No matter what the 'experts' say, it was still a riot

Mike Royko

May 06, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

Thank goodness for the many experts who are explaining why Los Angeles exploded into violence. Without this enlightenment, we might have thought that a lot of gangbangers, thugs, thieves and other nasties had seen an opportunity to run amok and had taken it.

For example, Jesse Jackson was all over TV, providing us with a fascinating financial analysis. He said that it costs considerably more to put a person in jail for a year than to send someone to college for a year.

That's useful information. And it might be something the prosecutors and judges should think about when the trials are held for the hundreds of rioters who were arrested on serious criminal charges.

The judges might say: "Ah, you were caught setting fire to a grocery store. Well, that is a serious offense, so I sentence you to four years as a liberal arts major at UCLA. And if you get in trouble again, I will throw the book at you by sentencing you to earn a master's degree. Next case.

"Hmmm, this is a grave matter. You beat a motorist on the head with a hammer. That cannot be tolerated. So I sentence you to a two-year course in computer programming. And if you flunk out, you will have to take the entire course over again."

And we've also learned that the media has been misleading the viewers and readers about what has actually been happening in Los Angeles.

As a result, many people think that what they saw was a riot. But it wasn't. It was a rebellion.

This was brought to our attention by a panel at a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"We let white people call it a riot," said one of the panelists. "It's a rebellion between classes of all colors,between the haves and have-nots."

Of course. As my dictionary defines rebellion: "An act or state of armed resistance to one's government. A defiance of or opposition to any authority or control."

That clarifies what happened to Howard Epstein, who was driving to the machine shop he owns in the area where the rebellion occurred.

He didn't get there because some rebels surrounded his car and shot him to death. Then the rebels looted his car. Actually, I'm not sure if it's accurate to call it looting. Since this is a rebellion, we should probably say that the rebels appropriated the contents of the car.

It will probably make Mr. Epstein's family feel better to know that he wasn't just an ordinary murder victim. He died because he was a have during this rebellion by the have-nots.

Of course, the rebels could have taken Mr. Epstein's possessions without shooting him. But had they spared his life, he would still be a "have." And what kind of rebellion would that be?

It's a little less clear, though, why these rebellious rebels killed Elbert Wilkins.

Wilkins, who was 33 and black, walked out of a store where he had bought a bottle of pop. Just then, a car went by and someone in the car shot him.

Although Wilkins had a small business, installing car stereos, he wasn't wealthy and hardly qualified as one of society's "haves."

I suppose it's possible that the rebels in the car did not have their own bottle of pop. So in that regard, they would have been soda have-nots, while Wilkins was obviously a soda have. And that's just not right.

It's much easier to understand the fate of Matthew Haines. He was on a motorcycle when he was surrounded by a dozen or so of the rebellion-makers. After the rebels confiscated his possessions, one of them shot Haines in the head.

The motorcycle was probably the reason. Haines was a motorcycle-have. The man who shot him was a motorcycle have-not. A clear case of social injustice. If the gunman is ever caught and brought to trial, I'm sure the judge will understand.

I'm sure that's why that truck driver was almost killed in the beating most of us saw on TV. He was a member of that social class known as the wealthy, pampered truck-haves.

Those who pulled him from the truck and caved in his skull didn't own a truck among them. Is that fair? Is it a just, caring society that would let one man be behind the wheel of so big and expensive a truck, while those on the street don't even have a spare tire?

That should be a lesson to all truck-haves. Do not arrogantly flaunt your truck in the faces of those who are truck have-nots.

Of course, if you do find yourself in that situation, there is another lesson to be learned. Stomp the gas pedal and run the bastards down.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.