Jul 312016
 

In my current WIP, California Incline, the story suggests that the Rodney King riots would never really end in the sense that its root causes were (are) still present:

But even though John had left town, he hadn’t escaped anything, because a riot isn’t an event with a beginning and an end. It’s in the air, like the ashes of the American Dream of immigrants like Yong Soo whose businesses lay in burned-out ruins. The Rodney King riot reached back to the Watts riot a generation earlier, to the Zoot Suit riot a generation before that, and even earlier. As soon as it was over, everyone knew it wasn’t the last riot L.A would have. For all the talk about change, the problems were still there. The hate and the fear, the unemployment, the anger, the repression, the drugs and the gangs . . .

After writing that, I started to wonder: has there been a race riot in Los Angeles every generation since Americans took control of California? L.A has always had a violent history. The Spanish treatment of the local Native American population started with the beheading of a local chief near the future site of Mission San Gabriel. But since 1846, how many catalogued riots have there been directly attributed to race relations?

Working backward from present, there has not been a recognized uprising in L.A. since the Rodney King riots of 1992. This isn’t meant to discount the Black Lives Matter protests; just to distinguish those from widely-recognized rioting.

Here’s a partial list:

  • 1992 – Rodney King riots (or uprising, or civil unrest, or Saigu)
  • 1965 – Watts riots
  • 1943 – Zoot Suit riots
  • 1871 – Chinese Massacre

Those are the major events I found. Not a happy list. Certainly not inclusive of every incident of organized or individual acts of racial violence. Painful nonetheless.

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