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Violence of a Minority

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Violence of a Minority

Gonzales 1 Andrew Gonzales Mr.Farlow English 1A October 23, 1997 Violence of a Minority The world was shocked by the video tape showing a black motorist being beaten by white police officers. No one had expected that a jury viewing this tape would find the four police officers to be not guilty of using excessive force against Rodney King. The Los Angeles Police Department was unprepared when the personal shock over the trial outcome turned into angry and violent crowd behavior. Koreans did not seem to anticipate that the black rage against the white establishment would be diverted into looting their grocery stores and burning their small businesses. City officials, the police and local merchants did not expect Hispanic immigrants, who were becoming known as the new silent majority on the Los Angeles scene, to be found in large numbers among the participants in the rioting and looting that took place after the verdict. In essence, the Los Angeles riots appeared to be a reenactment of the violence that took place during the Watts riot of 1965, in that in each of the cases the causes, economic consequences, and psychological impact of both the riots were strikingly similar. One reason that the Los Angeles riots were unexpected was the belief that too much had changed in the lives of urban blacks for a repeat of the 1965 Watts uprising. Certainly, Los Angeles in 1992 had a black mayor, an interracial city council, and a reputation as a multi- cultural melting pot. Federal efforts such as civil rights laws and affirmative action would also seem to lessen the past racial problems of Los Angeles. Health, education and social service programs were in place to lessen the pain of poverty and despair in the ghetto. South Central had become a racially mixed area of Asians Hispanics and blacks. The prospects of black residents burning and looting neighborhood stores once again seemed absurd. The 1990s perspective on inner-city problems focused on impoverished blacks in a Gonzales 2 deep depression facing poverty, chronic unemployment, welfare, broken families, teen pregnancies and school dropouts. This was a group appearing to harm itself more than others through gangs, violence, alcohol and drug abuse. The level of despair and hopelessness would seem to be too high to mount racial uprisings similar to the 1960's, when soaring hopes of the Kennedy and Johnson era were disappointed (Sears, 209). The one recent exception was the Miami riot of 1980 and, after all, Miami with its explosive combination of Cuban expatriates, Haitian refugee, poor blacks and Southern white was viewed as an anomaly (Gooding, 53). In retrospect, the initial surprise about the 1992 Los Angeles riots reflects a failure to realize that the treatment a blacks and the living conditions of poor blacks had changed less than we had thought. Meanwhile, the potential for violence was heightened by a social and economic transformation that was occurring in and around the inner-city black neighborhoods. There are three factors which can be noted as being the defining characteristics of the causes of the Los Angeles riots. First, the conditions of poor, urban blacks or the "underclass" have not improved and remain a critical source for urban uprisings (Gooding, 124). Next, black-white tensions remain high, as race relations are in troubled state due to personal and institutional racism, and can easily explode into violent episodes. Third, the combined effects of foreign immigration and economic restructuring, present in many U.S. cites in the 1990's, are leading to inter-ethnic hostilities (Gooding, 139). First, the fact that little has improved in the conditions of poor, urban blacks is a disturbing but a well-documented fact. That is, a large group of inner-city blacks continue to live an isolated ghetto life of poverty, chronic unemployment, crime, poor, schools, violence and despair. That is, despite the outlawing of racial discrimination in housing, many poor urban blacks continue to live in highly segregated urban neighborhoods. Thus, while the explosive growth of suburban employment was taking place in recent decades, poor urban blacks did not benefit (Sears, 211). Moreover, this impoverished group has seen job opportunities around them dwindle even more as economic restructuring resulted in a decline Gonzales 3 in city manufacturing jobs. The presence of an underclass in U.S. cities was often noted as a causal factor in the riots in the 1960's. Unfortunately, many efforts with the goal of fundamentally changing the living conditions of large numbers of poor, urban blacks have fallen short (Sears, 212). As a result, desperate acts of violence and destruction take place on a daily basis, and can escalate into events such as what occurred in Los Angeles in 1992. Next, black-white tensions in the U.S. are still present, and race relations remain highly charged. The blatant expressions of racism by whites are less common now than

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