Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Nearly 20 years after the L.A. riots, has much changed at street level?

In an essay in the Pasadena Weekly reflecting on the shootings deaths of black teens Trayvon Martin in Florida and, more recently, Kendrec McDade in Pasadena, Kevin Uhrich makes the argument that the unresolved social issues and complex racial tensions that led to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots haven't dissipated, at least not at street level.

As the 1992 riots illustrated, in L.A. these tensions go far beyond black-white, encompassing Latinos, Asians, and other descendants of immigrants, populations that have only grown since. And while the nation has come a long way in terms of electing a black president and having other high-level minority leaders, the shootings suggest a different reality on the ground. Uhrich writes:

Over the past two decades, the list of African-American, Latino and Asian-American federal, state and local lawmakers and administrators elected or appointed to some of the highest offices in the land has become quite lengthy.

Yet, in the minds of some, progress in the sometimes tortured historical relationships shared by white Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans is measured best not by the number of people who serve at the pleasure of presidents but by what happens on the streets " as illustrated by the case of Altadena"s Rodney King, who was mercilessly beaten on March 3, 1991, by four LAPD officers who were acquitted more than a year later, sparking widespread rioting throughout LA County, including Pasadena.

On the streets, indicators of racial equality and social justice are stark, dramatic and often terrible " just the right combination of ingredients for a news story of great interest.

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