Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Rodney King is Dead. Have We Learned Anything? – Tom Rossi

Rodney King died this past Sunday, June 16, 2012. His death brought back our collective memory of the riots of 1992 in Los Angeles. It brought back, for many, memories of struggles for racial equality (or just decent treatment without fear of unwarranted violence)… struggles that are far from over.

As I watched the replays, on the news, of the riots of 1992, a few things struck me. Riots are the temper tantrum of adult society. As I’ve said before, they happen when a group of people are frustrated, wronged, oppressed even… and realistically powerless to bring about real change through “normal” civilized methods.

But why are normal, civilized methods akin to banging your head against the wall? One reason is certainly money and the cemented power-structures it protects. However, another very important reason is fragmentation. African-Americans fight for their rights, Hispanics fight for their rights, gays fight for their rights, women fight for their rights, animal lovers, Asians, poor people, the disabled, older people, etc., etc., etc.

Each of these groups says, “WE are mistreated and downtrodden! OUR group must be treated better!”

What’s wrong with this picture? It would be as if my right arm started a fight while my left arm worked the remote control for the TV. Some of this fragmentation is encouraged and even instigated by the powerful, but some is completely and independently a matter willfull choice on the part of the disenfranchised themselves.

To a large degree, the Occupy movement has been the one to finally get the picture. When I have walked among Occupy protesters, I’ve always noticed the incredible diversity in their ranks. And it’s not just so-called minorities, but a heck of a lot of white people of all ages, many with good-paying jobs (I often ask, in case you’re wondering how I know).

The occupy movement is non-exclusive. The only thing most occupiers want to kick out is violence.

What we need is to get together and demand that people be treated… well, like people! This doesn’t mean that we should spread all the wealth out evenly. It doesn’t mean, “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” It means that one person equals one vote. It means that we are all Americans and the color of our skin means nothing. It means that we are teammates – some stronger than others, yes, but we work together and not against each other. Community is what economists call “non-rival.”

If all of these so-called minorities (women are THE majority for cryin’ out loud) join together, they would make a truly formidable team – a super-majority. But this would require a Herculean sacrifice, at least in the minds of many people. This is what I ask: stop fighting for yourself and your own, and join the fight for us all. Give up your sacred little battles that you will never win by yourselves, anyway.

Working together, people can build something much greater than the sum of each of their work done separately. We must stop these little, pointless mini-movements that get nowhere and see a common goal.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


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