Los Angeles -- a City Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


Moreover, population groups "…pull up roots and seemingly go out of their way to avoid one another…" throughout Southern California, Worster writes (242). An example of the concept of "pulling up roots" is the community of Watts, which in the 1960s, Worster continues, was "an almost entirely black populace" but by the mid-1990s is "predominately Mexican-American" (p. 243). And Little Tokyo, positioned just south of Los Angeles' City Hall, is now home to a "dwindling population of Japanese-Americans" who have scant interaction with the colonies of artists "who began reclaiming and inhabiting factory and loft buildings" in Little Tokyo. Armenians that once dominated the eastern fringes of Hollywood have "relocated to suburban Glendale" and South Koreans have "settled in the Mid-Wilshire district" which has caused the "displacement of a sizable community of Central Americans," Worster explains. This movement of cultures and ethnicities around the sprawling great Los Angeles region is different than the traditional "white flight" from inner city to suburbia, Worster explains. Rather, this movement tends to prove "Mike Davis's theory of racial hysteria," the author asserts: "…everybody seems to want to move away from everybody else" (p. 243).

Civil Rights Commission hearings -- Los Angeles riots of 1992

Following the high-visibility trial in which three Los Angeles police officers -- who had been videotaped viciously beating Rodney King, an African-American -- were found not guilty, South Central Los Angeles sustained enormous damage due to widespread rioting. The carnage was not just due to the beating visited upon King, but there was a simmering rage in the black community over the institutional and overt racism they had endured through the years. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a hearing in June, 1993; the Chairman of the Commission, Arthur A. Fletcher introduced Michael Carney, Chairman of the California State Advisory Committee, who said that the jobless rate for "Black and Latino males aged 18 to 35" in South Central Los Angeles "is almost 50%" (Berry, 2000, p. 33). With that many unemployed minorities, many of then frustrated and angry at the white majority, and with large numbers of Latino and African-American youths dropping out of high school, the violence was not that hard to predict or explain.

Black Americans living in Los Angeles have complained frequently about the "misconduct by law enforcement agencies," Carney reported to the Commission; he went on to explain that recent studies by independent agencies "…confirm the existence of a pattern of excessive force, inadequate discipline, racism and bias" (Berry, p. 33). Moreover, those studies report a "lack of complaint mechanisms, and a lack of public accountability in law enforcement," all of which contributes to the notion that Los Angeles is a place where racial prejudice is alive and well, and which certainly contributed to the rage after the Rodney King trial. In fact the riots could have been predicted, and indeed some pundits claim that author / historian Mike Davis did predict the riots in his book City of Quartz.

Interviewed by Marcos Frommer with the Chicago Review, Davis denies that he predicted the riots albeit "almost everyone in the areas most frequently brutalized by the Los Angeles Police Department could have and did predict it," Frommer writes (Frommer, 1992, p. 1). In the interview Davis insisted that the "riot" was more along the lines of an "uprising" -- which, unlike a "riot," has political overtones. Prior to the discussion with Frommer, Davis had interviewed a young man, a teenager, who was brutalized just prior to the flashpoint of the uprising at Florence and Normandie Streets. The boy was "tackled, hog-tied, and beaten up by the police," Davis remembered. The boy's mother came upon the scene and "was throttled with a police baton, struck in the chest, and thrown so hard against the fence that the fence is still dented even to this day," Davis continued (Frommer, p. 3). Stories like this one travel very rapidly through word-of-mouth in communities, and they become the kindling for later fires of revolt.


To summarize, and revisit the thesis of this paper, the segregation of Los Angeles is mainly due to the changing economic impacts (white money and privilege) that give momentum to the movements of ethnic demographics from one area of this sprawling megalopolis to another. When Koreans move out of Korea Town, artists move in; when black citizens leave South Central Los Angeles, Latinos move in; and when the Japanese were sent to concentrations camps, blacks moved in where the Asians had been, and so on. Racial discrimination is in full view in Los Angeles -- which is not unique in the big cities in America -- but racial bias cannot fully account for the city's segregated communities.


Berry, Mary Frances, 2000, Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality and Discrimination. DIANE Publishing: Darby, Pennsylvania.

Crash. Lion's Gate Home Entertainment. Rated R. (2005)

Erie, Steven P., Freeman, Gregory, and Joassart-Marcelli, Pascale, 2004, W (h)ither Sprawl? Have Regional Water Policies Subsidized Suburban Development? In Up Against the Sprawl: Public Policy and the Making of Southern California, Eds. J. Wolch, M. Pastor, and P. Dreier. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN.

Frommer, Marcos, 1992, 'An Interview with Mike Davis,' Chicago Review, vol. 38, issue 4, 21-44.

Horne, Gerald. 1997. Fire This Time:…

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