By Juan Williams, ,
Published May 07, 2015
Why is so much of liberal cable news begging for a race riot in Ferguson, Missouri?
Riots create chaos and disorder in black communities like Ferguson. They threaten the public safety of black families, drive down real estate prices in black neighborhoods and hurt the trade of black-owned businesses in the area.
We saw this with the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992. During the LA Riots, 50 people were killed, hundreds more injured and millions of dollars of property destroyed in the black community. Let me repeat, black people did not profit from riots.
Cities from Washington, D.C. to Detroit and L.A. can tell you that rioting in the 1960s is still hurting them today. Rioting only devastates communities. It even pushed out the black middle class.
Now, it is true that television networks profit from coverage of riots. So do extremist voices, often from out of town; suddenly people making threats and shouting vile things are in demand for interviews because they are elevated to the status of experts on the black experience. They certainly profit from racial chaos and violence and now they are looking to score again.
Those people looking to get on television and the producers looking for ratings will not be around to repair the damage once the riots tear through town.
The people of Ferguson, black and white, have real questions about why an apparently belligerent but unarmed teenager had to be shot six times, killed and his body disgracefully left in the street for hours.
There is legitimate anger at the Ferguson police department’s refusal to release any information for days added to the sense that they had something to cover up. It did not help when they decided to release a tape of the murdered teen stealing from a store even though that apparently had nothing to do with his subsequent death at the hands of a policeman.
Throughout this sad affair the mainstream media’s coverage has been self-involved – pitting reporters against police and celebrating people who came from far outside Ferguson to get their moment of TV attention.
It is the job of the media to report the news and separate the hysteria from the facts.
Now newspapers and broadcast outlets are effectively egging on the agitators and tacitly nudging the protesters towards riots by creating an expectation of riots.
As Bill O’Reilly would say, let’s stop the spin and speak plainly.
The protesters and their witting accomplices in the mainstream media are not interested in justice, they are interested in punishment.
The protesters and the media have already judged Officer Darren Wilson to be guilty.
They have already acted as judge, jury and one gets the sense they would like to be executioner as well.
Remember that the officers who beat Rodney King as well as the man who killed Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman? They went on trial but were ultimately exonerated leading to even more pain and anger in the black community.
In my biography of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, "Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary," I argued that Marshall’s approach to the civil rights movement differed from that of black militants such as the Black Panther Party.
The Panthers were a tiny group compared to NAACP, Dr. King’s SCLC, the Urban League and most black organizations. But they got out-sized coverage from media romantics because they called themselves revolutionaries, advocated violence and paraded around with guns.
Meanwhile, it was Marshall, with support from Dr. King’s Christian appeals and the NAACP’s steady groundwork, who ended legal segregation with civil rights laws, voting rights laws and other legal victories that put the police and the government on the side of enforcing racial equality.
If there is no indictment of Officer Wilson, I sincerely hope people will elect to follow that Marshall model rather than the calls to self-destruction through rioting.
To be fair, there have been some bright spots in the media coverage. Specifically, stories have revealed a shortage of black people in Ferguson taking the time to vote. The result is a lack of diversity in what appears to be an overwhelmingly white local government.
Similarly, news stories have uncovered that black people the victims of a disproportionate number of traffic violations that produce lots of revenue for the city of Ferguson. The accounts have produced a compelling picture of a black community in Ferguson that is paying a steep price for being disengaged from the political process.
The Washington Post explained it this way: "...in 2013, whites became a majority of the Ferguson electorate, by a margin of 52 percent-47 percent. This is a dramatic difference, and it would almost certainly help to account for the extent to which Ferguson’s elected officials are of a much different racial makeup than its population."
This is a crucial point – if something good is to come out of the Ferguson shooting it will come from the ballot box not from a violent clash with police officers.
So, allow me an open appeal to the people of Ferguson, Missouri and their supporters across the country:
If there is no indictment of the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, please, please do not engage in violent riots. Instead, channel your passion, your disappointment and your anger towards something constructive rather destructive.
Vote, petition, blog – but for God’s sake, don’t riot.