The unspoken narrative of the Mardi Gras riots is this: They started as a series of random and oafish acts of vandalism committed by drunken white buffoons. But then, as the night progressed--when gangs of young black men got involved--things got truly ugly. Scary. This was a race riot. And not a race riot in the late-20th-century sense, which is more akin to a prison riot--meaning a riot that erupts and is contained in a specific area. No, the kind of race riot Seattle produced was different, scarier in two ways: (1) blacks exploded not in their own neighborhood, but in a white, commercial district; (2) their rage was directed not at the police, but at white civilians.
The images were powerful. One in The Seattle Times showed a group of blacks kicking a huddled white man. Another in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer showed a group of blacks beating up a huddled white man, as other white males fled in fear. On NorthWest Cable News, the camera showed similar images, one of which was so disturbing (a blond woman getting her head smashed by a black male) that the feed was suddenly cut.
The citizenry gets it, of course: Many saw with their own eyes groups of black youths pounding on whites; plus, the Mardi Gras riots came only six months after a series of racially charged beatings in Belltown. After Fat Tuesday, talk of racial tension ricocheted around town, in barrooms and on talk radio, yet our daily papers initially refused to acknowledge it...
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