Reaction Paper 2

Reed Kingsmen

Community Power

Dr. Martin

From Watts to Baltimore: A Love Story

This section of class has been dedicated to understanding the concept of “Riots” particularly riots along the east and west coast in the United States. The Riots we’ve examined so far have all occurred in predominantly black areas; which makes sense considering that riots occur when people have nothing less to lose and the system continues to put pressure these groups way past their boiling point. For this reaction paper I wanted to focus more on the Watts Riots of 1965 in comparison to the Baltimore Riots of 2015, just because they were both very similar in the way the media depicted them and their reasons for beginning.

First I wanted to give some background about why the riots occurred in Watts. Due to the need for workers during the wartime effort there was an influx of black migration in the area to fill these positions. Wanting to leave behind the oppressive and violent areas in the south, the black population sought out new opportunity and what they found was more of the same. Los Angeles had extremely restrictive housing options for its African American residents enforced by invisible boundaries and a vigilant police force ready and willing to keep the two separate. In the documentary “Crips and Bloods made in America” they had residents of the Watts area talk about the blatant discrimination they faced when dealing with Police Force, whether it be stop and frisks without any warning or heavy handed tactics for incarcerations.

On August 11, 1965 a black resident was pulled over for “reckless driving” within walking distance of his home. The police officer declared him unfit to drive and told him his car would be impounded. All of this occurred in a public area so more and more residents appeared to watch this incident; but this was a boiling point and they were tired of seeing the police take advantage of them. A fight broke out citizens vs the police and then it turned into a full on riot consuming multiple neighborhoods and causing millions in property damages. This riot could only be squelched by the intervention of the National Guard and more lethal means.

The fact that a singular police interaction could be the tipping point for an entire riot, is one of the reasons why the Baltimore riots came to mind. These riots occurred after the death of Freddie Gray due to the fact he occurred significant injuries after being incarcerated by the local police, the actual tipping point happened once the police department released false information about how he sustained his injuries and why he did not receive treatment in a timely manner. At first there was peaceful protest but it then became violent after the arrest of some of the protesters, the peak of the violence is where these two riots start to look very similar. When about one hundred students were denied access to their only means of traveling home safely by the police in fear they would join the rioters, they responded by attacking the police throwing bricks and glass bottles all while the police retaliated against the students through the exact same means. Police cars were destroyed, businesses torched, as well as many members of the police force sustaining injuries. These riots also were only put out with the presence of the National Guard once they arrived.

The media portrayed both of these events as senseless violence brought on by an overreaction to the police trying to do their job. When in fact it was the citizens standing up against corrupt police practices but because It involved a younger demographic and more aggressive means, the message was lost and they were labeled as thugs or looters. This was the case in both situations in which the peaceful protesters were seen as more intelligent and civilized in comparison to the rioters who were tired of being abused by a system who showed no interest in their struggles. The way the media talked about these events they made it seem as if the reason for these riots was a weakness in the system to prevent things like this from happening which is why the mayor of Baltimore was given so much criticism by both sides because she was openly against the riots taking place but others believed it was her soft politics that caused it in the first place. But in actuality both the protest and the riots combined were geared towards a goal, to address issues within the system and raise awareness to their suffering. The protest was more organized with traditional leadership and strategy but the riots were not as individualistic as one would be lead to believe. With the combined efforts of both tactics it lead to much more press coverage of the event as well as added pressure on the police force to right their wrongs.

Works Citied and Consulted

  2. J. Hennigan (May 3, 2015). “As Baltimore curfew ends, celebratory crowds peacefully gather”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  3. Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Black Lives Matter Editorial

In this day and age, it seems like there has been no change on the issue of brutality against black Americans since the Civil Rights era. With the deaths of Trayvonn Martin and Michael Brown, there has been a rise in what is now known as the “Black Lives Matter” movement. This first came about as a hashtag on social media as a way to protest the injustice of the young black men that were murdered. But it has now become a symbol of the violent injustice that black Americans face on a daily basis. According to the New York Times, the demonstrators that are protesting in the streets “…are not asserting that black lives are more precious of white lives. They are underlying the fact that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered and have been discounted and devalued”.

In April of 2015, a man by the name of Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore. He was perfectly healthy at the time of his arrest but sustained injuries to his neck and spine while being transported. He was left in a coma and then died a week later. Violent but organized protests broke out on the streets of Baltimore when it became publicly known  the cause of Gray’s death. This created civil unrest and the riots took over the city. This is an example of breakdown theory. Useem states that breakdown theory is “the classic sociological explanation of contentious forms of collective action such as riots, rebellions and civil violence and these events occur when the mechanisms of social control lose their restraining power” (217). Simply put, breakdown theory is the breakdown of social control. It’s spurred by emotion when injustice occurs. The residents of Baltimore were thinking that “there is no legitimate way I can act and I’ve gotten to a breaking point so I get on the streets and act in emotion”.

The media and government officials portray the same violent acts among whites and blacks as exact opposites. A quote by Juan Thompson explains this well by stating that “when white people spread chaos in the streets, they are drunks that make drunken mistakes; when black people act in justifiable rage after decades of oppression, they are depicted as violent and imitating agitators”. The mayor of Baltimore, who is a black female, called the residents that were protesting in the street as “hooligans”.

The Black Lives Matter movement has become very similar to the Civil Rights movement. We still have not achieved racial equality when it comes to the black community. There has been an increasing number of police brutality against young black people. Just recently, there was a video circulating online of a police officer dragging and beating a young black girl out of her seat in a classroom and arresting her on the charge of resisting arrest. A black UVA student was recently beaten to death by police outside of a bar that was off campus. This is an epidemic that needs to stop. We almost always judge a book by its cover and we shouldn’t sterotype someone based on the color of their skin.

Works Cited:


Students Unheard; UMW’s Communication Problem

Op-ed for the Blue and Gray Press

Last year, during the Spring semester of 2015, I was at a rally outside of the Jepson Alumni Center, were UMW Board of Visitor members were meeting, and purportedly discussing issues which were brought up by members of a student body group called Divest. The protest, as many of you reading this likely already know, was with regards to arrests which were made on campus at the instruction of the school’s administration. Two students and one Fredericksburg community member were arrested for refusing to leave a student sit-in organized by Divest, whose demands to the school revolved around divesting from fossil fuels for the sake of the environment. Frustrated by the administration’s decision, members of Divest and many other UMW students, myself included, went to the Board meeting only days later to protest not only the arrests (all three arrested have since been found not guilty in Fredericksburg’s court), but to protest the Board’s refusal to take divestment into consideration. It was at this protest that I was witness to some of the most disappointing actions I have ever seen, perpetrated by school administrators and board members.

Our Vice President of Student Affairs at the time, Doug Searcy, came out of the building soon after we arrived. We started chanting at him, and continued to do so as he got into his car, going to pull out of the parking lot. His window was open, at first, for what reason I don’t know, but as he drove past the mass of 100 or so students, he rolled his window up.

These were students who felt voiceless; who felt that their school’s administration was failing to listen to them, or even care what they had to say, and instead of taking a few minutes to hear what they had to say, our own Vice President rolled his window up, and drove off. Unfortunately, he was not the only person to disappoint me that day. While we were there, the two students who had been arrested both stood up to speak. Each of them, in turn, directly called out the school’s administration and board of visitors as members of those groups were nearby. In each of these situations, the staff member walked away from the students while they were being addressed. One of these men was Marty Wilder, UMW Chief of Staff and BOV Clerk. The other was our university President, Richard Hurley. Of the other board members who were at that meeting, none but Edd Houck spared a moment to talk to the students gathered there that day.

At another incident, in which members of Divest spoke with President Hurley, he said something that for me, caused a lot of frustration. I was not present for this occurrence, but multiple people have relayed the general events to me. During the course of conversation, when students asked if he would continue to stay neutral on issues such as divestment, he replied; ‘I think that’s what I’m paid to do.’ In that same conversation he mentioned that his loyalty is to the board, thereby implying that it is not, in fact, to the students whose university he presides over. Both of these responses solidified in the mind of students present that their voice does not matter to the administration, and they had almost no power within the university.

Earlier that same semester, a controversial party was held by members of the student body, in which students dressed up as racist stereotypes of Mexican Americans. Now many of these students likely did not understand the harm they were doing, and many of them later apologized, and some of them completed community service as restitution. The issue I take now is not with them, despite the potential harm of their offense. This party took place sometime in February, and the administration found out fairly soon after. Instead of communicating to the student body about what had happened, they decided to keep the incident under wraps. I myself did not hear about the incident until weeks later, and only then because I was highly involved in student groups on campus. In fact, the only public mention our administration made about it was an email sent out mid-March by President Hurley. The email was referring to both this incident and another, but discussed them in no clearer terms than “recent situations in which our students (groups and individuals) have engaged in behaviors that” President Hurley found “repugnant and highly offensive to members of our community” (Hurley, 2015).

The second incident referred to in this email was of course the now infamous chant performed by members of the men’s rugby team. The chant itself referred to and glorified mutilation, rape, necrophilia, and violence against women, and had taken place the semester before, in November of 2014. The email above was the first time the school ever publically addressed the incident, and was written in such vague terms that none who did not already know what had happened could have no idea of what it referred to. That same day, students on campus asked the president that he be more clear about what had happened, fearing that a lack of transparent communication would result in retaliation against women on campus. I was in that room, and I recall very clearly President Hurley stating that he would prefer the information being spread ‘through the student grapevine.’ As I’m sure most of you remember, our fears proved true almost immediately. Only a day later, President Hurley did send a follow-up email going into more specific detail about the incident, and announcing the suspension of the men’s rugby club (and making no mention of the racist party), but it was too little, far too late. Each of these incidents were evidence of racist culture and rape culture on campus, and although thankfully, neither incident involved physical violence, such cultures often result in decreased safety for women and people of color.

Given this fact, students have the right to know about incidents like these on their own campus. Students have the right to know about the environment they are paying to live and learn in, and the school has a responsibility to inform them. Over the past year or so, each of these incidents I’ve spoken of have stirred some controversy amongst students on campus. Despite this; regardless of your opinions about divestment or about how the school ought to handle incidents that violate school policy, one thing is clear; communication is key. Communication can be nothing but beneficial, and certainly, better communication by the UMW administration may have resolved these recent issues with far less difficulty and frustration on either ends. The University of Mary Washington is a public university, and therefore, its priority is its students. Its priority should be listening to what its students have to say, and being honest, open, and communicative in return. Hopefully this fact is taken into consideration as the school searches for its next president.


Works Cited

Hurley, Richard M. “Re: Message from President Hurley. Message to Undisclosed Recipients. 18 March 2015. e-Mail.

Race, Riots, and Then and Now

In the first chapter of Janet L. Abu-Lughod’s book, Race, Space, and Riots, she discusses different riots that shape the structure of American societal change through the twentieth century. Immediately, she introduces an argument against the Kerner Report. Her argument is such: the authors of the Kerner report failed to take into account not only most of American civil disorder history, but also the systemic and long imbedded issues which those communities who rioted were facing. She counters this argument with her study on six riots that occurred in the three largest metropolitan regions in the United States: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

In Chicago, she studies the white-on-black race riot of  1919 and the black (and separate Latino) West Side ghetto riots of the 1960s. In New York, she studies the African American uprisings in Harlem in 1935 and 1943 as well as the Harlem/Bedford-Stuyvesant uprising of 1964. In Los Angeles, she studies the Watt riot of 1965 and the 1992 South Central riot. Within each of these cities and their corresponding riots, she discusses a spacial and a time aspect for the riots and a generalized history behind their cities’ African American socioeconomic situations. Her goals of this project is the ability to achieve the following through analyzing these six riots:

  • “illustrate the changing conditions of urban race relations over time…”
  • “explain variations in riots [through] demographic compositions, spatial distributions of racial and ethnic groups…”
  • “demonstrate […] ways [which] relevant government regimes have responded to sequential outbreaks”(page 8)

Of each city, Abu-Lughod brings up a theme of underlying history. One of the most detrimental things of a written work is a lack of prefacing explanation for the ideas discussed in said work. This book does the opposite, in that Abu-Lughod explains a generalized version of the leading up to why and how the riots came to be. She discusses briefly the systemic socio-economic problems that were at play prior to the riots, such as lack of public amenities such as transportation, quality education, jobs, and a flowing economy. She also talks about what lead up to the riots depending on the city, such as migration, economic surpluses or deficits, wars, and industrial increase or decrease.

The next apparent theme in this chapter is the sole selection of big cities as locations for the riots she will study. Her reasoning for choosing large cities is to create a substantial study group in which to gain a wide range of knowledge about the riots. She states that when “studies focus on individual riots, [their results become so muddled] with description that they fall short on analysis” (page 9). The way this study is designed is that it enables a constant: the size of the city, creating a control in the study.

Another theme within the chapter is the theme of race and the role it has played in civil disruptence. While each of the riots studied involves the African American race in some way, Abu-Lughod also studies a “white-on-black” riot, as well as riots involving a team of African Americans and Latino Americans. She discusses, briefly, that race is somewhat of a social construct, and that with that imbedded social construct lie certain occurrences allowing for inequalities to grow and solidify into the social situations which in many ways influenced the riots studied within the book.

The final major theme in this chapter is the theme of spacial commonalities and differences within each city. The first city, Chicago, is nearly completely segregated, making its spatial makeup unique against that of New York and Los Angeles. It acts within a system of one theory of racialized peace: that when two “combatants”, ie. whites and blacks, are separated, there will be peace. This has, according to Abu-Lughod, not been affected by an influx of other races into the city. Los Angeles, unlike Chicago, has been affected by incoming minorities. This has affected the spatial makeup of the Los Angeles inner city, creating a community of not only African Americans, but also Latin Americans. In New York, the boroughs of New York City are studied. In New York City, Abu-Lughod maintains, the ethnic aspects of the city make it so that there is little white dominance spatially that is unbroken by minority or neo-white (Irish, Italian, the like) inhabitants. Each of these have totally different spatial makeups enabling a differencing variable within each individual riot’s location.

By pulling the variables within this case study and analyzing current riots happening within the United States, it begs the question of what factors affected the period of time and the citizens living within the city of the riot. These spatial, racial, political, social, and historical sides to the story of a riot such as those in Baltimore or Fergeson are often inappropriately overlooked. I would argue however, that one variable that should have been touched on within each of the riots, or at least the prefacing information to the riots, would be the media’s interpretations and publications of the riots as well as the group initiating the riots.

Especially now more than ever, the media – social and professional – has such an influential say in how things are said, meaning they also have a say in how events are interpreted. For example, with the Black Lives Matter movement, social media was able to influence citizens not only in the city where riots were occurring – Baltimore, for example – but also citizens all over the country. This enabled the riots to gather faster attention from all social roles – politicians, educators, professionals, students, citizens, etc. And while there was no social media, no Facebook or Twitter, during the riots studied in this book, there was newspapers, radio reports, and television newscasts that had huge influences on the riots and their aftermaths.

Victoria Sheil IDIS Sect2: What’s Up with Daley?

After reading about the Chicago riot of 1968 in response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the most shocking part is the controversy involving Richard J. Daley. He publicly made a statement wishing the police had shot the rioters. While the class also has a strong response to his statement, I kept thinking that his name sounded familiar. Then I remembered, he was also mentioned in Barbara Ferman’s Challenging the Growth Machine. So I began to wonder, does he play a bigger role in the events leading up to the Chicago Riot of 1968?  I wanted to rethink some of the preconditions specific to the Chicago Riots of 1968 and provide detail how formal governance relates to riots.

Janet L. Abu-Lughod explains the riot as a reaction to death of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4 1968. Reactions occurred throughout the nation, but Chicago’s manifested to be the most violent. Abu- lughod emphasizes the differences between the South Side and the West Side. Even though the city has a very large black population in the south, “rioting on the South side, which contained by far the largest proportion of African Americans in the city, was relatively sporadic and quickly suppressed, whereas the much smaller second ghetto of the West Side went up in flame” (Abu- Lughod 93). Abu- Lughod has very strong opinions that the riots in the West Side were specifically handled in a way to protect and promote white business. She hints at it several times, such as when the fires raged on, why 4,000 firemen could not control them (98). However, it was not until Daley’s comment about wanting arsonist shot that I began to think that the government reaction to the West Side rioting was in the interest of the business elite.

Daley’s position as mayor in the Chicago government is an example of a growth machine. Elected in 1955, he achieved a high degree of centralized power that promoted business interests. Gaining support of the business community to ensure his power, “Daley used his control over city government and the electorate to provide the certainty, deliver the resources, and manage the conflict that allowed an extraordinary amount of downtown development to occur” (Ferman 59). His connection to the riots is his role in the racial segregation in the city, one of the build ups that led to the riot. As the black population surged in the 1950’s, the business community was strongly resistant. Daley’s needed support from the business elites resulted in supported segregated housing policy that led to the West Side and South Side concentrations of the African American population. The West Side also became a favored site for public housing and the area was soon labeled as a ghetto. While Abu Lughod mentions one of the build ups to the riot as “the rising animosities between blacks and city hall” (93), Ferman details Daley’s role in the racial conflict within the city.

Daley’s support of the economic development in Chicago focused on the Loop, a highly sought after area for business investment and also near the West Side. The Development Plan of 1958, written by the private group but overviewed by Daley, sought to revitalize the Loop and surrounding areas (Ferman 60). Daley’s aggressive response to the riots in 1968 showed his goal to protect the Loop. In the first reactions to Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the South Side was showing more violence, but the attention was focused on the West Side. Abu- Lughod explains, “Attention focused almost exclusively on the West Side- in large because expansion of the riot from there could possibly threaten nearby white businesses in the Loop, whereas on the enormous South Side it could be contained” (95). The city’s control under a growth machine led to the West Side rioting to become the most violent reaction nationwide to King’s death. Even after the riot, Daley managed to continue economic growth for the white business elite. The areas nearer the Loop “in the Second Ghetto, destroyed in the 1968 riot, were easily cleared and being rebuilt with glistening office towers and high- priced condos” (Abu- Lughod 111). The riots may have even accelerated the completion of the Development Plan of 1958 continuing support for Daley and the growth machine.

Abu- lughod’s mention of Daley sparked my interest because it was incredibly inappropriate. However, after reviewing Ferman’s analysis of the growth machine, I have learned how economic development and the business community support drove Daley’s decisions in order to stay in power. The business elite’s resistance to the African American community was exemplified in Daley’s statement to in response to the riots. It is the strength of the growth machine that led to the concentrations of the black population and the magnitude of the violence seen during the Chicago Riot of 1968.



Ferman, Barbara. 1996. Challenging the Growth Machine: Neighborhood Politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh. University Press of Kansas.

Abu-Lughod, Janet. 2007/2012. Race, Space and Riots in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Oxford University Press

Case Study on the Riots in Kentucky After a Basketball Game in Comparison to the 1968 Riot in Chicago


The 1968 riot in Chicago and the 2015 riot in Kentucky are two examples of nonroutine collective action that occurred in the United States. In 1968 in Chicago, Illinois a riot broke on the west side following the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior. In 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky a riot broke out after the men’s basketball team lost a game. Both had extremely different pre-conditions, triggers, and responses. These two examples of riots show how riots can be caused by any group of people and for any reason. The pre-conditions were very different.



The pre-conditions of the 1968 riots were mainly based on race. There were tensions because the ghetto population’s density was greatly expanding, bringing many blacks into Chicago. Due to these tensions, Martin Luther King decided to focus on Chicago to bring political change. The black people in Chicago were especially fond of King because of this reason. There were many tensions between King and Daley, though, so these tensions were never truly resolved. This situation in Kentucky was much different

The pre-conditions before the Kentucky riot was much different. The year prior, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team had lost in the NCAA championship. Riots broke out that year, causing students to burn at least 17 couches, leaving 18 injured, and 7 arrested. The police used tear gas to control the crowd and get everyone to leave. As you can tell, the pre-conditions from these 2 riots greatly differed and so did their triggers.


Trigger and Responses

The trigger of the 1968 riot in Chicago was the assassination of MLK. This especially impacted the high schoolers and younger residents of Chicago. The way the city responded to this did not go well. The National Guard was immediately called in because it was mainly black people rioting, which made the environment very militaristic. Also, Chicago high schools where mainly black students attended were shut down. A curfew was set to keep young residents from rioting through the night. This made it so that the residents could not voice their feelings on the situation and also targeted the young black residents as the problem.

Similarly, the riots in Kentucky were started by younger people, but for very different reasons. The start of this riot, like the year before, was because the men’s basketball team once again lost in the NCAA championship. Lawn chairs, shirts, and other items were burned all over the streets of Lexington. Many students were injured by having bottles thrown at them and some were burned. The police responded by going through the crowds with riot gear and protective shields and arrested 31 students. According to an article on Daily Kos, “fortunately for the students involved in this repeated riot it is unlikely to result in an increase in militarized police force at their doorsteps or set curfews”. This was shocking to read, as those were the first steps in the 1968 riot in Chicago.



From what I have mentioned, it is evident that these are 2 very different examples of riots. The riot in Chicago had an important underlying cause. I guess if someone is a huge basketball fan they could argue that the Kentucky riot had an important underlying cause, but most would disagree. Both of these riots had a very different demographic group participating in it. In Chicago, mostly black, and in Kentucky, mostly white. The title of an article on Daily Kos said, “Riots, Looting & Fires Break out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.” By comparing these two riots, this title seems very relevant. In Kentucky, calling the National Guard and setting up a curfew was never an option while it was the first response in Chicago.

The 1968 riot in Chicago and the 2015 riot in Kentucky are two examples of nonroutine collective action leading to riots. The 1968 riot in Chicago after the assassination and the riot in Kentucky after losing a basketball game show how different riots can be and how the pre-conditions, triggers, and responses also vary. These examples show how differently cases are dealt with depending on who is involved and why.


Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

Bailik, Carl. “The Latest Kentucky Riot Is Part Of A Long, Destructive Sports Tradition.” DataLab. FiveThirtyEightSports, 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Press, Associated. “31 Rioting Kentucky Fans Arrested after Fights, Fires.” New York Post. New York Post, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Reeves, Chris. “Riots, Looting & Fires Break Out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.” Riots, Looting & Fires Break Out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.Daily Kos, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Comparing 1968 Chicago to Present Day Fredericksburg

Stephanie Wismer
November 6, 2015
Reaction Paper #2

Comparing 1968 Chicago to Present Day Fredericksburg

The Chicago of 1968 and present day Fredericksburg have almost nothing in common. They vary in size and racial makeup of population, they are in different parts of the country and are separated in time by roughly half a century. However, the comparison of the two is a valuable one as it illuminates which methods for achieving racial equality that hold the most value.

Chicago’s historical race relations are riddled with inequality, discrimination, and abuse. Chicago crowded its black citizens into two small ghettos, provided them with infrequent and unsavory employment opportunities, and attempted to segregate them entirely from the white population. Its reasons for doing these things are difficult to untangle, but stem primarily from Chicago’s status as a large, northern, primarily white city.(Abu-Lughod, 2007)
Historically speaking, Fredericksburg’s treatment of black people has been relatively uncomplicated. Fredericksburg is southern and small, which prevented many of the issues that arose in Chicago. However, simple is not a euphemism for better; historical race relations in Fredericksburg were markedly worse than those of Chicago. Not only was racism more prevalent in Fredericksburg during the twentieth century, but slavery was alive and well for much of the nineteenth century. Indeed, the corner of William and Charles Streets served as a slave auction block, and many of the taverns that lined Caroline Street sold slaves from their front porches and stoops. Slaves could even be purchased at the courthouse on Princess Anne Street. (Fitzgerald, n.d.) Fredericksburg’s historical abuse and commodification of black people is unmistakable, which left quite a hurdle for its present day citizens who are seeking racial equality.

In Chicago the Riot of April 1968 left little room for doubt among politicians: something had to be done to combat the racial tensions and ensuing violence. Taking this fact into consideration, Mayor Daley decided to establish a Riot Study Committee. The Committee made 39 recommendations on how to prevent another race riot from taking pace. Chief among them were closing ghetto schools if another incendiary event like the assassination of Martin Luther King should occur, calling the National Guard in early, should the beginning stages of a riot be seen, and improving police equipment and training. Of course, there are many vague—and somewhat condescending—recommendations that are not blatantly racist (like that “the skill, experience and financial support of downtown institutions (private as well as public) must be made available to the ghetto communities”); however, none of the recommendations are specific enough to be put into action, and all of them were ignored. (Abu-Lughod, 2007) Had the Riot Study Committee realized that race relations are difficult to manage from a top-down approach, then they might have made different recommendations. They might have even recommended that citizens simply gather and talk—the approach that Fredericksburg is taking today. Roughly one year ago Fredericksburg hosted a town hall discussion in which local residents gathered for a “dialogue and story sharing session…about the impact of race and racism on [their] lives and the community.” The discussion was a success and the participants reported that, “it was freeing to be able to open up, and also reassuring to hear other people’s stories. They felt connected to the others with whom they shared their experiences.” (Sidersky, 2014)

When comparing the Chicago of 1968 to modern day Fredericksburg, there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, Fredericksburg has had the benefit of almost fifty years to grow and learn and work towards equality. Fredericksburg also started from a much more blatantly racist place, which facilitated the combat against it. Because Chicago is a northern city, its racial issues were (and continue to be) more subtle, and thus more difficult to tackle. It should also be noted that the means by which black people came to live in Fredericksburg and Chicago were drastically different; in Fredericksburg black people were largely brought as slaves and remained after being freed, while in Chicago black people migrated there after in search of work after being freed. These elements make it somewhat difficult to fairly compare the two cities side-by-side.

However, this comparison is not an attempt to shame the Chicago of years past or proclaim Fredericksburg to be a beacon of racial equality—it is not. This comparison serves only to illuminate the fact that racial tensions are best assuaged from the bottom up. Equality is not issued or signed into existence. It is coaxed forth by citizens who are willing to talk and work openly about racial inequality. Of course, this is not to suggest that the government does not have a role in race relations—it does—this is only to say that bringing about racial equality does not lie on the shoulders of our government, it lies on the shoulders of each individual American citizen.



Abu-Lughod, J. L. (2007). Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fitzgerald, R. (n.d.). African-American History of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Retrieved November 06, 2015, from

Sidersky, R. (2014, November 14). Race Relations Draw Discussion at Town Hall Meeting. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from

Reaction two


Riots are usually not something that happens without cause or happens randomly. Riots happen when groups of people are not able to let their voice be heard and or feel strongly about something and are unable to make a change. Though class readings and current events, it appears that rioters are taking their anger and frustrations out on the easiest form of power that has angered them. However the power may not be the ones that have actually let them down. The book Race, Space and Riots in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and the recent Baltimore riot, appear to follow after the government at the local, state and/or national level have let the people rioting down. The anger may be directed at the police but it is only after several or many instances that have occurred and the government did not step and make the change that the people wanted but could not make on their own. Abu-Lughod brings up some ideas to why other riots have happened and it can be used to look at the Baltimore riot of 2015.

The book Race, Space and Riots in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, highlighted many race riots that took place before 2000’s and discussed the causes. The author, Abu-Lughod, did write about how the riots post 1970’s seemed to have a better understanding of what they wanted the outcomes to be and how they should go about fixing the problems (Abu-Lughod, 2007). The riots the book highlighted do not seem to have that path clear like the Baltimore riot. In the case of the Chicago riots, the riots appeared to be against African Americans, however, it did not appear to all stem from an isolated act but many acts put together and the government either causing the problem or not stepping up and fixing the problem. The very recent Baltimore riot had a similar feel and motivation behind it.

In spring of 2015 Baltimore, Maryland experienced a riot, which was a reaction to police violence that had occurred. People were angry with the police but also the state that failed to protect them by allowing local police to treat their citizens unjustly. The people had nowhere to turn because the people who were supposed to protect them were the ones that were hurting them. There was a strong sense of feeling powerless. While it appears that the Baltimore riot had a clearer message and reasoning behind it; it is still a little fuzzy to exactly what the rioters wanted the outcome to be. It appears that the rioters wanted justice for Freddy Grey however the readings appear to make it seem like they wanted more than just justice for one individual (Lynch, 2015). They wanted the unfair treatment to stop entirely and were just fed up in general.

The powerless feeling can be seen even through the media portal of the riots. An article my CNN, shows the tweets by the Baltimore Police stating that they are doing everything they can to put out the riots (Vega 2015). While the riot was violent however there was little to no appearance that the police were trying to understand the anger and working with the people (Vega, 2015). Violence should never be justified however the people probably felt they had to check the police officers because the government was/is not.

Using the book Race, Space and Riots in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles to understand and look at riots pre 2000, it was possible to examine the recent riot in Baltimore Maryland. The riot in Baltimore looked different on the surface than the riots in Chicago that the author writes about however the in-depth reasoning behind them were very similar. There was a strong sense of lack of power and inability to make a change without making a lot of noise.





Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, And Riots In Chicago, New York, And Los Angeles. Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2007. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 6 Nov. 2015.


Lynch, Dennis. Baltimore Riots 2015: Freddie Gray Slammed Head Into Police Van, Causing

            Fatal Injury, Report Says. April 30, 2015.

Vega ,Tanzina. How Baltimore police, protesters battle on Twitter. Tue April 28, 2015.