I was a young teenager, but I recall the Los Angeles riots that took place in response to the acquittal of the police officers responsible for beating Rodney King in 1992.
The furious people and fires raged on, causing $1 billion in damages and costing 55 people their lives. Years after the rebuilding took place and the LAPD was cleansed of most of its blatant corruption, the pressure would continue to build up in persons of color.
The words 'white privilege' and 'civil rights' meant little to me as I sat watching the news coverage. Maybe that is because I was a part of an underprivileged minority and did not know it yet. It would take years of schooling and seeking out the truth to realize that the marginalization of black folks far surpasses that of most others in this country of the free.
Perhaps it was because I had lived in an African American foster family or that my friends were every shade of the rainbow, but I did not feel racism growing up. The truth is that the very institutions that America was founded upon were set up to put a foot on the necks of people of color. I too felt most of the pain that people of color did; I lived among them. However there was a fundamental difference in the experience I had growing up.
It would not be until I was 26 and in college that I took courses that identified the biases and white privilege the country was founded upon. While it does not serve as an excuse for the criminal and social effects it has created in people of color, it serves as an undisputed explanation.
Fast forward some 22 years later. Rodney King is dead, the Internet has come leaps and bounds, and citizen journalism comes in the form of videophones that have captured all kinds of civil rights violations. Report after report shows police forces issuing instant judgment much like the movie Judge Dredd. Their bullets become the judge, jury and death sentence. Ad homonym attacks begin appearing all over the place on the victims of these crimes. Racist remarks are what some get in response to demanding those in power are held accountable, a reminder that we are most definitely not in a post-racial America.
Some write off the senseless deaths as being the fault of the deceased. In other words, the slavemasters perceive danger and are supported by those who feel their reaction was justified. Or maybe these black folk deserved what they had coming: if only they had listened to the officers and submitted, even if their rights were being abused.
Fear grips everyone. Law enforcement feels justified and those who shamelessly possess privilege defend their stance, blaming the victims of these horrific crimes. Yes, they might have been punks in some instances, but they, like everyone else, deserve their day in court.
Those who are the most enlightened among us realize that even "black on black" violence is a product of the hate that has been shown to this minority for such a long time. Pulling oneself up by our bootstraps is not often an option. These souls fill up a large percent of our prisons; they have historically lacked education and access to jobs. Their ancestors were made to help build this fine country, by force. It is convenient to forget all of this when we go on shaming and justifying the kind of judgment these humans have endured. Hearing others blame the plight of the black woman, man and child on themselves shows that indeed we are a society that is so shamelessly steeped in white privilege that the majority does not look in the mirror and feel humble that they possess the advantage.
While the media should be focusing on academic and social approaches to these problems, they find it more interesting to cover the most sensational events when one person of color after another have their lives snuffed out by law enforcement officials who should be protecting them. We see two-minute sound bites of those who are showing their solidarity with these victims, from professional athletes to citizens of every major city in the United States.
In the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, where I live, white privilege is alive and well. However, so is the spirit of the civil rights movement, a reminder of something we who travel through or work downtown know very well. For those involved in the social justice community, we always expect to see the usual suspects: those individuals who have made it their life work to tirelessly fight for the rights of the most underprivileged. Greensboro journalist Eric Ginsburg, an associate editor for The Triad City Beat, has covered many protests through his undergraduate writing career at Guilford College and later as a professional writer. These protests, Ginsburg says, are much different from what he's seen in the past.
"I have seen protests this size in Greensboro about police violence before. What's more notable, I think, is that element of civil disobedience. I think we can expect to see more of it in the coming week, too," Ginsburg said via Facebook.
Not many protests in the past have seen downtown roads blocked off without a permit, and the events are attracting more young, fresh faces. The news events of the past few weeks have started a revival in the call for better civil rights and accountability.
Much like the Woolworth lunch counter that has been preserved by the International Civil Rights Museum, a relic of a time not that long ago that black folk were not allowed to sit with the white, Triad City Beat and other independent newspapers across the country are trying to preserve the rhyme and reason behind these organized events. They provide the coverage needed to begin to build understanding.
Ginsburg points out, "Well, I think we have a strong interest in helping people understand what is happening and why. We have a different understanding of what's important (such as journalism versus profit) than some outlets."
Until other outlets begin to strike the balance that Ginsburg's publication has, the megaphone that is being used to spread the news of the recent protests may do more harm than good to the effected communities.
Whether or not the current movement has traction that will last throughout the winter, it is the media's responsibility to show the true faces and explain the real reasons behind what is taking place.
Anything less is a crime.