Suffice it to say, comments I received will not be published. Yes, racism and blatant ignorance is alive and well in 21st century America, folks. :)
It was April 29, 1992. I was living in Los Angeles. If that date does not stand out for you, it will after you finish reading this. If you were there, you remember. If you weren’t, it’s time to wake up.
My job as a Travel Agent was just a few blocks away from home. It was payday, and I was able to leave work early that day. I walked from the office to the bank in the California sunshine, enjoying the breeze. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, and whatever it may have been was quickly overshadowed by the events of the rest of the day.
I entered the bank and noticed there were three tellers behind the counter: a man and two women. They seemed startled by my entrance. As I stepped up to the counter, the man approached to assist me with my transaction. I then noticed the women were huddled rather closely together, seemingly in fear of something, whispering. The man was kind and smiling, but something felt off. The tension was thick in the air.
We finished up the transaction and I headed for the door. My first step outside the door was met with the sound of sirens coming up the street. Three police squad cars zipped in front of me, heading north, toward the heart of South L.A. Then, I suddenly heard a jingling sound behind me. I turned around to see the bank teller who had just helped me. He had the keys in hand and was locking up the bank. It was only 2:00 p.m.
As I continued on, crossing the large parking lot, I was struck by the thought that it was much too early in the day to be closing a bank. Then, in a flash, it hit me. I said aloud to myself, “The verdict came back. The cops got off.” I picked up my pace and as I got to the other side of the parking lot, a familiar blue Volkswagen Beetle pulled up in front of me and stopped. It was Sophia, my co-worker from the agency. Sophia was a single black mother and a good friend. She rolled down the passenger window to speak to me: “What are you doin’ out here walkin’ around?! You can’t be out here! You need to get in this car now!”. I didn’t hesitate. I got in the car.
Sophia then said to me, “I’m going to the ATM and then I am takin’ you home! This is city about to explode! You cannot be out here!” There was already a long line at the ATM outside the bank where I had just come from. I hadn’t even noticed how quickly things were escalating behind me. When Sophia finished at the ATM, she got back in the car and drove me home just two blocks away. As I was getting out of the car she asked me when my husband would be home. “You tell him NOT to go outside tonight. Stay inside. Lock up. If he has a gun, tell him to keep it loaded. This city is going to burn.”
For the rest of the night, my husband and I watched on TV the City of Angels go straight through hell. The police were absent. Firemen were under gunfire. News crews were flying overhead reporting on all of it. Buildings were burnt to the ground just a couple miles away from us. The damage from the L.A. riots extended all the way to beach towns.
That was 28 years ago.
Just this week, my town here in the Midwest, Naperville, Illinois, was looted over the wrongful death of George Floyd. In stark contrast, Naperville was rated the #1 Best Place to Raise a Family in America by Niche.com in 2019. In the same survey, it ranked #1,927 in Diversity.
The people that looted this mostly upper middle-class white neighborhood were privileged white teenagers and college kids. I watched them on their iPhones, driving around in circles in their parents’ Lexus and BMW’s, creating chaos.
One twenty-something girl in a Range Rover zipped down the road with a joint hanging out of her mouth. She was later spotted standing in a line in front of police shouting “Death to pigs!”.
A young black boy was stabbed by white boys in front of Barnes & Noble while trying to talk them down from breaking the windows of the store. He was born and raised here.
A group of white boys threw their skateboards into the windows and Pandora. It was a 30-year-old white woman who then walked in and robbed the store of $1500 of merchandise.
No white person can ever fully comprehend the oppression, racism and targeted harassment that our black brothers and sisters face every minute of every day of their lives. Any stress we may ever feel of being out in public is quadrupled for people of non-white races.
I can go into a grocery store, get what I need without being followed, watched or otherwise targeted as being a “threat” to the security of the store. They cannot. I can drive 5 mph over the speed limit – hell, even 10 mph over the speed limit – along with all the other white people on the road, and not be concerned that I am being profiled. They cannot.
The words of Rodney King ring my ears to this day – can’t we all just get along? The images of King being beaten nearly to death will never be erased from my memory. The burning of a entire city in response to a wrongful verdict, one of many to come. That wakes you up.
What I saw in L.A. on April 29, 1992 compared to what happened in Downtown Naperville this week…
Naperville merely had its dinner disrupted.
Most of the graffiti on the boarded up windows? Teenagers proclaiming Gen Z is the future, John Lennon, lots of flowers and pretty little words about peace, love and happiness. A lot of paper shit that is going to be flying around the streets when the boards finally do come down.
Do you think the spoiled punks of Naperville will clean it up? The 40-year residents that are upset because the ghetto came too close to their lily white bubble of existence?
I know I have been away from these pages for far too long. I just could not remain silent after seeing the phoniness and bandwagon-jumping going on at home.
Those people have no idea of the “why” behind any of this.