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

grammaddy 3 years, 4 months ago

Have we learned? Doubtful.Nice one,Leonard.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

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

Ken Lassman 3 years, 4 months ago

There is no justice in random violence, agreed. But what does that have to do with what Mr. Pitts is talking about?

pace 3 years, 4 months ago

So you aren't outraged over the murder of Derrick Milam? You should be ashamed. Gloating about how you feel nothing, blaming the victim is your thing, but you go too far. yes he was at a party, but that doesn't excuse the guy who fired. You should be ashamed.

Jim Johnson 3 years, 4 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.

verity 3 years, 4 months ago

"Is he calling for another race riot?" No. Read the article again.

"Does he believe that no one other than a Black man has ever been treated unfairly?" No. Read the article again.

"How can mister Zimmerman even begin to get a fair trial?" I don't know, but Trayvon Martin certainly didn't get a fair trial and if there hadn't been a great deal of protest, apparently there would never have even been an investigation past the initial bungled one.

Pastor_Bedtime 3 years, 4 months ago

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

pace 3 years, 4 months ago

I think Pitts makes excellent points in this. If you feel like he is beating you like you are a dead horse, get yourself educated. A lot of racism disappears when the racist reads a variety of source material and works in the field, confronting their own prejudice being put to the test. Even a racist learns some of just what reality is compared to how they feel. Join NAACP, work with mixed race youth groups. do something with your hate to turn yourself and other to a better field. You will understand that racism is pretty alive. You might learn to recognize it, or to recognize what it isn't. One of the most racist person I ever met, when he was called a racist, answered "I am not racist, this is how I really feel".

Laura Moriarty 3 years, 4 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.

tomatogrower 3 years, 4 months ago

You expected jjinks to read the article? I think you are going to have to lower your expectations.

Jim Johnson 3 years, 4 months ago

I absolutely read the article and that's why I asked these questions, did you?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

Then perhaps you should thank Laura for pointing out your deficiencies in comprehension.

Jim Johnson 3 years, 4 months ago

I had none. Why was this article ran if not for the purpose of keeping the pot stirring?

Jim Johnson 3 years, 4 months ago

And Dr. Martin Luther King is a man that I look up to and his way was to do it peacefully not with riots as this seems to be headed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

And Pitts very clearly agrees with this sentiment. Sorry you have such difficulty in understanding what was written in this column.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

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

tomatogrower 3 years, 4 months ago

"To acknowledge [racial injustice] is not to lionize the rioters."

Take this to an English teacher, and they can explain to you what this means.

tomatogrower 3 years, 4 months ago

You obviously haven't read much of Pitts' columns. He thinks OJ should have been convicted. The truth in that case was the starry eyed prosecutors that were so enthralled with their new celebrity, they didn't do their job. Even Pitts pointed that out, and the fact that money talks, black or white.

grammaddy 3 years, 3 months ago

You're obviously misinformed about the NBPP.They offered $10,000 for the whereabouts of GZ.They wanted him ALIVE, not injured or dead.Why does everything with the word "Black" attached to it threaten you so much?

50YearResident 3 years, 4 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?

geekin_topekan 3 years, 4 months ago

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

weeslicket 3 years, 4 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?

geekin_topekan 3 years, 4 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.

gudpoynt 3 years, 4 months ago

Why don't you just go ahead and fill in the blank yourself, instead of trying to bait others into expressing your racial biases for you? A true bigot would own his bigotry.

gudpoynt 3 years, 4 months ago

Who do "white/___" not have "racial tension" with?

Who do "Hispanic/___" not have "racial tension" with?

Who do "Arab/___" not have "racial tension" with?

Who do "Asian/___" not have "racial tension" with?

Why did you choose to limit your blanketing, bigoted question to blacks? It's because Pitts is black, isn't it? No need to hold back, man. Release your inner bigot.

geekin_topekan 3 years, 4 months ago

Good point. I guess it would be easier to examine fear than race.

We (humans) are apprehensive, sometimes fearful, of that which is different from us. Blacks and Koreans were apprehansive of each other becaose of their differences. Blacks/white, same. White native-same etc. etc.

The point being that race may not be the source, but fear of what appears different from our interpretations of "normal", is the source of tension.

jaywalker 3 years, 4 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

"My guess is that's a simplistic and self-serving edit of what's actually been said to Mr. Pitts."

It gets said here after nearly every piece by Pitts.

jaywalker 3 years, 4 months ago

I would think the people that actually get the ear of Mr. Pitts wouldn't be as simplistic as the baiters here, but I could certainly be wrong.

Greg Cooper 3 years, 3 months ago

Jaywalker says: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.

That is a completely inane statement. It's like saying that perpetually beating people over the head with the statement, "The earth is round" is bound to create rewentment. It led to an understanding of celestial mechanics the church of the early ages strongly denied, that we now take as a given. Simply telling people the truth does not lead to resentment, but to understanding.

Maybe you have an issue with race that you do not want to acknowledge, even to yourself.

jaywalker 3 years, 3 months ago

"Maybe you have an issue with race that you do not want to acknowledge, even to yourself."

Thanks for the chuckle. Sorry, caught, but your comparison is moronic. However, if you think someone that "perpetually beat people over the head" that Earth was round didn't create resentment, fear, and violent retribution, you're not very learned. How do people view Sharpton or Jackson these days? How 'bout Farrakhan? Coulter? Beck? PETA? Fighting for what you believe is a noble undertaking. Persistently "lumping and lecturing" WILL create resentment, that's a guarantee. It's also fairly common sense.

pace 3 years, 4 months ago

I think Pitts makes excellent points in this. If you feel like he is whupped up, you are wrong. Get yourself educated. A lot of racism disappears when the racist reads a variety of source material and works in the field, confronting their own prejudice being put to the test. Even a racist learns some of just what reality is compared to how they feel. Join NAACP, work with mixed race youth groups. do something with your hate to turn yourself and other to a better field. You will understand that racism is pretty alive. You might learn to recognize it, or to recognize what it isn't. One of the most racist person I ever met, when he was called a racist, answered "I am not racist, this is how I really feel".

Jim Johnson 3 years, 4 months ago

Some of the most racist people I've met were not White so why do you assume that because we see this for what it really is that we are. And in saying that, some of the best people I've ever met were not White but good honest hard working people just like me that have come to my rescue when no White person would do anything for me. You don't have to join some Liberal organization to get along with honest people, it might make you feel good but try workinng right along side them all day and you'll maybe understand. But then I'd guess you would rather be able to go home and tell everyone how good you are because you did something for someone who will never appreciate it but just want more the next time you decide to feel good about yourself.

pace 3 years, 3 months ago

I have worked with kids, if you have and they didn't appreciate it, it is probably because you didn't take time to listen to them or to treat them like a person. I am sorry you wasted your time and theirs. I am a terrible person suggesting racists should be around normal people. They should just wallow in their hate and lies.

Mike Ford 3 years, 4 months ago

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

Liberty275 3 years, 4 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.

Mike Ford 3 years, 4 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.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 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 .......... )

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 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)

jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, Trayvon Martin is dead.

So, he won't be able to present his version of events at all.

I'm greatly in favor of fair and equitable trials for all, but there are many, many problems with our current criminal justice system - I think many people don't get fair trials, and the outcomes are often not just.

Given rather small amounts of evidence, and only one side of this story, I would think it's very difficult to determine what actually happened here, and what would be a just outcome.

Armstrong 3 years, 3 months ago

Shooting for a new record number of pointless posts today.

weeslicket 3 years, 4 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?

tbaker 3 years, 3 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

"Pitts sanctions violence."

Please cite the passage where he does this.

tbaker 3 years, 3 months ago

You read the article? “No justice, no peace” is a certainty. Show me where he says this "certainty" is a bad thing? Why mention it, and not condem it? Like L1 says, he certainly has a low opinion of the black community. On top of sanctioning violence, his entire piece is racist becuase it is based entirely on a disgusting generalization that is supposedly based on the popensity for blacks to riot.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 3 months ago

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

weeslicket 3 years, 3 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)

jafs 3 years, 3 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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