History Of The Watts Riots

Submitted By Kameron-Carpenter
Words: 1013
Pages: 5

Kameron Carpenter
Mr. Omstead
BSU English 103
What’s Going On? Marvin Gaye wrote a song that talked about all of the problems that began during the Vietnam War. Riots were breaking out during this time period because of the unsettlement of the treatment of blacks in the nation. The riot in particular that he is talking about is the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in the mid 1960’s. “The riots began on August 11, 1965, in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, when Lee Minikus, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, pulled over Marquette Frye, who Minikus believed was intoxicated because of his observed erratic driving. Frye failed to pass sobriety tests; including walking in a straight line and touching his nose, and was arrested soon after. Minikus refused to let Frye's brother, Ronald, drive the car home, and radioed for it to be impounded. As events escalated, a crowd of onlookers steadily grew from dozens to hundreds.[1] The mob became violent, throwing rocks and other objects while shouting at the police officers. A struggle ensued shortly resulting in the arrest of Frye, Ronald, and their mother. Though the riots began in August, there had previously been a build up of racial tension in the area. The riots that began on August 11 resulted from an amalgamation of such events in Watts and the arrest of three Frye family members broke the tension as violence spilled onto the streets of Watts for six days.” (Lolita -2008). Gaye wanted to show that America was headed down the wrong path. He wanted to bring to the people, with his music, that everyone deserves equality that is promoted to every citizen here in the U.S. “War is not the answer, because only love can conquer hate.” (Marvin Gaye -2013). In those words, he believed that violence will only escalate the problems that were happening back then. If the protestors took a more safe approach, like peaceful sit-ins or marching to various places or even taking a bus full of people to a certain place to protest the wrong-doings of citizens of the U.S., then the activists would think that this would have a better impact. Toward the beginning of Marvin’s song, What’s Going On, the lyrics “Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no” describes the changes in our country. The war in Vietnam caused an eruption of tension toward the government. People were protesting that they were not going to fight a rich man’s war. In Marvin’s words, people dislike what the nation is coming to because they are being forced to fight. “Poison is the wind the blows, from the north and south and east”. That line is saying that the stench of corrupted government was lingering around and nobody really liked it. In the middle of the song, the line “Brother brother, there is far too many of you dying”, explains all of the activists who stood up for the rights of African Americans. Too many were injured or killed during this time period, including Martin Luther King Jr. “And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual”. This was Martin’s last speech before his assassination. The line “Poison is the wind that blows, from the north and south and east” is talking about all of the hatred that is being brought up and moved around the nation. This “poison” can vary from bombs, police brutality, racial tensions, and even the results of the Vietnam War. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and