Sunday, April 18, 2010

Watts: Riot or Rebellion?

45 years after the eruption of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, its legacy is still somewhat unknown. I was looking for more information on the event when I found a website that had a section on the bottom posing the question of whether the event was a riot, or a revolt. To many, it was just a social breakdown of the relations between the civilians and the police force that unfortunately swelled up into a mob rule.
To others, however, it seems that since the brutality and bloodshed had a purpose, that of voicing out the frustrations of the conditions for blacks and their lack of opportunity for self improvement compared to whites, it makes more sense to call it a revolt. This was declared in an interview posted on the Findind Dulcinea website with Tommy Jacquette, who was a friend of Marquette Frye (the man whose arrest began the whole event) to the Times in 2005. He further added, “It was a response to police brutality and social exploitation of a community and of a people.”
I have always been the one to accept facts for what they are: facts. But in this case, after discussing the struggles of several ethnic groups in class, from Black to Hispanic to Asian, these two articles made me consider the possibility of finding a better explantion than just accepting what has been stated. In this case, for the people that praticipated in the riots of 1965, I think it would make more sense to call it a rebellion, because they did have a purpose. In my opinion, the fact that it happened in Los Angeles, which was ironically known for having the best living conditions for blacks, causes more speculation as to why the name “riot” has stuck more, which gives the implication that blacks were just waiting for a chance to rise against the government.
Another article in the NPR website included an interview with Alice Harris (known as Sweet Alice), who has lived in Watts for 46 years, and says that there has been little change ever since. She claimed “"Everybody is tense -- no jobs, zero tolerance in the housing projects... people scared of the police.”
This leaves the thought of whether the possibility of another riot (or rebellion) of any scale is likely to happen again in the future. Race tensions are still rather high, and with issues such as immigration and others emerging, I cannot help but think how much people can tolerate in this day in age before forming a rebellion, a social movement with the purpose of making their lives better, not a revolt, which would only keep the stereotypes and tensions alive for who knows how many more years.

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