When a King Dies, Los Angeles Grieves

By: Jennifer Lawson-Zepeda

Earlier in the week, Rodney King drowned in his pool.  You probably remember him best for saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” — Shortly after the South Central ri.ots, back in 1992.

Getting Along?

Today…Los Angeles is hardly getting along.  

Individuals get along.  Communities get along.  But do we really integrate races and cultures into various communities without problems?

Let’s explore the make-up of Los Angeles…

When I moved here I used to tell a joke; one of discrimination, because there was every section of town, named after every group of people, it seemed.  Everyone, but Argentines!  

Los Angeles has:

China Town

Little Tokyo

Thai Town

Little Armenia

Little Ethiopia

Little Bangladesh

Korea Town

I mean, is there a place that doesn’t have a Little city of ethnic attributes here?  But really?  What created all of these ethnic centers?

And I won’t even go into the other less obvious divisions of south central L.A., east L.A., and the monied sections.  Certainly, when a person mentions Crenshaw and Hoover, they generally are speaking of an area that most Angelinos understand has a high percentage of blacks.  And if you say you are going to Pico Rivera, it is pretty well understood that you will be in a center with a high percentage of Hispanics.  Hang around MacArthur Park off of S. Alvarado and most people will realize you will be in a primarily Central American section of town. And go to Cypress Park and it will be mostly Mexican Americans.

Yes, it’s that segregated!

The Riots

Some say Rodney King sparked the L.A. riots.  But, did he?  

Certainly, the injustice of allowing those police officers who beat him to walk free sparked righteous indignation.  The sort of indignation that boils on the fire just long enough to spill its dangerous brew all over the surface of the landscape.

But Rodney King’s beating was simply a symptom of the oppression experienced all over L.A. by many, not the vessel of persecution, itself.   And still we haven’t learned.

Ride a bus in downtown Los Angeles sometime, and you’ll hear some very interesting conversations.  Many of them aren’t masked by the politeness of political correction.  There is blame in the words.  There is a sense of anger.  It isn’t the dominion of any particular culture.  It is the response to a great deal of cultural anger — much of it due to the same lack of acknowledgment that hung thick in the air before the L.A. riots.

Last weekend, it came to the surface in Los Angeles when I witnessed a brawl across the street from where I live.  This time, it was a group of Armenians vs. two Latino men.  One bumped into one of the Armenian men and the punches flew.   

Two months ago, it was a shouting match on a bus going to the Crenshaw Wal-Mart.  An older drunken black man was on the bus.  

He was verbally assaulting another older man of Hispanic descent who wasn’t doing anything but sitting there.  The Hispanic man was frail and much older.  The drunk made several threats and my fiancée finally stood up and told him to knock it off and leave the older Hispanic man alone.  We could tell the man didn’t speak English and wasn’t sure what was going on.  

Someone in the back of the bus spoke up and this turned into a shouting match between my fiancée and this group of punks.  The man who had initiated all of this wouldn’t stop running his mouth.  Finally, the men in the back told him he was on his own.  They were also black.  In Los Angeles, what this means is if this turns into a race war, you won’t have us to back you up.  That is understood.

But how sad is that?  How sad is it that we refer to helping people with the idea of what happens if a race war breaks out?

Obama’s Latino Game

Recently, we heard that Obama would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who come to the U.S. as children.  He announced this to the world, once he was running for re-election. 

And while it was nice to hear that children could stop worrying about something that should be considered gutless, I couldn’t help but wonder… 

How would Obama have felt if slavery were still legal and a white President announced that, while he couldn’t get a law passed to make all citizens free, he would allow Homeland Security not to send black children to prison?  How could he look at his two lovely daughters and accept that?  

Because essentially, that was exactly what he did with his ploy for the Latino vote! 

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deep disgust for this man who actually thought his lack or working on the Dream Act with any significant effort during his first term of office, would be forgotten with this ridiculous, temporary solution.  

And I really hated his arrogance for that!

And I reflected on the Los Angeles riots.  At that moment, I understood why the people took to the streets.  I understood why they had such a high degree of indignation that they would destroy their own communities.  I understood! 

So I guess my question today, after the death of Rodney King is this…

WHEN will we all just get along?

 

For more from Jennifer Lawson-Zepeda visit her blog @ http://lawsonzepeda.blogspot.com/

 

4 Comments on “When a King Dies, Los Angeles Grieves”

  1. There is something so thoroughly disgusting and hypocritical about racism. I think the roots lie largely in the class war. No matter what your race, if you’ve gained a certain amount of economic influence, all at once you have prestige and respect. The politically correct; the faux pas liberals, are quite happy to point out they have minority race friends, and even invite them to dinner.

    Case in point: I know a beautiful half-Inuit girl who is heir to her daddy’s convenience store and her mother’s oil field. There is no doubt this girl is the very soul of purity and kindness, but i know quite a few minority race people who are as well, but people don’t fawn over them the way they do her. Nothing disgusts me more than to see smug, self-important, well-invested “liberals” gush over her numerous qualities, than turn around and explain to her how necessary it is to crack down on immigration laws because of all the problems immigrants bring. The poor girl never knows what to say to them because she is too polite to start an argument, but she has told me many times how much this upsets her.

    The class war is what has made minorities turn on each other. They feel their oppression. In their minds, they harbor the thought that the actions of another minority group is what makes them look bad. They suspect that other minorities are encroaching in on their job opportunities or taking over their “turf”. I hear all the time expressions like, “oh god. He just played his race card.” Or, “I was better qualified for the job, but the company was required to fill a minority quota.”

    The class culture feed their resentments on to the minorities. “I don’t have a thing against blacks, but honestly, the Asians are taking over everything.” Or, “I don’t know what the Hispanics are crying about. So many could pass for white if they would just keep their mouths shut.”

    On and on it goes. We do need to all learn to get along, but we need to start by realizing your social class doesn’t make you any better, smarter or more entitled than anyone else. We need to start by erasing position and wealth from in front of our eyes and evaluate our judgments based on compassion, good ethics, kind deeds, no matter what color the person is or degree of poverty.

  2. All these years since the state’s paramilitaries beat that guy half to death – and not a thing has changed since then as the pigs are as brutal as they ever were (if not more so). Sure, the prime targets (switch from African-Americans to Hispanics and Arabs) and some of the justifications might have changed somewhat thanks to the escalation of the “war on drugs” and the so-called “war on terror” but the core mentality remains the same: the minority populations deserve to be singled out for harassment because they are the ones responsible for society’s ills (drugs for Hispanics, “terrorism” for Arabs) – thus it’s ok if they are savagely beaten, tased, shot or even killed because all that can be passed off as being “necessary for public stafety” or some other bullshit…

  3. The pressure on the cooker is getting higher and an explosion is bound to happen. It may or may not be for the good. Sometimes fighting is exactly the excuse the “powers that be” are looking for to lock things down, tighten the screws.

    I do wish we could somehow find a way to stay culturally diverse with our own traditions, markets and yes even neighborhoods-because being together helps us keep our identity; but still work with those whose concerns are the same as ours with amity.

  4. @ Grainne,

    “The pressure on the cooker is getting higher and an explosion is bound to happen. It may or may not be for the good. Sometimes fighting is exactly the excuse the “powers that be” are looking for to lock things down, tighten the screws.”

    Of course the state wants us to fight – with each other, that is. So long as the common man is suspicious of the people around him power can manipulate him with impugnity. It’s when people start fighting against the forces of the state that power becomes concerned: history demonstrates time and time again how small groups of regular people with weapons and training can defeat the state in unconventional conflicts.

    In short, fighting only benefits the state so long as we don’t unite against its power. This poster demonstrates these sentiments in a simple yet beautiful manner… http://325.nostate.net/images/9mm.jpg

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