Racism is that act of being biased against certain groups of people because of the race they are associated with. The major races in Los Angeles include African-American, Anglo, Latino, and Asian-American. The following are some of the tensions experienced by the members of the mentioned races.
· Zoning arrangements and segregated prohibitions to sell land to non-whites, forcing them to ghettos. 1920s
The African Americans were displeased because they were being treated inhumanly especially when land was being distributed to the non-whites. Developers and home makers promoted a racially and residentially segregated vision; this made owners not to sell property to anyone who was not white. Due to this, “non-whites were pushed into the ghettos and barrios which still exist today (Dear, Leclerc& Berelowitz 62).” Population growth among the African Americans made the black districts more densely populated but they could not access extra land.
· Compton harassments of black neighbors.
Middle class African Americans moved into Compton where they thought they could get better lives. African Americans rarely mingled with people from other races especially the whites. Therefore, they were settled in the inner cities/suburbs and never shared the same neighborhoods and public facilities. These inner cities were thought of as ‘dangerous’. Moreover, The African Americans were considered as ‘the enemy’ and for this reason, most of the crimes were associated with the African Americans. The police never made the situation better as they sided with other citizens and continually harassed them.
· Union strife, dynamiting of LA Times in 1910.
The Anglo-Americans were working very hard yet the amount of the work they did could not be equated to the wages they received. They demanded for better payments by demonstrating on the streets through their various unions but as much as they complained, their demands were not met hence the cause of their frustration.
· Okies (poor white immigrants from the mid-West), 1930s
“The poor white immigrants came to California in search of clean, decent, permanent and better life (Dear, Leclerc& Berelowitz 61)” but this was not the kind of life they found waiting for them. They could not get decent jobs therefore had limited funds to cater for their basic needs and families and some opted to live in camps by the streets. The harsh treatments they got are the ones that made them angry and violent towards other people in the surrounding neighbor hoods.
· Alien Land Law, 1913
During this time, the American voters were against Asians especially the Japanese people from owning property in California. Their persistent complaints made the Alien Land Law, 1913 to be passed which bared any person of Asian decent born outside America from owning real property. Of course this did not go well with the Asian community because they had worked real hard to acquire what they own and all of sudden, they had no place to call home. Moreover, there children would not inherit anything they got as they were now considered as foreigners. They had no power to stop courts from passing their rulings and it is for this reason that they despised the white people.
· Internment of Japanese during WWII
When the Second World War started, Japanese people were blamed for initiating and continuing the war. Therefore, Japanese-American people were isolated from the rest of the community. In addition, people of Japanese were ‘relocated’ to detention camps for fear of sabotage and treason. In the book, Post boarder City p.68, it is stated that, “beginning mid 1942, these Japanese Americans were forced to sell their shops and firms at tremendous losses and leave their homes and possessions.” After the war, they were still faced with a difficult task of rebuilding their communities among great residual prejudice.
· “Repatriation programs” of Mexican nationals, 1930s
The laws in place did not allow illegal migrants in the city and that is why programs to repatriate Mexicans back to their countries in the 1930’s were formulated. In 1930, Mexican nationals were offered rail fare and meals which sounded attractive so that they could go back home (Dear, Leclerc& Berelowitz 65). Almost half of the Mexican population returned. Moreover, Anglo southern Californians saw that their land’s image was deteriorating because of immigrants and they started falsely blaming Mexican families for receiving a lot of relief food.
· Mexican youth targeted by racial discrimination (around 1930s-40s)
Many Mexican youth had adopted a flamboyant style of dress as a marker of a distinctive youthful and cross cultural identity which the Anglo- Americans interpreted as disloyal. “In 1943, policemen attacked the youth and tore their clothes and they later blamed the Latino gangs for the violence and saying they were a threat to the community (Dear, Leclerc& Berelowitz 68).”
2. Using examples from the second half of the 20th century, discuss whether racial/ethnic tensions in LA diminished, Increased, or stayed about the same during the course of the 20th century.
The Ethnic/racial tensions have diminished during the course of the 20th century.
The gap between the rich and the poor widened (1950s and onwards). This was so because the wealthier people lived in better neighborhoods; their children went to good schools, they had better careers and had access to most of the facilities which were within their reach and means. As the rich enjoyed luxurious lives, the poor who were mainly from the minority races, lived in substandard surroundings and could not access even the necessary basic services like health care.
The Los Angeles Watts riots of 1965, which lasted five days killed 34 people, wounded many and destroyed peoples property. The riots were started when a policeman arrested an African American man for drunk driving and this triggered by racial tensions which caused violence to erupt in the different neighborhoods. The rioters wanted to make people aware that they were being unfairly treated and all they wanted was equal distribution of resources especially housing.
In the 1960’s, the tensions slightly reduced. In the 1970, the Chicano movement took course. The Mexican-American community especially the youth felt that it was being secluded and that is why it formed this movement so that they could have a standard body that could address the issues the members faced. In the 1980’s, the number of homeless people increased. This was a result of the white people moving to the suburbs with fancy buildings and leaving the minorities in the intercity which they cannot develop without the help from the people who have money. Furthermore, this action erodes the tax base for public schools as the poor person’s tax is less.
The Los Angeles Riots of 1992 also known as the Rodney King Riots. The riots started when a video clip on the use of excessive force by four LAPD officers on Rodney King was aired. This led to demonstrations that left 50 people dead, thousands injured and arrested and loss of property. In 1993, Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego was started to control the illegal immigrants. People have died in trying to cross the boarder and there has been concern by most of the Latino people that sometimes people when caught are harassed instead of simply being warned and returned to their countries.
From the above findings, racial/ethnic tensions are still there but they are not as much as they were before. We can therefore say that as people appreciate and embrace different belief systems, they understand better other races and the tension among various races reduces.
Dear, J. Michael, Leclerc, Gustavo & Berelowitz, Jo-Anne. Postborder City: Cultural
Spaces of Bajalta California-Peopling Alta California. Routledge, 2003
Goldman, Shifra. M. Dimensions of the Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin
America and the United States. University of Chicago Press, 1994
Los Angeles and the American Dream. Notes for Aldrian Kolonas
By Martin Hagvall