Rodney King Day will be the official designation of April 29th on the new American calendar, and the holiday will be marked by an annual spree of rioting and looting, all in a good cause. The jury’s verdict in the LAPD officers’ trial came as a shock to the commentators who could only repeat, over and over, “But we saw the tape.” What else could we expect from a generation brought up watching television? If we have seen something on TV, it must be “true,” no matter what evidence or argument might have been presented to the jury during the long course of the trial. That Rodney King is exactly the kind of thug that we need police protection from, that in a decent society he would be either executed or working his life away on the county farm, none of the pundits was willing to admit.

I knew we were in trouble on Thursday evening, when Mayor Bradley, various black leaders, and Governor Pete Wilson all recommended peace, while expressing their sympathy for the outrage being felt in the black community. Once the riots were well under way, George Bush threw his support behind the looters. After a perfunctory appeal to the principles of law and order, the President promised an investigation into potential civil rights abuses. Didn’t American “law and order” use to include the principle of double jeopardy? Did the looters regard the President’s promise as anything less than a justification of their crimes?

In the eyes of black political leaders, an investigation was insufficient. They demanded immediate prosecution of the officers and, presumably, a summary conviction. Ross Perot, proving that he really was a presidential candidate, issued an evenhanded statement condemning both the riots and the verdict. By equating due process with pillage and the beating of a career criminal with the murder of dozens of innocent people, virtually the entire leadership class of the United States abandoned the inner cities to terror and declared an end to the rule of law.

There is only one civilized response to looters, and that is to shoot them on sight. Of what possible use is our racial “sensitivity,” when we encourage lowerclass blacks to burn down the houses and stores of working- and middle-class blacks and Koreans? Black neighborhood businessmen were stunned. Why are they doing this to us? Why didn’t they burn down city hall?

Every morning the hosts of the three network News Lite programs explained to us that the riots were only the culmination of a growing sense of rage in the black community. There are two Americas now, Bryant Gumble informed us, and white America has turned its back on civil rights since 1968.

By this Bryant did not mean we had not passed evermore onerous civil rights legislation or even that we had not expanded the welfare state. No, what he meant was simply that we preferred to devote some time and energy to other questions, and that black Americans were demanding more: more transfer of wealth from whites to blacks, more programs and policies mandating discrimination in their favor, more testimonials of white guilt. As John Chancellor put it, what triggered the verdict and the riots was all that Republican talk of reverse discrimination and welfare queens.

For the first time in his career as animated male model, Mr. Chancellor is onto something. Middle-class Americans are, to some extent, exasperated with the privileges showered upon minorities, and it is those privileges that have incited blacks into thinking of themselves as a community of victims above the law. It is a reasonable conclusion for them to draw. We pay them for not working; we pay them for having babies out of wedlock; we keep paying them so long as none of the boyfriends can be talked into a permanent arrangement. There are masses of young black males who can live off their mothers and girlfriends, while pushing a little crack or stealing a few TVs for pin money.

Sex without obligation, rights without responsibility. “Money for nothing and the chicks for free,” as Dire Straits put it a few years ago. The song takes on a whole new meaning in L.A.: “We got to move your microwave oven, we got to move your color TV.” The fruits of the welfare state are putting out a luxuriant growth in Los Angeles and other major American cities, and the only real “solution” to the problem has to go beyond the immediate crackdown on lawlessness that every decent American is demanding. The only long-term solution is, as all the pundits and black leaders declare, a reform of the welfare system, but instead of expanding the network of services, we need to dismantle the entire welfare state apparatus that has created the mob of urban terrorists who can torch a city and, in the same breath, demand their rights.