How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Compton's Measure B: How district elections could change 'racially polarized' voting

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from a New York Times interactive mapping project. Blue dots represent black residents, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A measure in Compton that came out of a lawsuit seeking greater political representation for Latinos in the city passed by a clear margin in yesterday's California primary election. And while there's no guarantee it will boost voter turnout in city elections, it's worth taking a look at some of the changes to come.

The 2010 lawsuit, which claimed a pattern of racially polarized voting, landed Compton in the national news. The problems it alleged were seen as symbolic of the cultural and political struggles that have ensued in formerly black regions of Los Angeles County that are now predominantly Latino, including neighboring Lynwood. In Compton, formerly majority black, the population is now two-thirds Latino.

The back story: In December 2010, three Latina residents sued the city under the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, claiming that Compton’s at-large city elections violated Latinos’ civil rights by diluting their voting power. Although the city is majority Latino, city council members have traditionally been black, and Latinos have historically had trouble winning elected office. (One sticking point in the lawsuit, as plaintiffs argued the lack of Latino representation, was the racial identity of a council member elected in 2011 who is of black and Spanish ancestry.)

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Featured comment: One reader's plea for 'space' in Compton

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A post from last week regarding the political scenario in Compton, where Latino residents are vying with the city's established but shrinking African American community for political power, drew a series of comments over the weekend. While most of the later comments revolved around illegal immigration (and no, the lawsuit filed by three Latina residents trying to change Compton's local election process has nothing to do with this) there was an intriguing comment at the beginning that I reread a few times.

From a reader identified as "1tag," the comment, below, captured something beyond what's often described in simple terms as racial and ethnic tension in parts of Los Angeles County such as Compton, where a traditionally African American population has given way to a Latino majority.

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Compton: A shifting population, except in City Hall

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos, red dots represent Asians and green dots represent whites. Each dot represents 25 people.

When the initial 2010 census results were released last month, the attention quickly turned to the nation's growing Latino population and, in turn, how it will shape the political landscape.

While the U.S. Census Bureau has yet to release new data on race and ethnicity, it's already clear that some of the states with the biggest population growth, and which will gain Congressional seats, also happen to be states where Latinos have come to represent a bigger chunk of the population in recent years. But does this necessarily translate into more political clout for Latinos? And as these population shifts take place, what shape do they take at the neighborhood level, culturally and politically?

An interesting case study is playing out in Compton, a working-class Los Angeles County city that was long predominantly African American (some may remember it as the Compton of N.W.A's 1988 hip hop classic Straight Outta Compton) but where Latinos now make up two-thirds of the population.

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In Compton, a case study in shifting demographics and the political landscape

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A post yesterday explored the political impact of a shifting and growing Latino population throughout the United States, as states with some of the biggest population gains noted in last year's census pick up Congressional seats. But there's another version of the population shift story that's unfolding in Compton at the moment, a formerly African American majority city that is now two-thirds Latino.

Like other communities in a broad swath of Los Angeles County that was once predominantly African American, Compton is in the throes of a cultural and political struggle between its traditional residents and its newer ones, as both groups compete for political clout and limited resources in a community where the 2009 per-capita income was a little over $13,000.

In December, three Latinas sued the city under the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, claiming that Compton's at-large city council elections violated Latinos' civil rights by weakening their voting power. Though the city is now majority Latino, all four city council members and the mayor are African American. Since 2000, half a dozen Latino candidates have run for office and lost.

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