Future Policy sample essay

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This report looks at the Los Angeles riots and focuses on consequence and long term implications for African Americans. The report focuses on both the Watts riots of the mid twentieth century and on the LA Riots of 1992, after white police officers were not convicted of beating Rodney King after the whole nation saw the intense and cruel beating, which had been videotaped, and showed King on his hands and knees, still being beaten by four or five officers.

The riots that occurred in Los Angeles in 1992 after the verdict of the Rodney King trial were the subject of sustained mass-media focus that continues into the present, and arguably has continued since the Watts riots of 1965, which not only affected LA but also spread to other cities, even cities on the east coast. This report looks at how the struggle for justice in the face of police brutality has succeeded in some ways and failed in others. Given the slant of the paper towards police brutality and the centrality of this issue to the 1992 riots, it is assumed that the assignment parameters are talking more about these than their predecessors in the sixties (although police brutality was also an important issue to these riots).

Really however the assignment parameters could be a lot more clear about which riots it wants the student to focus on. Looking back at the LA Riots, whether in 1965 or in 1992, from the perspective of the present, it is easier to categorize different viewpoints as they acted, and continue to act, as source-based representatives of different outlooks in terms of cultural discourse. Issues related to the unrest are largely polarized in terms of voiced or promised support for helping the communities of Los Angeles affected by the riots and other sources which focus more concretely on the social injustices that have continued past the riots and into the present day.

“Looting stores at will and setting businesses on fire, the rioters focused the nation’s attention no the plight of urban blacks. In the aftermath of the riot, government and state agencies promised new efforts to help the ghetto dwellers” (Crump, 1966). These efforts were seen by many of these individuals themselves as being ineffectual, as the roots of the causes of the unrest are seen by many to go much deeper than superficial remonstrance, just like in the 1992 riots. “A poll taken in April 1992 revealed that 51 percent of African Americans believed life had ‘gotten worse’ during thepast ten years, up from 35 percent in mid-1991” (Zook, 2000).

This paper will address the Los Angeles riots from a short term and long term perspective that focuses on examining sources from print media, interviews, and popular culture, from the sixties somewhat, mainly from the early nineties, and also from the present. These sources will be reviewed and then presented holistically in terms of the expression and limitations of memory.

One source of continuing information about the riots in Los Angeles is that of print media. Print and broadcast media took the attention of the nation during the Los Angeles riots and showed viewers and readers events as they were unfolding in pictorials and direct reportage. Since then, although the riots have not remained the sustained focus of the nation’s mass-media after the end of their focus, the Los Angeles riots have remained memorialized in terms of collective national remembrance that often focuses too little on the root causes of the riots and focuses too much on its spectacle.

Some retrospectives simply recall events chronologically and seek to make clear distinctions between the present and the past by focusing on the past in a ruminative and cumulative way that does not address issues from the unrest that have carried through to the present. This may have been a media mistake that was made when the Watts riots supposedly ended. In a Los Angeles Times article from 1993, at the close of the civil trials of the Rodney King case and just after the riots, this direct reportage tells of a trial that is being rushed in an atmosphere of tension. “Lawyers for four police officers charged with violating Rodney G. King’s civil rights brought their case to an abrupt conclusion Thursday, resting a defense that stumbled at times and depends largely on whether jurors believe the testimony of Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, the only officer to take the witness stand” (Newton).

At this point, the riots had ended, but the repercussions of the unrest were still active in the national imagination. The fact that the trial was rushed seems to denote that those involved wanted nothing more than to leave the situation behind and not draw out the trial by calling too many witnesses. It is interesting to think of how this rushed trial represents not only the injustice that had spurred the rioters in the first place, but also how it reflects the mutability of the

legal system when it is the object of intense scrutiny and alarm as it is related by the mainstream source to the political and business environment of the time. “With the trial drawing to an unexpectedly quick close, political leaders and business executives turned with new urgency to the potential fallout from the case… debate heightened over whether the judge should delay disclosing the verdicts so law enforcement authorities can mobilize. City officials also said they were exploring the legality of postponing the April 20 municipal election should there be a repeat of the unrest” (Newton).

The atmosphere around the case is seen from this perspective to be tense and guarded, as further unrest is feared. This is the cautionary perspective of a mainstream, high-distribution publication in Los Angeles. In terms of short term and long term consequences for African Americans, the events of Spring 1992 and 1965 are seen from the perspective of the present in terms of proposed and real solutions. This perspective allows one to contrast the direct events of the sixties early nineties to their actual consequences and repercussions as they have evolved since then, into the present.


Chapman, J. (1967). Incredible LA. New York: Harper. Crump, S. (1966). Black Riot in LA. Los Angeles: Trans Anglo. Dentler, Robert A. “The Los Angeles Riots of Spring 1992: Events, Causes, and Future Policy” (excerpt). The American Story. New York: Longman, 2002. Newton, Jim. “Defense Rests in Rodney King Case. ” Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1993. Whitaker, C. (1992). The Rodney King Wakeup Call. Ebony. Zook, K. (2000). Rodney King. St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture.