The shock to L.A.’s collective conscious was a powerful blow on April 29, 1992. While the police relations within the community have dramatically improved—something I would not have predicted even with the accompanying US Justice Dept oversight—the societal underpinnings of division are growing wider. What was 17% African-American unemployment in the South Central area has ballooned to 25% to date. The bottle keg today lies in this growing unemployment trend. It also means that another tumult may be coming because the disenfranchised are still being repressed.
I recall my father’s astonishment that L.A. would endure not just one upheaval in 1965, but also another in 1992, despite all manner of blue-ribbon panels and good intentions. That clearly was not enough. While we have conquered the police brutality of the LAPD (the jury is till out on the County Sheriff’s Dept), we have not yet stepped up to addressing the opportunities lost for so many minority residents. This includes Latinos and African-Americans, as the demographics of South-Central have shifted while the pain has not.
Tavis Smiley and Cornell West have taken upon themselves to shine a light on poverty and to bring the conversation for this year’s election to that topic. Given what is at stake—our democracy and morality—we should all take heed and do our part. “The Rich and Rest of Us” is their book on the topic, and the interview on their treatise is worth listening to for inspiration: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/19/tavis_smiley_cornel_west_on_the