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Black and Brown in Los Angeles

Black and Brown in Los Angeles: Beyond Conflict and Coalition

Josh Kun
Laura Pulido
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 418
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  • Book Info
    Black and Brown in Los Angeles
    Book Description:

    Black and Brown in Los Angeles is a timely and wide-ranging, interdisciplinary foray into the complicated world of multiethnic Los Angeles. The first book to focus exclusively on the range of relationships and interactions between Latinas/os and African Americans in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, the book delivers supporting evidence that Los Angeles is a key place to study racial politics while also providing the basis for broader discussions of multiethnic America. Students, faculty, and interested readers will gain an understanding of the different forms of cultural borrowing and exchange that have shaped a terrain through which African Americans and Latinas/os cross paths, intersect, move in parallel tracks, and engage with a whole range of aspects of urban living. Tensions and shared intimacies are recurrent themes that emerge as the contributors seek to integrate artistic and cultural constructs with politics and economics in their goal of extending simple paradigms of conflict, cooperation, or coalition. The book features essays by historians, economists, and cultural and ethnic studies scholars, alongside contributions by photographers and journalists working in Los Angeles.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95687-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    In February 2009, we organized a roundtable at the University of Southern California called “Writing Race in L.A.” As part of the series Blacks and Latinos in Conflict and Cooperation, the evening featured a group of African American and Latina/o writers—Héctor Tobar, Erin Aubry Kaplan, Helena María Viramontes, and Dana Johnson—who were asked about how they approach racial identity and racial representation in their writing about Los Angeles. Tobar spoke of the importance of the Black saint Martin de Porres to his immigrant Guatemalan mother (he is remembered in Tobar’s middle name), the debt all Latina/o citizens of...


    • 1 Keeping It Real: Demographic Change, Economic Conflict, and Interethnic Organizing for Social Justice in Los Angeles
      (pp. 33-66)

      In June 2011, federal authorities indicted fifty-one members of a Latino gang that had engaged in racially motivated attacks on black residents in a struggling suburb named Azusa, California, near Los Angeles. The tally of crime was high: between 1996 and 2001, at least eight families saw their houses firebombed, and in 2000, a young black nurse named Ge’Juan Salle was gunned down as he strolled out of an auto parts store with his cousin (Sewell 2011).

      Over the last decade, a flurry of media stories has tended to focus on exactly these sorts of conflicts, creating the appearance of...

    • 2 Banking on the Community: Mexican Immigrants’ Experiences in a Historically African American Bank in South Central Los Angeles, 1970–2007
      (pp. 67-89)

      The 1992 Los Angeles uprisings caused massive destruction throughout the South Central Los Angeles region. Businesses, homes, and lives were lost all in outrage to yet another instance of state-sanctioned violence inflicted on African American and Latino bodies as the white police officers who brutally beat Rodney King a year prior went unpunished. African Americans and Latinos alike took to the streets as their economic, political, and social livelihoods were severely limited as a result of poverty, disinvestment, and injustice. The acquittal of the police officers was the last straw in years of shattered dreams and opportunities. One business lost...

    • 3 Black Views toward Proposed Undocumented Immigration Policies: The Role of Racial Stereotypes and Economic Competition
      (pp. 90-112)

      Leimert Park, a traditionally Black neighborhood in South Los Angeles became an unlikely meeting ground for a group of anti–illegal immigration protesters in the months following the widely publicized 2006 May Day demonstrations for immigrant rights. May 3 of that year kicked off a series of demonstrations in the community, when a predominately White anti–illegal immigration group called the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp was joined by a Black anti–illegal immigration group called Choose Black America (CBA).¹ During an interview with National Public Radio, Ted Hayes, leader of Choose Black America stated, “What the Minutemen are doing today...


    • 4 The Changing Valence of White Racial Innocence: Black-Brown Unity in the 1970s Los Angeles School Desegregation Struggles
      (pp. 115-142)

      On September 10, 1978, the buses finally rolled. After a fifteen-year legal battle, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) initiated one of the largest mandatory desegregation programs in the nation’s history, involving nearly forty thousand students in fourth through eighth grades.¹ Supported by large majorities of Black parents, political leaders, and civil rights organizations and championed by predominantly white liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the plan embraced the notion that educational opportunities for Black students in particular would be maximized when they were no longer relegated to inferior, stigmatized, and segregated schools. A federal study...

    • 5 Fighting the Segregation Amendment: Black and Mexican American Responses to Proposition 14 in Los Angeles
      (pp. 143-175)

      On June 20, 1964, the United Civil Rights Committee (UCRC), a predominantly African American civil rights organization, began a voter registration drive in Los Angeles’s black and Mexican American neighborhoods in hopes of defeating Proposition 14 in the November election. The goal of the drive, according to the city’s weekly African American newspaper, the Los Angeles Sentinel, was to “register 200,000 non-voting Negro and Mexican Americans in the local community in a massive all out effort to defeat Proposition 14—the anti-fair housing initiative.” The UCRC believed that increasing the number of black and Mexican American voters would bolster the...

    • 6 The Politics of Low and Slow/Bajito y Suavecito: Black and Chicano Lowriders in Los Angeles, from the 1960s through the 1970s
      (pp. 176-200)

      Hollywood movies have often presented sensationalized and racialized images of lowrider culture in Los Angeles that have commonly led to the misconception that lowriders are “gangs on wheels.” Boulevard Nights (1979) was one the first movies that visualized lowrider culture in East Los Angeles by connecting it not only to the culture of “gangs,” or la vida loca, but also to Chicano culture by capturing the lingo, music, art, and cruising of Chicano lowriders in the late 1970s. In one scene, the protagonist, Raymond, takes his ruca/girlfriend and younger brother, Chuco, to cruise on Whittier Boulevard on a Friday night...


    • 7 Rainbow Coalition in the Golden State? Exposing Myths, Uncovering New Realities in Latino Attitudes toward Blacks
      (pp. 203-232)

      During the 1970s and 1980s Blacks and Latinos appeared close to forming a “rainbow coalition” that would work for the political and social benefit of both groups. Large metropolitan cities with sizable minority populations, like New York, Denver, and Los Angeles, saw Black-Brown coalitions to elect African American and Latino mayors, and continuing cooperation seemed to be in the best interest of both groups. In Los Angeles, Latinos were brought into the Bradley coalition over time and became important partners in electing African Americans to office in California. In Colorado, Blacks alongside Hispanics were a big part of the coalition...

    • 8 Race and the L.A. Human: Race Relations and Violence in Globalized Los Angeles
      (pp. 233-252)

      In the summer of 2005 I received a phone call from a friend who was being held in Men’s Central Jail, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He had already spent twenty-four hours in a four-man cell with twelve other men—all African American and Latino. There would be more as he remained there for another fifteen hours. He explained to me later that he was not afraid of dying at the hands of one of his fellow inmates, regardless of skin color. It was clear to him and everyone else in that cell that they were not one...


    • 9 More Than Just the Latinos-Next-Door; Piercing Black Silence on Immigration; and Plugging Immigration’s Drain on Black Employment
      (pp. 255-260)

      A Latino family is moving onto my block. This is an unremarkable event and, in the predominantly African American part of town where I live, certainly not an unprecedented one. It’s a natural part of the ebb and flow of all neighborhoods; turnover, like death and taxes, is certain. One of the great scenes of Americana is a van or a truck parked by the curb or driveway, ramp extended, as the rest of the block gathers on the sidewalk to watch the installment of new neighbors and their belongings. It represents social mobility and new beginnings at their most...

    • 10 Race, Real Estate, and the Mexican Mafia: A Report from the Black and Latino Killing Fields
      (pp. 261-298)

      On the afternoon of December 15, 2006, fourteen-year-old Cheryl Green was talking with friends on Harvard Boulevard, near 206th Street in a tiny working-class L.A. neighborhood in the Harbor Gateway.

      The Harbor Gateway is the name given to a strip of Los Angeles that is a few blocks wide and several miles long. The strip is counted as the city, but really it serves only to connect Los Angeles with its port and the communities of San Pedro and Wilmington. The strip’s size and the low income of its residents mean that, until that afternoon, it had been largely ignored...


    • 11 Landscapes of Black and Brown Los Angeles: A Photo Essay
      (pp. 301-315)

      We know the names: South Central, Crenshaw, Watts, Compton—places of fame and infamy. Vermont, Slauson, Florence, Normandie, M.L.K.Jr.—the boulevards and avenues crisscross the flatlands, where the smog settles over the cramped apartment buildings and single-family homes and vacant lots and buildings-for-lease in a pearlescent haze. We know the images writ large on a mythical collective consciousness, too well to rehearse again here. But there are also churches and liquor stores and carnicerías, barbershops and photo studios and schools, among faded murals broadcasting past struggles and the possibilities of other worlds. There is the rasp of skateboard wheels on...

    • 12 Spatial Entitlement: Race, Displacement, and Sonic Reclamation in Postwar Los Angeles
      (pp. 316-340)

      In 1948, the Black entrepreneur John Dolphin saw an opportunity, and technology was on his side. An L.A. immigrant from Detroit, Dolphin discovered that most music stores in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles refused to carry records by Black artists. Yet he knew it had never been easier to record and market Black musicians: the postwar acquisition of tape-recording technology meant that ordinary people could now afford portable tape recorders, which meant that recording could be done anywhere and transferred to records. In the 1940s, radio stations had just begun to use recorded music instead of live music in regular...

    • 13 On Fallen Nature and the Two Cities
      (pp. 341-345)

      Perhaps one of my earliest recollections of prejudice that I can remember happened around the age of eight. I recall boarding the RTD and having to explain to my mother what the bus driver said about the bus fair. The bus driver scornfully remarked, “Doesn’t your mom speak English? We live in America.” Indignation filled my small frame, and I felt like beating the crap out of that bigot. Somehow I knew there was a lack of empathy and a sense of contempt spewing from that man.

      That childhood event weighs heavily on my practice as an artist. That is...

    • 14 “Just Win, Baby!” The Raider Nation and Second Chances for Black and Brown L.A.
      (pp. 346-372)

      The rough-and-tumble Raiders returned to Los Angeles in style after defeating the favored Washington Redskins in the 1983 season Super Bowl. The multiday celebration commenced with two thousand fans congregating at L.A.’s airport and is still remembered twenty-five years later by journalists and witnesses alike. A Raiders rally at City Hall on January 24, 1984, drawing eight thousand fans from all over the area, followed the joyous welcome. Never before had Los Angeles won a football championship; fans reveled in the moment. Raider favorites running back Marcus Allen, a University of Southern California alumni, and coach Tom Flores exclaimed their...

    • 15 What Is an MC If He Can’t Rap to Banda? Making Music in Nuevo L.A.
      (pp. 373-394)
      JOSH KUN

      In the weeks before the 2003 California recall election wrapped production on a hot new political farce starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor-to-be hit the campaign trail. He wanted to make it clear that even though he opposes his gardeners and nannies having driver’s licenses and even though he supported Proposition 187, he actually likes Mexicans. Or at least that’s what he told a crowd at the Inner City Games softball tournament in Santa Fe Springs, where he was forced to appear after he was disinvited from a Mexican Independence Day parade in East L.A.

      “I love Mexico,” he said. “I’ve...

  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 395-398)
  12. Index
    (pp. 399-406)