In the 'quiet riot,' there's no violence

Myriam Marquez

May 21, 1993|By Myriam Marquez

THE national news media have descended on Orlando, Fla., '' for the retrial of William Lozano -- just another cop accused of crossing the line to uphold the law.

Will there be rioting by blacks?

In Orlando? In Miami? Anywhere in America if this police officer goes free?

Or what if Officer Lozano is found guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of two black men -- a shooting at a motorcycle that ignited Miami's last riots, in 1989?

Will Hispanics riot in defense of the Colombian-born officer? In Orlando? In Miami? Anywhere? Television reporters seem particularly obsessed with the riot factor in the Lozano case.

Perhaps that is because the federal trial of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King ended without incident.

The role of the news media is not to incite rioting, of course, but inevitably they become unwitting villains simply by reporting about the conflicts, the tensions, the polarization of extremes.

Tension, after all, makes for a good story.

But while the TV cameras in Orlando focus on Officer Lozano, the more important story -- the one about the end of Miami's "quiet riot" -- has gone unnoticed.

No raging fires, no looting mothers carrying baby formula from burned shells of the corner store, no punks beating up innocent truck drivers who made a wrong turn into riot town.

No rage, no fires, no cameras.

What was hailed as a turning point in Miami's race relations -- the end of a 2 1/2 -year boycott by black professionals who refused to take their conventions to Dade County -- barely earned but a few seconds of air time on the networks last week.

The cameras stayed focused on the old story, the Lozano trial, and missed the big picture: the story of how black professionals throughout the nation showed their poorer brothers and sisters how to fight racism and succeed -- by withholding the green.

It cost Dade County's tourism industry about $50 million in lost conventions, but more than the money, it put Dade County's powerful tourism industry on notice that one-fourth of the county's population that is black has some clout. It was done without government help.

The "quiet riot," as the boycott was dubbed, came in response to official Miami's snub of Nelson Mandela, after the leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement praised the likes of Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat.

It ended with Miami Partners for Progress, a coalition of blacks, non-Hispanic whites and Hispanic educators and business people who sat down, talked things through and got on with the job of building bridges to the African-American community.

Dade County's major corporations and banks promised to help black entrepreneurs start or expand at least 10 businesses each year, to put together a consortium of black owners for a hotel and to help black business people to qualify for the financing, bonding and insurance they need to compete for bids.

The agreement also pledges to provide training, internships and scholarships in the hospitality industry for young people who, for too long, have felt shut out of an industry that has few blacks in management.

But perhaps the most promising initiative is the Partners' commitment to lure back to Miami as many as 200 African-American professionals who left their hometown out of frustration and resentment with the status quo. In a span of a decade, that helped shrink the base of middle-income households while more and more blacks slipped into poverty.

So the so-called underclass grew, and the fires raged.

Now the news media are in Orlando, looking for more fires. But it's not likely to happen, my friends. The quiet riot has ended in Miami, and hope has arrived. It's a story worth pursuing.

Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

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