to make sure we are informed on all sides of an issue and not allow anyone else to manipulate our emotions or our reason for their own means. **

(d'une source)

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 11 months ago

The LA riots was a bunch of animals raping, burning and looting. The verdict was the excuse for their behavior. Pack mentality caused the riot. Just like the riots after sporting events, these alcohol infused animals ran wild. I would venture that 80%of the rioters had never even heard of Rodney King. If another riot like this occurs, break out the rubber bullets and open fire.

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weeslicket 1 year, 11 months ago

CRIMONY !!

i had to skip ahead, just a little bit more, then a little bit more, then a little bit more than that.

if we can learn nothing more from the previous (and, no doubt, following) thread: can we at least agree to THIS:

racism actually exists. it exists in our daily lives; and it exists in unexpected ways; during our times and places of life and work: and it is always happening, all the time. including now. (even though we might wish that it not happen any longer)

any possibility of saying I AGREE to those facts?

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observant 1 year, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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observant 1 year, 11 months ago

Shouldn't be surprised, but the sheer ignorance and racism continually demonstrated by the GOP/Teabaggers and Fox lovers is still mind boggling.

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BornAgainAmerican 1 year, 11 months ago

Unfortunately for George Zimmerman, Pitts, Sharpton, the Black Panthers, the liberal media, et all, will not consider that justice has been served if Zimmerman does not receive a stiff sentence. It will not matter what the evidence shows, the lynch mob will settle for nothing less than a conviction. They threaten violence if Zimmerman is set free. Will the court system be intimidated into a conviction? I hope not. That's not the American way.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

Another Florida resident gets aboard the crazy train: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/obama-owns-this-bust-346512 (contains much adult language) (from a source)

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

Funny thing is, tusch references Fox more than anyone on the forum.....like above, was tusch up during the night watching Redeye and Stoessel? That's not to say Fox is not the most trusted source for news. Maybe that's why tusch is always so crabby; he's upset from hearing the truth---things he would rather not know about that he won't get from MSNBC or Brian Williams nightly news. Tune in to NBC tuschie and lighten up!

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

You're getting all wild with the periods there, tuschie. Used to be that three were enough to link your ravings together. Where's it all going to end? ( ......... from ......... a .......... source .......... )

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Mike Ford 1 year, 11 months ago

nothing smart said by two of the seven dwarves........by the way foxbots.....what was on redeye this morning and what nonsense was John stoessel hawking... to deal with simpletons one watches fox for bull hockey and comedy purposes not to ignore propoganda.

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Liberty275 1 year, 11 months ago

"Because, you see, that slogan is not a threat. It’s not a prediction. It’s not even a warning.“No justice, no peace” is a certainty."

I suppose you gotta do what you gotta do. Stay off my lawn.

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Mike Ford 1 year, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

Did anyone ever give a flying fog about Reginald Denny's life after that savage beating? And anything I've seen or read of him in print or interviews, Denny holds no contempt for blacks at all and moved on with his life.

Sharpton, New Black Panthers, Jackson, Pitts, Tavis Smiley, The Congressional Black Caucus------are all about contempt for whites.

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weiser 1 year, 11 months ago

Where is Rodney King now? Working in some office somewhere?

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

jjinks has it dead-on accurate: Pitts' main goal is to keep his following whupped up into a race-baited frenzy.

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jaywalker 1 year, 11 months ago

"Indeed, more than once, someone has actually told me there’d be no racial problems in this country “if you didn’t talk about it.” What a piece of logic that is: ignore it and it will go away"

Riiiight. My guess is that's a simplistic and self-serving edit of what's actually been said to Mr. Pitts. Talking about race and standing against prejudice is one thing; perpetually beating people over the head with your agenda is another. And it's bound to create resentment.

Justice delayed is NOT justice denied. That's just dumb. In a perfect world all cases would be open and shut, but until we get some Pre-Cogs we're just gonna have to live w/ the way the justice system works. I don't know if Zimmerman should have been arrested that night, but the "delay" has shown how iffy the case actually is. The prosecution virtually secured the loss of the top count already, and that was done at the bond hearing, for crying out loud! Speedy justice would always be nice, just not at the expense of true justice.

This column is nothing more than a warning: "you already blew it by delaying the arrest, if he's not convicted - watch out." Sounds like nobody's carrying on Dr. King's legacy.

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 11 months ago

the LA riots were not so much about black/white as they were about racial tensions between black/Korean. The RK verdict was just the fuel they needed to lash out at each other which is why so much of Compton and Watts burned. It was an internal battle sparked by an unrelated outside issue.

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weeslicket 1 year, 11 months ago

in the 2nd post of the thread, observant states: But wait till the rightwingers show up and attack him for being a racist.. They never really read what he writes, just immediately discount it. yep.

anyhoos, what is the last line in the pledge of allegiance?

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 11 months ago

FHNC, did you abandon the "complex" Intellectual term already?

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50YearResident 1 year, 11 months ago

This is a veiled threat by Leonard. If there is no justice as the Black Man sees it, there will be more riots and deaths again. There is no other way to interpert this story. What he is calling for is, quit convicting blacks and blacks will quit commiting crimes and not burn down cities. Isn't this putting the cart before the horse? Justice, as seen by black people in Leonards view, don't convict and we won't burn it! On another headline, Rodney King is marrying one of his Jurers of the trial he won for compensation. Whats going on there?

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

Pitts is a "tired" old man "Bitter clinging" to old standards developed by white Liberals. It's sort of "cute" in a "tired" old way.

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

Race riots? What about the predominantly black throngs cheering wildly after OJ Simpson was acquitted of slaughtering two whites, one a female, the other a Jewish man?

Why doesn't Pitts call out the New Black Panthers for their contribution to this debacle, which was largely responsible for Zimmerman having to go into deep hiding?

Pitts is a racist and has essentially in his own mind already convicted Zimmerman.

I can tell you, if someone is attacking me physically and I do happen to be carrying, I will at least try to shoot them before they wrest my pistol from me and I instead get shot. What if that had been the scenario in the Zimmerman case? I bet we'd not be hearing about this anymore. I'd go so far as to say Martin would be hailed as a hero by the black community under that scenario.

And finally, yes there will be mass rioting of mostly blacks should Zimmerman be found not guilty or get a "slap on the wrist". You can bet on it.

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

How much national coverage would this story be if the assailant was white and the victim was black? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Note: how the article describes the killer, who was black.

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/03/28/berkeley-police-chief-still-dogged-after-response-to-hills-murder/

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

" ... he's not calling for another race riot..." He's just being an apologist for past riots.

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Laura Moriarty 1 year, 11 months ago

No, jjinks, he's not calling for another race riot. He writes, "To acknowledge [racial injustice] is not to lionize the rioters. You do not lionize 54 deaths and a billion dollars in property damage." He's clearly not promoting violence on any level. Also, he clearly does not believe that "no one other than a Black man has ever been treated unfairly" as he both brings up and decries the beating of Reginald Denney.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

I am glad Pitts is beating a dead horse. It is important for Pitts to "relive" old cliche's.

I got money for "bounties" on Americans if Pitts needs it.

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Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 11 months ago

I wonder what Reginald Denny's opinion of this editorial would be.

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jjinks 1 year, 11 months ago

Is he calling for another race riot? I guess it would be Hispanics aganist Blacks? Why is this article even in this paper? How can mister Zimmerman even begin to get a fair trial? Does he believe that no one other than a Black man has ever been treated unfairly? These are questions that all on here should be asking, there are two sides to all stoties.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

Where 's the outrage over the murder of Derrick Milam? No justice there.

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observant 1 year, 11 months ago

Good column. But wait till the rightwingers show up and attack him for being a racist.. They never really read what he writes, just immediately discount it.

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grammaddy 1 year, 11 months ago

Have we learned? Doubtful.Nice one,Leonard.

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