Tim Stanley, British Writer in California, Sees Lessons For London in L.A. Riots
A third night of rioting around London had at least one British writer pondering the lessons of L.A's own unrest in 1965 and 1992.
Writing in the Telegraph, Tim Stanley concludes that America had gone from a bleeding-heart country where the Watts riots were seen as the growing pains of civil rights to one in which the poor were blamed in 1992 for lacking in personal responsibility.
And, he says, the latter, hard-assed approach will likely be England's reaction to what has happened in Tottenham and beyond since the weekend:
Between 1965 and 1992, the American public (black and white) lost its sympathy for rioters.
... Already some British commentators - on Left and Right - are suggesting that poverty and racism were the motors to the riot in Tottenham and that the British government has a moral responsibility to deal with them. Indeed it does, but it might find the public even less sympathetic than it was three decades ago when London was last aflame. Those Reaganite yearnings for law and order and personal responsibility have long-since travelled the Atlantic ...
It's true: In 1992 we talked of rebuilding what was then called South Central Los Angeles -- to bring Targets and Ralph's and jobs there -- but it was new immigrants who brought revitalization to the area.
President Clinton slashed entitlements for the poor: The L.A. riots were seen as a private-sector problem. Koreans were blamed for attitude, Latinos for looting, African Americans for violence. Class chasms, fleeting opportunity and institutional racism took a backseat.
And yet, for all the talk of investment and employment post-riots, L.A. never really regained the jobs it lost to the aerospace implosion that preceded the 1992 unrest. And Latinos in recent years, as we reported last week, have lost about two-thirds of their wealth during the real estate crisis. The song remains the same.
So, hey, London, thanks for the preview.