It’s been 40 years to the month since the City of Miami race riots in May of 1980. Public Safety Officers chased, beat and murdered a black man in public. The 33 year old black man, a former marine, was illegally operating a motorcycle but not involved in any other crimes. Police crushed his skull and he died of multiple skull fractures. A total of 8 police officers were charged with crimes ranging from evidence tampering to manslaughter. Prosecutors tried four officers on charges of manslaughter, evidence tampering and other charges. The officers were acquitted at trial. Public outrage led to riots including looting, arson, a sniper and murder.
Now my son Josh is a public prosecutor in Miami. I’ve met his friends who are also Miami prosecutors. We hear in the news and otherwise about bad acts by both the police and the public.
Yesterday new riots were ripping the city apart. Tense times will follow. All we can do now is pray for all.
Post script: A friend reminded me tonight about reading ‘Huckleberry Finn’ aloud to Josh and his sister Arielle when they were young. It was such a meaningful experience that I still have that copy of the book in my nightstand today, more than 20 years later. It was tough for me to say the word “nigger” aloud so many times in those bedtime readings. I struggled with it. I struggled with the resulting conversations about racism with my children while discussing the book. But we all learned. My attitudes about racism evolved and matured and continues to evolve and mature. But the book wasn’t just about racism, of course, and neither are the issues we face today. I hope these lessons from childhood so many years ago will help guide Josh in his difficult official duties now.