Posted on August 1, 1992

O Tempora, O Mores! (August, 1992)

American Renaissance, August 1992

The Riots Rumble On

As expected, the Federal government has reacted to the riots in South Central Los Angeles by pouring money into it. So far, the feds have set aside $638 million and the total continues to grow. Three hundred million dollars is in subsidized loans by the Small Business Administration, and that figure could well reach $500 million. Another $200 million is in outright grants to local governments to replace public buildings that were burned down.

The $100 million or so that residents will see the quickest is for housing, food, and replacement of property. James Baker is a typical beneficiary. He lost his job as a shelf stocker when the store he worked in was destroyed. He gets food stamps, unemployment compensation, and grants with which to pay rent. “This is a great relief effort,” he says; “They have all the agencies you need here to take care of each aspect of your life.” [Richard Stevenson, Riots victims begin getting $638 million in aid, NYT, June 1, 1992, p. A12.] Let us hope Mr. Baker does not get so comfortable that he loses his taste for work.

The riots have introduced the strange logic of American race relations to insurance companies. Those that refrained from writing policies in South Central Los Angeles are being blamed for “blatant discrimination and abandonment of poorer areas,” while companies that wrote big policies are boasting about how much they will be paying out in losses. If anything were proof of the wisdom of staying on the sidelines in South Central, the most costly riot this century is surely it.

California’s Deputy Commissioner of Insurance, Steven Miller, doesn’t see it that way. He has proposed new regulations to induce companies to write policies on dodgey properties — and cover their losses by changing more to everyone else. [Peter Kerr, Did insurers abandon the inner city?, NYT, May 31, 1992, p. 1, Sec. 3.]

Meanwhile, about a third of the people arrested during the riots are being released because of insufficient evidence. When police make arrests by the armload, they cannot remember every face. In Los Angeles, some officers had the presence of mind to take polaroid pictures of looters, but those who did not must remember the reason for and circumstances of each arrest. When that is impossible, the suspect goes free. [Seth Mydans, Police can’t identify them, so looting suspects go free, NYT, June 3, 1992, p. A14.]

Straight Shooters

The 9mm semi-automatic pistol, favored by drug dealers, is a powerful weapon that can fire as many as 13 rounds without reloading. The six-shot, .38 caliber revolvers carried by New York City police are not nearly so potent. Recently, the New York State Senate voted 51 to 3 to even the odds by equipping the city police with 9mm weapons manufactured by Glock. Who should oppose this measure but Mayor David Dinkins and Police Commissioner Lee Brown? They have complained that the weapons are too powerful and too unreliable.

By curious coincidence, both Mayor Dinkins and Commissioner Brown’s own bodyguards carry the Glock 9mm. State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who supported the legislation to upgrade the police side-arm says, “Maybe I’m missing something, but if the Glock is safe enough to protect police commissioners, who have never been subject to attack in the past 50 years, why shouldn’t ordinary police officers have the same protection?”

Ray Kerrison of the New York Post (June 3, 1992) boldly points out that Assemblyman Joseph Lentol is missing something. Both the mayor and commissioner are black. “They don’t want white cops in minority neighborhoods with high-powered guns,” says Mr. Kerrison. [Ray Kerrison, If mayor & top cop oppose new gun”, NY Post, June 3, 1992, p. 2.]

The Color of Crime

On any given day, 42 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia between the ages of 18 and 35 are entangled in some way with the police. Fifteen percent of the men in that age group are in prison, 21 percent are on probation or parole, and 6 percent are awaiting trial or are fugitives. The same figures are not available for white people in DC, but a study done in 1990 in New York City found that the total equivalent figure for whites was three percent.

In Washington, 70 percent of black men are arrested at least once by the time they turn 35, and 85 percent are arrested at some point in their lives. In the city’s Lorton jail, 99 percent of inmates are black and one percent are white. [Jason DeParle, 42% of young black males go through capital’s courts, NYT, April 18, 1992, p. 1.]

Parading Politics

New York City, which its mayor likes to call a “gorgeous mosaic” of races and ethnicities, is becoming less and less American. One indicator is what the city decides to celebrate. For example, this was the first year that there was no Memorial Day parade down Broadway. [Michel Marriott, Sun and fun yield to a day of reflection, NYT, May 26, 1992, p. B1.] Now that the city’s population is 35 percent foreign-born and 57 percent non-white, its people no longer see the point in honoring soldiers who died for the country.

Christopher Columbus has barely survived the ax. Now that he is reviled as a racist and imperialist, the city no longer pays him any attention. Diana Dixon, a black woman who works in the mayor’s Office of Special Events, did not even want private citizens celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, and refused to grant a permit for a parade. Only after strong Italian-American support was mustered by a travel company owner, Bill Fugazy, did the Dinkins administration relent. [David Seifman, City discovers a hot potato: Columbus, NY Post, May 27, 1992, p. 14. Honoring Christopher Columbus, NY Post, June 1, 1992.]

Great Blacks in Wax

Great Blacks in Wax is the name of an all-black wax museum in Baltimore. One hundred or so figures are on display, including Malcolm X, Billie Holiday, Martin King, Rosa Parks, and Shirley Chisolm. The museum was founded with public financial help from the city of Baltimore and the State of Maryland, and is run by Elmer Martin, a professor at Morgan State University. He says he started the museum after many unsuccessful years of trying to teach history to black Little League players. “Documents wouldn’t do it,” he says.

Great Blacks in Wax actually displays a few whites. John Brown is there, and Rosa Parks is being taken off a Birmingham bus by a white policeman. [Dorothy Gaiter, Blacks in Wax: A museum breathes life into history, WSJ, May 26, 1992, p. 1.]

Such Capital Fellows

Late in May, Congressman Bob Traxler of Michigan was mugged just a few blocks from the Capitol building in Washington. A black man beat him unconscious and then rifled his pockets.

His brother congressmen made quite a fuss over the fact that such a thing could happen to one of their own within the shadow of the great white dome. Nevertheless, the uproar was notable for certain lacunae. Our legislators did not whistle up a study on the root causes of crime, nor did they commission an investigation into employment opportunities for black youth. They were strangely silent about the “legitimate rage” in the inner cities.

Instead, Congress set to work on a bill that would triple the geographical area that would be under the jurisdiction of the Capitol Police and added an amendment that would give the force general police powers. They also called in the FBI to help find the man who attacked Congressman Traxler. [When congress gets mugged, NY Post, June 3, 1992.]

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Blacks are turned down for mortgages more often than whites. The reason, according to prevailing theory, is that racist bankers deny loans to blacks just because they are black. No one has a convincing explanation for why bankers would deny themselves profitable business just because the borrower is black. No one seems to think that insurance salesmen or pharmacists refuse to do business with blacks, but bankers are apparently different.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to spend $1 million in taxpayers’ money to get to the bottom of this. They will pay black and white actors to fill out dummy loan applications with equivalent information and see if the white gets the loan more often than the black. [Dee Gill, Big banks asked to explain racial disparities in loans, Houston Chronicle, May 20, 1992, p. 1A.] How HUD will establish phony credit records and job histories for these people remains to be seen.

Bankers have been telling HUD that lending criteria are colorblind, but blacks are less creditworthy than whites. HUD is prepared to make bankers waste a lot of time over bogus loan applications in order to find out for itself.

Front-Page Effrontery

Ralph Martinelli is the publisher of eight weekly newspapers in New York’s Westchester County. On May 22 he printed a front-page editorial in three of them, entitled, “Here Was the Land of Milk and Honey.” He cited welfare and immigration statistics to show that illegal immigrants from Mexico are not the ornament to the nation we are supposed to think them:

They come in this country and have babies who are automatically American citizens . . . they swamp our welfare and social service rolls and the taxpayers of this country are paying through the nose to keep their children healthy and educated.

The editorial, which even spoke of “a horde of Spanish-speaking immigrants,” has elicited the usual fulminations from the usual quarters. So far, Mr. Martinelli is sticking to his guns. [Rose Marie Arce, Editorial outrages hispanics, NY Newsday, June 2, 1992.]

The Content of His Character

In Texas, judges are usually elected, but the governor fills unexpected vacancies by appointment. When a judge of the Texas Court of Appeals retired recently, Governor Anne Richards appointed a white Houston lawyer, Michael Charlton, to serve the rest of his term. In accordance with Texas tradition, Mr. Charlton sought approval for the appointment from his state senator, Rodney Ellis.. Senator Ellis, who is black, said that he did not want a white to get the job, and Mr. Charlton promptly withdrew. Senator Ellis told Gov. Richards she should appoint a black, and sent her a list of 10 names for consideration. [Alan Bernstein, Minority focus nudges white off appeals court, Houston Chronicle, May 13, 1992.]

The Houston Chronicle found this upsetting. In an editorial, it criticized Gov. Richards for not having consulted the black state senator before making her ill-advised appointment. [Doing it right, Houston Chronicle, May 15, 1992.]

Miami Vice

It has become increasingly common for gangs of “youths” to stampede into a store, overwhelm the sales clerks, grab whatever they want, and make a quick getaway. A recent such caper in Miami went awry when one of the getaway cars crashed after police gave chase. The car was immediately surrounded by an estimated 75 people who looted the car. “There was merchandise all over the place, clothes and jewelry . . . the tags still on,” said Tyrone Jones, who watched.

The crowd was hostile to the police, and would not let them approach the car. This was convenient for two of the robbers, who escaped on foot, but bad luck for another. He was badly injured and trapped in the car, but the crowd paid him no attention. He waited in the car, bleeding, until police could clear the crowd with dogs and cut him free. [Looters learn that turnabout can be foul play, Houston Chronicle, June 5, 1992.]

New Vices to Conquer

The government has discovered a new form of discrimination that must be extirpated: accentism. One of the forbidden categories of discrimination under civil rights laws is national origin. Therefore, it is illegal for an employer to decline to hire someone for a public contact position because of his incomprehensible accent.

This is a form of discrimination that somehow managed to escape detection until January of this year. A successful accent-discrimination suit in Los Angeles has set off a number of imitators. For example, in a recent case brought in Alexandria (VA), a motel refused to promote a Ghana-born employee to assistant manager because of his accent. His boss found the man otherwise capable, but asked, “How will our guests relate to this man’s accent?” This was the wrong question to ask. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued the motel. [Jay Sherman, Bias suit targets worker’s accent, The Fairfax Journal (Fairfax County, VA) May 27, 1992.] Hispanics are following the case with great interest.