In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the Kerner Commission to investigate the race riots in cities such as Detroit and Los Angeles. Race riots started happening in 1965 in predominately black neighborhoods due to tension from the Civil Rights Movement. According to Wikipedia, President Johnson set up the commission to answer three questions: “What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again and again?” (Kerner Commission).
After seven months of investigation, the commission found that the riots stemmed from unrest for “lack of economic opportunity” for blacks. The federal and state government was to blame. In the 426-page report, the commission states, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white– separate and unequal” (Kerner Commission). With unequal housing, education, and service opportunities, the black race felt frustration and that the government was failing them. The media, the commission found, was also to blame. The report states, “The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and white perspective” (Kerner Commission).
Although these were strong reasons for black unrest, the main cause of violence was due to racism by the whites. The commission suggested that by creating new jobs and housing, and ending segregation would help ease the tension and bring a better environment to all of those who live in the urban areas (Kerner Commission).
After the commission was published, President Johnson ignored suggestions made in the report. After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April of 1968, more riots broke out in hundreds of cities across the country.
Many critics believe the report was unsound because it took the blame and responsibility off of the actual rioters. In my opinion, I think both the government and the rioters are to blame. Even though there was lack of help and support for blacks by the government, riots were not the answer. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. chose to seek reform peaceably. However, I don’t think that rioting will ever stop even with all the help from the government. Almost 25 years after the riots of the 60s, there were huge riots in Los Angeles after the acquittal of four police officers accused of assaulting a black man, Rodney King. Race and racial equality is a very sensitive subject to most people. It has been and will continue to be a difficult issue to figure out.
All information about the Kerner Commission Report came from the Wikipedia article, Kerner Commission. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerner_Commission