- Posted May 1, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
50 years after race-riots: Have African Americans truly recovered?
Race riots certainly aren’t new to America, but when the 1960s mass race riots spread like wild fire throughout the Northern states it made America fall to its knees in the middle of one of America’s biggest wars, World War III or ‘The Cold War’ with the underlining anger between Blacks and Whites escalating to the effect of the most horrific, violent, and long-lasting riots America has ever seen. The casualties of a war fought on home soil were the lost lives of both Blacks and Whites, massive bodily injuries, and the destruction of thousands of buildings, businesses, and homes. Racial tension in major American cities had finally boiled over, and exploded into massive chaos.
In the midst of World War III which was said to be the nuclear war between the superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, it was America’s own war between Whites and Blacks that forced everybody to take notice of. Both Whites and Blacks each had their own battles to fight for, and in the 1960s it finally came to a full out war between races, and the battlefield were the streets.
The Cold War had begun during World War II, but it was World War III that brought the fear of a nuclear holocaust into existence- and it’s World War III that’s associated with the first nuclear weapon threat. The War came to be due to both sides being deathly afraid of fighting each other directly in a ‘Hot War’ for fear nuclear weapons might destroy all things, so instead both sides fought each other indirectly.
Throughout the Cold War eight different United States Presidents held positions; Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the former Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office and became America’s 36th President, but his responsibilities went from World War III to include a domestic war happening in his own country. The 60s was the era of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Period- but it actually occurred from 1955-1977, and it was also the time when Whites too, and Blacks were at their critical turning point and all the bitterness, anger, and emotions erupted out in the streets throughout the mid-60s to late-60s. President Johnson would have to address this along with the World War III, and address it quick before more bloodshed ruined and destroyed more communities.
From Rochester, New York in July of 1964; New York City, New York in July of 1964; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in August of 1964; Jersey City, New Jersey in August of 1964; Paterson, New Jersey in August of 1964; Elizabeth, New Jersey in August of 1964; Chicago, Illinois in August of 1964; Watts/Los Angeles, California in August of 1965; Cleveland, Ohio in July of 1966; San Francisco, California in September of 1966; Chicago, Illinois/Division Street Riots in June of 1966; Newark, New Jersey in July of 1967; Detroit, Michigan in July of 1967; Plainfield, New Jersey in July of 1967; Milwaukee, Wisconsin in July of 1967; Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota in August of 1967; Orangeburg, South Carolina in February of 1968 (or its given name ‘the massacre’ because most of the killings of Black people happened with a bullet through their back); and what was named ‘the King assassination mass riots’ that occurred in 125 cities from April to May in direct response to the murder and assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The 60s were the decade of what was named ‘the mass race riots’ and this on top of World War III was what President Lyndon was facing- America’s well hidden domestic war happening right on home soil that was the direct result of race and social issues. Reports for the 25 worse riots of all time placed the city of Detroit at number one, later to take the top three spot after in April of 1981 a city called Brixton, London came in at number one and the LA riots in 1992 came in at second place for the worse riots of all time. LA race-riots weren’t just Blacks and Whites against each other, but the Latino population joined in with Blacks to fight. The 60s, 80s, and 90s were extremely different eras in time, but the rage had remained and came to explode when on April 29, 1992 a new generation that had lived through the 80s crack epidemic, police brutality, and newer social and racial policies had acquired national attention when in Los Angeles, California angry American citizens would participate in one of the worse race-riots of all time. Los Angeles, California got the attention of the entire nation, and everybody’s eyes were glued to the television to see what Blacks and the Latinos who joined them would do next. Women trying to protect their children would flee to welcoming businesses for safety, people being pulled from their own vehicles only to be severely beaten, and intersections were over-powered by Blacks attacking every vehicle that passed through- as local news highly advised everybody to avoid certain intersections because of the extreme danger.
The mass rioting across the nation brought attention to two American cities, Atlanta and Detroit, where it was reported that African Americans could maintain a better living than other Blacks in other major cities. Two American cities were made prime examples of during the 60s; with Atlanta being reported to have the most peaceful race-relations than any other major city and Detroit reported to have a higher percentage of African Americans driving automobiles and having a higher standard of living than Blacks in other major cities, the rest of America were left confused as to why African Americans would riot in these cities.
The 1960s was a liberating time, and a time when issues were addressed in powerful ways, but it also hurt African Americans. It indeed hurt all groups, including Whites who were affected economically, socially, and moved their families out of the cities to the suburbs throughout the nation- which was named ‘White flight’ and elite neighborhoods and houses that were once closed to Blacks became open, and it turned cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington D.C. into cities where Blacks took over areas that were once closed to them- with more and more White families selling their home each time another Black family purchased a home in their own neighborhood. Race riots made it where for the first time ever in American history, there was an all Black American city- and Detroit has paid dearly ever since- socially, politically, economically, and race-relations still being a house divided. Detroit started paying dearly when President Lyndon addressed the nation with Detroit as the main agenda (clip included).
How did the 1960s race riots hurt African Americans? Not only did the riots carry an economically significant negative effect on Blacks’ income and employment, but the riots drastically depressed the median value of Black-owned property between 1960 and 1970- with little to no rebound in the 1970s. The extreme amount of death, injury, and prison time for Blacks hurt African Americans, and effected families trickling down to succeeding generations. Both, Whites who participated and didn’t participate in rioting weren’t exempt from becoming negatively effected either- but African Americans paid a huge price that is still presently in effect.
Any American of a certain age remembers the race-related riots that tore through numerous U.S. cities in the 1960s. Between 1964 and 1971, civil disturbances had handicapped everyday life for many Americans across the nation, which resulted in large numbers of deaths, injuries, and arrests, as well as millions in property loss and damage, concentrated in predominantly Black areas. Now, we have the argument that has plagued Americans since the 1960s, “Why would Black people soil in their own neighborhoods” or “African Americans are the reason for their own demise” but where else would the riots start but only in their own neighborhoods or areas where the police were coming to them? Where else would the race-riots begin, but in cities where Blacks and Whites were living together with one awful occurrence after another bringing forth racial tension to explode any given day?
Although the United States has experienced race-related civil disturbances throughout its history, the 1960s events were unprecedented in their frequency and scope. Law enforcement authorities took extraordinary measures to end the riots, sometimes including the mobilization of National Guard units. The most deadly riots were in Detroit (1967), Los Angeles (1965), and Newark (1967). The severity of the riots was measured by how many arrests, injuries, arson, and economical damage occurred- which adds Washington (1968) to that list. Particularly following the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968, the riots signaled the end of the carefully orchestrated, non-violent demonstrations of the early Civil Rights Movement- those days were certainly over.
Race-riots are still being studied to this day, with many social scientists studying the causes and long-lasting effects of the riots. Studies have found until 1975, the racial gap in average earnings among full-time male workers in the United States had narrowed. There were periods of sharp uniting, as in the 1940s, alternating with periods of relative inequality and civil strife, as in the 1950s and early 1960s. After 1970, racial balance in earnings slowed significantly, in part because many low-wage Black males were no longer engaged in full-time work. The proportion of Blacks living in high-poverty urban neighborhoods increased as well, and residential segregation led to increasingly poor socioeconomic outcomes among young Blacks.
Research tentatively estimates a decline in median Black family income of approximately 9 percent in cities that experienced severe riots relative to those that did not. Some evidence even suggests an adverse effect on adult male employment rates, particularly in the 1970s; and between 1960 and 1980, in cities where severe rioting occurred there had been relative declines in male employment rates of 4 to 7 percentage. Reports do suggest that the decline especially was detrimental for men under the age of 30.
Social Scientists investigate the influence of riots on central city residential property values, with a special focus on Black-owned properties. What was uncovered was that the riots had significantly depressed the median value of Black-owned property between 1960 and 1970, with little to no rebound in the 1970s. The minimum estimates for what is called “severe-riot cities” relative to small or “no-riot cities” range from approximately 14 to 20 percent for Black-owned properties, and from 6 to 10 percent for all central city residential properties. Reports also found that the household-level data for the 1970s showed that racial gap in property values widened substantially in riot-afflicted cities relative to others.
The exact mechanisms through which the riots affected economic activity over a long period of time are difficult to identify, but a large number of potentially reinforcing mediums do exist. Property risk might seem higher in central city neighborhoods than before the riots, causing insurance premiums to rise; taxes for income redistribution or more police and fire protection might increase, and municipal bonds may be more difficult to place; retail outlets might close; businesses and employment opportunities might relocate; middle and higher income households might move away; burned down buildings might be an eyesore; and so forth.
Now we find ourselves in the era of ‘the crack epidemic’ swooped into the U.S. with deadly consequences and fatal results that especially hit many Black neighborhoods across America hard. The crack epidemic is commonly recognized as being between 1984 to the early 1990s, but some social scientists argue the start date, and agree it was prior to 1984. In a statement from New York Senator Charles Schumer made in August of 2004, “Twenty years ago, crack was headed east across the United States like a Mack truck out of control, and it slammed New York hard because we just didn’t see the warning signs.”
Crack, the 1980s killer besides Aids, killed many African Americans. Every race was drastically changed by crack, and with countless lives lost from all races because of either the ‘war on drugs’ or the actual drug, the death toll rose to historically monumental numbers. American neighborhoods would be engulfed in drugs, crime, violence, and killings; and with just another ‘any given’ T.V. news report on the common street killings your eyes were glued to the television to see all the dead bodies lying lifeless on the streets. Law enforcement were overwhelmed, so you begin to see, just like in the 60s mass riots in specific cities, military trucks riding in the streets patrolling. Places like Los Angeles gave new meaning to police patrolling when you saw LA police patrolling too hard when they started violating homeowners’ rights by barging into homes on top of riding military trucks in everyday neighborhoods.
Crack was a main reason why in the 1990s you saw a heavier increase in Black families moving to the suburbs, and a main reason for America’s education racial gap. But ‘the Black flight’ if you will call it that, was occurring before the 90s- in the late 80s you saw a noticeable influx of ‘Black flight’ occurring. In certain metropolitan areas, there was a second occurrence of ‘White flight’ which created new generations of Black youth to live in all-Black or majority Black suburbs. You had places like Atlanta, Detroit, and Washington D.C. with a strong Black presence, and the suburbs were seeing more and more Blacks with each passing year.
Many experts suggest the rise of crack cocaine gives an explanation to the end of racial equality in education, with many stating America’s education system has never resulted in educational racial equality. Beginning in the mid-1980s, you begin to see a massive increase in murder and incarceration rate, and you begin to see Black high-school graduation rates declining drastically from 40 to 73 percent. The 40 to 73 percent is the Black male percentage, and with more and more of Black males going to prison a lot of Black families paid an ultimate price of poverty or losing loved ones due to prison or death.
While crack affected all races and communities, crack hit Black neighborhoods much harder than most. Indicators of societal progress show Black infant mortality and low-birthweight babies, and parent abandonment began to soar in the 80s- and the gap between Black and White schoolchildren significantly widened, and the numbers of Blacks sent to prison tripled.
Crack was so extremely and dramatically destructive that social scientists have reported saying, “Crack was so dramatically destructive that if its effect is averaged for all Black Americans, not just crack users and their families, you will see that the group’s postwar progress was not only stopped cold but was often knocked as much as ten years backward. Black Americans were hurt more by crack cocaine than by any other single cause since Jim Crow.”