50 years ago, today, our featured story began with a question, though it was clearly a clue as to what was coming. In fact, most of us – by most, I mean the white majority – already knew something was up, whether their position was at the top or at the bottom of the economic scale. Looking down, it was apparent the other colors were climbing, and looking up – wait! – how was it that whites could be on the bottom? But that wasn’t the only conundrum. There was a real puzzlement as to how Whites could regain stature without being like ‘them’ – all those other colors that had taken to the streets – without, outright, admitting that they, too, were beset by many of the same problems.
Hence, they were the long-suffering silent majority, quiet on many issues – but surely not about to point to the elephant in the room lest it be realized that it, they, had, indeed, lost ground. A humiliation for many for whom all that talk of equality was only salt in the wound – they were held, by their own hand, to a stand still as they claimed to admire what was, without a doubt, their loss of privilege.
But what of poverty… that stark reality of truly being equal to the other coloreds? When those who can escape it, do… and don’t look back… and those who don’t? The question here is only a shade different from the first – CAN White Americans riot? Is that even ‘acceptable’ to them… to rebel against a government whose policies to contain the poor – read ‘those other folks’ – have caught them in the net, too? Or is it ‘beneath’ them to even admit that the others in the net are their equals? Or, perhaps, their riot is still years away… because they firmly believe that Democracy (read as ‘majority rules’) will keep the problem, for them, from getting any worse?
This was a simmering, frustrating dilemma, the finer points, and the possible outcomes of which are discussed in ‘Prelude to Riot’, the book – published by Random House – by our friend and fellow LA Free Press Writer, Paul Jacobs. A respected social critic, a chapter had been published in Atlantic Magazine, and another in Harpers Magazine; it is our honor to reprint the book’s ‘Conclusion’ and, thus, bringing to you, our reader, the gist of its entirety.
However… a Whites’ Riot, here, en masse, against the government’s programs ‘for’ the impoverished did not follow the publication of Paul’s book though it was LA-centered, and our own publication was central to LA. Frustrations did, however, boil over then and again, but still it seemed that a riot ‘wasn’t our thing’. While, without a doubt, the thoughts and their foresight merited a place in the Freep, this time around, we’re featuring a different one within this same Issue.
It’s the parallel path taken, one that was quintessential of the era, our choice for this 50-Year Throwback because, in hindsight, it not only was representative of the 60’s, it’s the one that gained momentum at that moment. And, too, as always, it is one that relates to the here and now.
A final note ~ as to the aformentioned book, ‘Prelude to Riot’, we expect to be adding its final chapter, the one that is part of this Issue, to our A Unique Perspective section in the near future – right about when we see that riot acomin’.