Evil Whites or Bad Families?

L.A. Justice,by Robert Vernon (Focus on the Family, 254 pp.; $17.99, hardcover);The Coming Race Wars? A Cry for Reconciliation,by William Pannell (Zondervan, 143 pp.; $9.99, paper). Reviewed by John Wilson, a writer in Pasadena, California.

In An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis argued that we read literature to experience “an enlargement of being.… Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself.… We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own.”

Although Lewis’s subject was what he termed “strictly literary reading,” his conclusions apply to other reading as well. Consider the outpouring of books and articles occasioned by the 1992 Los Angeles riots. With few exceptions, to read these responses is to be stunned by their narrowness of vision. Still, however partial and inadequate their testimony, these voices deserve to be heard, for they challenge us to enlarge our own limited vision.

Two Christian responses to the riots provide a case in point: Robert Vernon’s L.A. Justice and William Pannell’s The Coming Race Wars? Both see what happened in L.A. as symptomatic of deep, widespread problems in American society. Both invoke Christian principles. They differ radically, however, in their diagnosis of the riots—and in just about everything else.

Vernon, the son of a career L.A. police officer, was a 37-year veteran when he retired from the LAPD in 1992, having reached the rank of assistant chief. Part one of his book (more than two-thirds of the whole) focuses on two subjects: the riots and the witchhunt conducted against him following unsubstantiated ...

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