Finally, in 1959, the last Mexican-American holdouts in Chavez Ravine were forcibly removed from their homes by police, and the bulldozers were brought in to clear all remaining buildings, according to the PBS report. Los Angeles Times reporter Dan Lai wrote in his blog on April 20, 2010:
"[Chavez Ravine] is a story of broken promises, wicked land deals, slimy business proceedings, highly questionable political wrangling, mayoral lies, forcible evictions, eminent domain, and baseball… the short of the story…is that basically the City of Los Angeles kicked out a huge group of Chicano Americans living self-sufficiently in the Chavez Ravine area…bulldozed their homes and promised to re-house them by building high rise public housing projects…"
Meanwhile, in the book Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles, essayist Camille Zubrinsky Charles writes that immigrant status "significantly impacts the likelihood of homeownership" (Charles, 2002, p. 172). In fact slightly more than half of Caucasians in Los Angeles own their homes (and 46.2% of Asians own their own homes) but only 27.3% of Latinos own their homes in Los Angeles. Overall, only 21.5% of foreign-born Latinos are homeowners in L.A. while 43.3% of U.S.-born Latinos own their homes. There is a discrepancy between Caucasian monthly mortgage payments and what foreign-born Latinos have to pay. Charles (p. 174) reports that foreign-born Latinos' average monthly mortgage payment is $830; Caucasians' average monthly mortgage payment is $749. Is this unintentional discrimination? That could be true, but one wonders why Latinos would pay higher rent when generally speaking they live in poorer economic communities.
Labor and Job Safety Issues for Latinos in Los Angeles
There have been some blatantly unfair policies that have affected Latinos in Los Angeles in the recent past. Rodolfo Acuna reports on "widespread safety problems facing Latino workers" in the early 1990s, as published in the Los Angeles Times. Close to half of the 875,000 manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles in 1991-92 were held by Latinos, he writes, but apparently the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) did not believe that safe working conditions for Latinos was not important. According to Acuna's book, in 1990 Cal/OSHA only inspected 4% of all factories in Los Angeles "…as compared to 10% in San Francisco and 16% in Sacramento" (Acuna, 1996, p. 199).
Acuna claims that 21 Latino workers -- "especially Mexicans and Central Americans" -- were "exposed to highly toxic plastics" in 1991-92; tragically, Acuna reports that "twenty-one workers died as a result of fatal accidents" (Acuna, p. 199).
Education Bias Against Latinos?
In March, 2010, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights announced that it was conducting an investigation of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The probe is designed to look into "how English learners are identified and when they are judged fluent enough to handle regular course work," according to Howard Blume, writing in the Los Angeles Times. "English learners" in this instance are overwhelmingly Latino students whose ability to use the English language is flawed; and the investigation was prompted by the fact that only "about 3 in 100" English learners "are proficient in math and English at the high school level" (Blume, 2010).
The investigation is not based on charges that the LAUSD has conducted a policy of institutional racism against the Latino community, Blume explains. However, if "qualified, appropriately trained teachers are not teaching Latino students" and if teachers can't make "math and science understandable for students with limited-English skills" then in effect the civil rights of those underserved Latino students are being neglected. Sending Latino high school students out into the workplace with a severely limited grasp of English, math, and science means their chances of economic achievement are slim and none.
The theory operating in this investigation -- unspoken but a reality -- is that many in the Latino community in Los Angeles are already living in poverty or near poverty level. If the school district fails to provide a fair education for Latino students, they are then destined to live in the same difficult socioeconomic environment as their parents.
"The ultimate goal" of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, Hume continues, is to "exert pressure on L.A. Unified and other school districts to close the achievement gap that separates white, Asian and higher-income students from low-income, black and Latino students." The federal government has the authority to "examine practices that harm groups of students," even if there was no deliberate intent to discriminate, Hume explains.
Hume writes that the investigation will also look into what kind of tutoring help -- if any -- does LAUSD offer to Latino students that are struggling "the most"; the probe will also review whether or not LAUSD "communicates effectively with parents in a language they understand" (Hume, 2010). In other words, the school district should have bilingual staff available to speak to the parents of Latino students in Spanish, to explain what is expected of their children in school and to coax those parents into attending meetings during which their children are being assisted and advised about future opportunities in the local economy.
The recent highly controversial immigration law that was passed in Arizona has stirred up passions all over the U.S.; demonstrations and rallies criticizing the new law are aimed primarily at the idea that racial profiling (picking out a driver or a pedestrian to interrogate based on the color of his skin) will be made legal when the law goes into effect. Meanwhile, out of the glare of national publicity there is evidence (presented in this paper) of bias against Latinos in Los Angeles -- in housing, in education, in politics and in jobs. What are the solutions to these problems? Any potential solution will not happen because a new law or regulation has been passed. It will come from the minds and hearts of the public. Communities from different cultures working together can, if they have the right leadership, eventually ease the strain of ethnic and social discrimination. Only time will tell if that will happen in Los Angeles.
Acuna, Rodolfo. (1996). Anything but Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles.
Chicago: Haymarket Books / Haymarket Series.
Charles, Camille Zubrinsky. (2002). Residential Segregation in Los Angeles. In L. Bobo (Ed.),
Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles (pp. 167-180). New York: Russell Sage
Decker, Cathleen. (2010). Latino Power Comes Full Circle in L.A. The Los Angeles Times
Retrieved May 2, 2010, from http://www.latimes.com.
Hayes-Bautista, David E. (2004). La nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State. Berkeley:
Hovey, Joseph D., Kain, Craig, Rojas, Rebecca S., and Magana, Crista. (2000). Current
Psychology, 19(3), 159-174.
Hume, Howard. (2010). U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights targets L.A.
Unified for investigation. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010, from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/