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What about ‘Black Privilege’
Author: Gregory Clay
Photo: Johnny Nguyen, The Associated Press


We’ve been hearing a lot about the “P” word lately.

It’s called “Privilege.”

We’ve heard about White Privilege, Athletes Privilege, Educational Legacy Privilege, Presidential Privilege . . . . .

I... Well, what about “Black Privilege.”

The privilege to riot.

We saw the out-of-control stepfather of Michael Brown screaming maniacally, “Burn This Bitch Down,” on Nov. 24 in riot-and-loot-torn Ferguson, Mo., three days before Thanksgiving.

Was he arrested for inciting a riot? No.

Do we call that “Black Privilege?”

The Scorched Path logic is crystal clear: When something doesn’t go your ideological way, just burn down everything. Don’t sanctify, let’s justify to satisfy and gratify.

Isn’t there an implied reference in one of our sacred constitutional amendments on free speech that says something about not yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is none.

Will any of the rioters and looters in Ferguson be imprisoned? Probably not.

In the past week or so, some socio-cultural critics have said black folk view rioting and looting as an entitlement, such as Social Security and Medicaid. If that’s true, we are living in an America of shame.

A rioter’s mentality suggests a belief in Pyrrhic victories: Burning and looting to quench a thirst for ephemeral power at the expense of destroying the very shopping establishments said rioter might frequent following that chaotic state of destruction and disillusionment.

Rioting and looting in black communities is nothing new.

In this current decade chockful of momentous and eclectic 50th-year anniversaries, from the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 to the March on Washington in 1963 and the moon landing in 1969, I remember the Watts Riots in Los Angeles of 1965.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary. Sadly, 34 people died in Los Angeles during a six-day span.

In 1967, Detroit went up in flames during racial unrest; 43 people died in a five-day span. That same year, 26 people died in Newark riots during a six-day span.

What do Ferguson, Watts, Detroit and Newark have in common?

Each incident of devastation was sparked by a controversial confrontation between a black male and a white police officer. Each situation also was inflamed by the usual socio-economic subtexts and underpinnings of the “ness” words: joblessness, hopelessness and restlessness. Each incident was surrounded by incendiary rumors that only exacerbated the situation.

Rumors and street messages, whether true or not, spread like wildfire. Did the cops beat the black dude? Did the cops shove the black dude’s mother? Did the cops use excessive force? Did the cops shoot an unarmed black dude who had his hands up in surrender mode.

In the annals of history, March 31, 1968 at the Washington National Cathedral proved to be an eventful day: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last Sunday sermon. Remember this passage from his sermon before a predominantly white audience jam-packed for the occasion: “I don’t like to predict violence. But if nothing is done between now and June to raise ghetto hope, I feel this summer will not only be as bad but worse than last year.”

Dr. King turned out to be a prophet, except national turmoil didn’t wait for the summer.

All of this takes us to April 4, 1968. It was a Thursday night in Memphis, Tenn., when Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. It seemed that within only a matter of minutes of the King death announcement that a match was lit and the whole nation went up in flames. Key cities, including Chicago and Washington D.C., especially were hard hit.

All of this while the United States waged an intense military operation in Vietnam. All of this while the United States currently wages an intense military operation against ISIS in the Middle East.

I remember watching the television footage that night in 1968 and the subsequent days. Tanks and armored vehicles, mounted with machine guns, patrolled the streets. The National Guard was deployed. President Lyndon Johnson, like President Barack Obama on Nov. 24, called for calm in a national speech while flames of despair sprouted. Except now, cities may need that military-style equipment to combat terrorist attacks --- both foreign and domestic. Scary times in ‘68; scarier times in 2014.

So we have seen this movie before.

That’s why when I hear TV commentators and critics say the militarization of the streets in Ferguson is something unique to the modern United States, I know they are greatly mistaken.

Riot after riot after riot in black neighborhoods in the 1960s.

Is that “Black Privilege,” despair and social issues notwithstanding?

What about the Rodney King riots in 1992 in Los Angeles and remember the Miami riots in 1989 when the city hosted the Super Bowl. Black folk in Liberty City and Overtown were rioting and looting mere days before the Ultimate Game . . . also known as America’s No. 1 Spectacle.

When I moved to Washington in 1996, I could discern sections of the city that were hit hard by the riots. It was obvious that Washington, like Chicago, Baltimore and other cities, had not yet FULLY recovered from the ‘68 riots.

But lately, the city has undergone a major gentrification process. Areas that were predominantly black in ‘96 aren’t anymore. More white folk, especially young and skilled college graduates, are moving into Washington. I don’t need a Pew Research study or Gallup poll to see that.

Many black folk are moving out of the city. Why? Because many of them cannot afford the suddenly rebuilt neighborhoods that suddenly cost more to inhabit.

I hear some black folk in the city grumbling about the higher prices, higher rents, higher cost of survival in their old neighborhoods. Riot-and-loot-torn areas of the city are being refurbished. However, look how long it took.

Yes, black folk had the “privilege” of burning down and looting parts of the nation’s capital decades ago and Ferguson more recently.

But how long will it take to rebuild. And, if Ferguson rebuilds, can the black folk and businesses who stay survive operationally and financially.

Again, it’s time to examine the ramifications of “Black Privilege.”


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What about ‘Black Privilege’
By: Gregory Clay
We’ve been hearing a lot about the “P” word lately. It’s called “Privilege.” We’ve heard about White Privilege, Athletes Privilege, Educational Legacy Privilege, Presidential Privilege . . . . . Well, what about “Black Privilege.” The privilege to riot. We saw the out-of-control stepfather of Michael Brown screaming maniacally, “Burn This Bitch Down,” on Nov. 24 in riot-and-loot-torn Ferguson, Mo., three days before Thanksgiving

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There was an attack this past weekend. No, not with bullets and guns, but with angry, vengeful words. But with angry, vengeful words. Don Lemon, a news anchorman for CNN, issued what he hailed as "No Talking Points" on five ills that plague much of the black community. READ MORE

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The tension was palpable. The anxiety was immense. The date was Oct. 3, 1995. The time was 1:07 p.m. EDT. That's when the court clerk announced Orenthal James Simpson was found "not guilty." It's been 10 years since that Tuesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom; has it really been that long already? READ MORE

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