Now that the dust has settled in the wake of numerous documentaries, television news specials, formal studies by educational centers, think tanks and other entities in this, the 25th anniversary of the 1992 revolt/riot/uprising of Los Angeles, we may ask the burning questions: What did it mean, and where do we go from here? In light of the billions of dollars spent in well-publicized efforts to rebuild and/or revitalize the city, a few well-placed voices from differing vantage points consented to give their “take” on the passage of time, and the changes that have or have not taken place.
How we got here
The history of race in Los Angeles is by turn, both similar and different from other cities across the United States. Originally coined to describe the enclaves Jewish people were relegated to in 14th century Venice, Italy, the term “ghetto” arrived at its current definition in post World War II America. The economic boom of this period (spawned by defense contracts, which in turn were instigated by the Cold War and the fear of nuclear annihilation) spurred the exodus of Whites from he central metropolitan areas to the suburbs.
Well before this, Blacks were motivated to move to Los Angeles in the years leading up to the Depression by the collapse of agriculture in the South, along with farm mechanization brought on by the New Deal (which further decreased the employment pool). Among them was the family of Lee and Crenner Bradley of central Texas, along with their son, Thomas. This movement continued on through the Black participation in the era’s great migration (circa 1940 to 1950), as related by the Schomburg Center’s “In Motion” website (http://www.inmotionaame.org).
In post-war Los Angeles, Blacks differed from their eastern counterparts in that home ownership was comparatively easier, albeit stymied by the real estate covenants and other methodologies contrived to restrict Black settlement to certain areas (i.e., the region along Central Avenue, according to California State University Northridge professors James P. Allen and Eugene Turner).
These new environs, away from the threat of Jim Crow and the hangman’s noose, were not totally hospitable to these Southern transplants, as law enforcement endeavored to maintain the peace (and the status quo) by social control and de facto segregation. None-the-less, the prospect of well paying blue-collar jobs and the American Dream of home ownership made for a more tolerable life in the Golden State compared to the one they left behind in Dixie.
The oppositional forces of economic necessity/opportunity and inhuman treatment by the powers that be were manifested by civil disturbances in 1965, and it’s direct descendent in 1992. For those who moan about these recycled events, some small satisfaction may be derived from discernable patterns that emerge over the passage of time (which may in turn provide a barometer of sorts to predict and prepare for the future). Thusly, we saw a “yo-yoing” effect between the left and right leaning factions of the political realm. Police brutality spawned civil unrest, and the emergence of the Black Panther Party and radicalized elements.