May 14, 2012
Born of Neglect – The Los Angeles Riots
“It was the city that failed…It was police management, past and present, that has failed. This has to be taken into account to reflect a just and fair sentence…There simply has to be some allowance for the official negligence of the city which allowed this to take place and which will take place again” (qtd. in Cannon 3)
On April 29, 1992, the day the verdict in the Rodney King trial was read, I was seventeen years old. Standing in the living room, I watched the news with my parents as they waited for the verdict. When the four “not guilty” verdicts were announced, I asked my parents why the police were found not guilty if they were caught on tape, that didn’t seem fair. My mom answered, “No one ever said life is fair.” This was news to me; however the people of Los Angeles had learned this lesson the hard way. The people of L.A. and the justice system have had a long and rocky relationship. There have been three major riots in L.A. since 1942, and coincidentally or not, each has a direct correlation with racial bias of the judicial system. While there is good cause to question whether mob mentality took over and created the riots themselves, the circumstances that created the perfect atmosphere for violence cannot be discounted. The Zoot Suit Riots of 1942 involved the predominately Mexican youth of central L.A. and the predominately white servicemen that had been stationed there. Tension between the two had been building, partly due to the servicemen’s rowdy behavior and perceived disrespect to the Mexican community, and partly due to the Mexican youth’s territorialism and pride. Due to the current wartime state of the country however, the media and most citizens gave favor to the servicemen, and portrayed the Mexican Zoot Suitors as gangsters and troublemakers. When José Díaz was discovered murdered, the media and police were quick to label it a gang killing. The subsequent arrests and...
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