By Lucille Vanek
The Kerner Commision was a committee formed by President Lyndon B. Johnson for the purpose of finding the origin of the 1967 riots that killed 43 in Detroit and 26 in Newark. The report immediately claimed, “the city at this time was saturated with fear. The National Guardsmen were afraid, the citizens were afraid, and the police were afraid.”
It is reported that many police and National Guardsmen fired weapons by the mere sound of other gunshots, resulting in the shooting of five innocent individuals causing one death. The purpose of the elected commission by LBJ was to support his presidency and not blame the white middle-class Americans, where most of his presidential support lied. The commission did the complete opposite of President Johnson’s expectations when identifying the cause of the riots as white racism. For all of history there has been a greater number of black individuals living in poverty compared to the individuals of white descent. This is still relevant and was portrayed as the prevailing topic for the Kerner Commission: “Bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination all converged to propel violent upheaval on the streets of African-American neighborhoods in American cities, north and south, east and west.”
When National Guardsmen and police entered these neighborhoods, the fear enhanced therefore creating a greater emphasis on violence. The Kerner Commission acknowledge the United States as a divided country: a black society and a white society. The social injustice many black people faced then and face today is disgusting, unfair, and inhumane. Many cannot help the fact that they are in poverty, and are discriminated upon especially by police officers simply due to the location in which they reside. This caused an uprising when the government decided to increase weaponization of police officers who patrolled heavy urban neighborhoods. We even went as far as allowing few numbers of African American individuals in white neighborhoods for the idea of “diversity and equality” yet only allowed a certain number; if the number became too large the fear became even larger.
For such a long period of time, we have limited the options of African Americans in education, household dwellings, basic civil rights; the list goes on with various unequal opportunities. The article makes an interesting point in which the Kerner Commission claims in order to form greater equality we need massive government spending. I agree with this point and found it amusing our country decided to spend massive amounts of money on reaching the moon rather than attempting to establish equality amongst all. I also found it rather amusing that the Kerner Commission did the exact opposite of what President Lyndon B. Johnson expected of them; rather than support for the agitations he assumed caused the riots, all of his points were opposed by the commission he solely anointed.