This week marked a difficult anniversary for Los Angeles — the 20th anniversary of the LA riots.
What do I remember?
I remember driving home from Hollywood and stopping at a stoplight only to be surrounded by very angry people wielding bats and other large blunt instruments. When I told them I was on their side, they let me go.
I was living with a now-ex-fiance at the time who came from a very religious (born again) family. He was funny, but trying waaaaay too hard to be the next Howard Stern. When his creepy, crispy Christian brother asked if Dan had found Jesus during the riots, his classic response was, “Yeah, I think I saw him looting an appliance store in South Central.” End of conversation.
Very funny line but he was gone by the end of May for many reasons.
The first evening of the riots, I went up to Mulholland Drive to watch the city burn. It was eerie and unbelievable. But what really made that trip totally LA was the fact that there were probably about 20 camera crews up there shooting stock footage for the inevitable MOWs that would be produced in the next few months/years. What made it even MORE LA is the LAPD did nothing to stop the filming. Ahhh…the needs of Hollywood trump social justice every damn time.
Life in the Valley was relatively normal during the riots. At least it was in my ‘hood. The LA basin was a true hot mess. Television coverage was hypnotic and for the most part, the media did an ok job — with one exception: Bree Walker. She was working for the CBS affiliate here at the time and was at the anchor desk reporting about the live shots happening all over the city. The one in Koreatown stuck in my mind. The reporter in front of a mini-mall was giving a report as to what was happening when a shootout between a Korean business owner and rioters sprang up behind him, he dove for cover as the bullets flew and reporting the action along the way. Instead of asking if the reporter was okay, Bree asked, “Do you think those guns are registered?”
At that moment, I chopped off Dan’s head and threw it at the tee vee.
After Rodney King made his whacked-out plea, and the fires were put out and 53 people were killed, and not to mention the emotional and fiscal damage the riots had on the city, state and the psyche of Angelenos, not much changed for those who erupted in anger. Florence and Normandie is still old school and Reginald Denny forgave the folks who beat him within an inch of his life on national tee vee.
South Central is still wallowing in poverty and high unemployment.
Check out these stats courtesy of Mental Floss: From 1970 to 1990, the number of African-Americans living in suburbs jumped from 3.6 million to 10.2 million. However “black flight” contributed to an even greater concentration of poverty in central cities. The total number of African-Americans living in poverty in the ghettoes increased from 2.9 million in 1970 to 5.3 million in 1990, from 13 percent to 18 percent of the African-American population.
And, these numbers will continue to get worse each year. Having a black POTUS or more blacks in positions of power has helped a miniscule amount and bode well for the future, but ill-informed attitudes will be around forever, sadly.
I don’t know if LA has completely recovered from what happened 20 years ago. Sure, the burnt-out buildings are either rebuilt, painted over or gone forever. But the stench of what happened is still permeating this city, and that’s good. A little reminder never hurt anyone, but will it help?