US Protests Are NOT as Bad as in 1968 – But it is Heading That Way – Max Hastings | The Times UK

       MLK Riots – Baltimore 1968

Like Nixon before him, Trump may benefit from urban disorder

Max Hastings | The Times UK

Roosevelt Street, in a black Chicago neighbourhood, early on a Saturday morning: first I saw the scorched buildings, then the wrecked cars, finally the places being looted. Above a furniture store hung a mocking sign: “Spring has Sprung!”, with a handful of figures scavenging for anything that might have been overlooked by earlier waves of pillagers.

Police cars cruised by, shotguns poking from their windows. National Guardsmen, frightened men, stood clutching rifles at every street corner. Groups of African-Americans watched indifferently as “Whitey” sweated to preserve shops and homes.

This was the scene on April 6, 1968, as riots erupted across America after the assassination of Martin Luther King. As a very young reporter, I was a witness. In those times it seemed that race, the election and the Vietnam War were tearing asunder the greatest country on earth.   

After the flames died, a witty black reporter named Joe Strickland took me around a devastated area, where rage against injustice had exploded into mob violence. He said: “Don’t you listen to all the guys who now say they’re terrible sorry for what happened. When one dude talks to another he says: ‘It was a great fire, man!’.” 

I asked: “What do you think?” 

He shrugged and grinned: “It was a great fire, man!” 

What I learnt about the anger of the ghettoes scared me almost as much as it scared white America. I attended a church service in Detroit where the preacher was a black nationalist named the Reverend Albert Cleage. He stood before a huge painted black Messiah, holding forth to an entranced congregation, urging armed conflict as the only means to achieve racial equality:

“It ain’t us that’s scared now, it’s Whitey! They talk to us about riots. Have they forgotten they had their revolution too? Don’t they spend their time talking about that time they threw all the tea in Boston harbour? If you are black and you think your concern is with law and order, you are craven, selfish or insane!”  

His diatribe was interrupted by voices shouting “Preach it, baby!” and “Tell it to them as it is!”. Half a continent away, in Los Angeles, I met another black leader, Maulana Ron Karenga, who said: “Power is not granted. It is taken. Don’t please talk to me about ‘the situation in my country’. This is not my country. What do we seek? Self-determination, self-defence and self-respect.”

Recalling the America of more than half a century ago is a haunting experience for those of us who witnessed that strife, because now we see it on the cusp of revival. It should be said that the riots and African-American despair of recent days are nowhere near as bad as they were in 1968. But they are getting worse and nobody seems to have the will to assuage them.

In the decades that followed 1967-68, many of us persuaded ourselves that the US had turned the racial corner. White racism, such as we knew in the Deep South, seemed to have been defeated.

Successive presidents embraced racial equality, denounced white police persecution, lynchings, discrimination. In the 1960s reporters who visited such places as Memphis grew accustomed to local white folks abusing us as “n***er-lovers”. We laughed, confident that they were the past.

Nobody is laughing any more. The events unfolding in America today suggest that the attempt to reassert white supremacy has risen from the swamp of 20th-century conservatism. Moreover, it is being indulged and condoned by the nation’s president: Mr Trump knows that a hardline approach to the riots will play well with his core supporters and could prove decisive in November’s election. 

Police killings of African-Americans, both in the streets and in custody, take place with shocking frequency. In 1963 James Baldwin took the title of one of his angriest denunciations of racism from a black spiritual: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign/ No more water, the fire next time”. 

It is heartbreaking to perceive the same violent flailing against injustice once more ascendant today. In 1968 even Richard Nixon on the campaign stump would not have dared to deploy rhetoric, to rouse primitive forces, in the fashion of President Trump.

Many fear Trump will seek to make white supremacy his re-election rallying cry. If this happens, a new generation of black nationalists, emulating those I knew half a century ago, could rise to meet him, with tragic consequences.

Blowin’ In The Wind -Bob Dylan – Lyrics  (Song Released in 1962)
The melody is inspired by a traditional African-American spiritual – a song sung by former slaves. Bob Dylan said that’s why the song has always been spiritual. Still relevant after almost 60 years…. The answers are … Still Blowin’ in the wind …
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1968 riots may refer to:

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