Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riots of 1992

The Los Angeles Riots

So much had been destroyed — the scars on the landscape were still vivid and fresh.

Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riot of 1992

When I finally returned to Los Angeles a year after that, I went to work for a Head Start agency in one of the hardest-hit areas. Even then, two years later, there were shells of burned out buildings and empty lots. I told her not to worry, that as a big brown-skinned man, wearing his Malcolm X beanie with a walking stick and a pound Siberian husky on a leash, I felt fully capable of handling whatever might come my way. Yeah, I was a fool. The protestors started downtown at Parker Center and seemed much like the Greens and other social activists protesting World Bank and IMF gatherings, but that was only the beginning; the turmoil rolled on, gathering in strength and viciousness, and by that time the fires had spread to dozens of neighborhoods and got huge legs.

The rioting involved much of the central city and beyond. I shared that rage. I turned onto Prospect Boulevard, that lovely tree-lined street with the occasional mansion designed by Frank Lloyd Wright or the Green Brothers. By the time I reached Arroyo Boulevard, the street that overlooks the Rose Bowl, I heard the faint but unmistakable sound of staccato gunfire coming from around the Bowl.

Looking into the darkness, I strained to see what was jumping off down below. Then tires squealed and I saw various cars roaring away from the road that encircled the Bowl — where we jogged and cyclists buzzed by in their crazed peloton. Looking into the weirdly dark roads below, I saw cars roaring away from the Rose Bowl, flashes from the muzzles of their guns, up toward the sweet, moneyed Prospect neighborhood: I trotted back to my working-class neighborhood, but not so quickly as to miss noticing how deserted the streets were.

Just about home, I saw a black woman working on her car, adroitly using an engine jack to drop her engine all by herself. I shouted to her that some fools were shooting up the Rose Bowl. She sighed and shook her head.


Nothing good is gonna come out of shooting up the city. Where do they fit into the history of Los Angeles? How about your imagination of Los Angeles? The fact that there was a second one underscores how little had actually changed since the first. Huge disparities existed — and still exist — between the incredibly privileged and the more burdened parts of the city. And because Los Angeles is spread out geographically, it was easy for people to stay in their separate spheres and not feel like part of the same place, the same community.

The uprisings fit into the history of Los Angeles by reminding us — dramatically, and at great cost — that the hopefulness and opportunity for which L.

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Most of the real stories are passed over by recorded history, and by mainstream media, too. Some of the most compelling stories involve people and families, as well as the conflicts — and allegiances — between communities. While there are still a lot of divisions in Los Angeles along lines of race and class, there are also places where people unexpectedly come together — the mix of Latino, Jewish, and Japanese in Boyle Heights; the deep connection between Japanese Americans and African Americans in Crenshaw. That latter connection is at the heart of my novel Southland.

I loved going into the Holiday Bowl and seeing black folks and Japanese folks of all ages bowling and eating together. I loved what it said and meant: But the real place is much messier, and much more interesting. Once the rioting was over and the analysis and condemnation began on the right and left, the idea percolated in me. Yet here I was in the thick of the aftermath as I transitioned from Liberty Hill to being one of the directors a politically correct troika, I might add, of an African American, a 1.

I knew the terrain from various sides, including meetings with the individuals involved in hammering out the gang truce. The story was right there in front of me. It seems one of the historical lessons of Sa-i-Gu is that imbalances in the socio-political sphere, ignored or merely covered by a Band-Aid, will invariably create a backlash in some form or another.

But back to the riots and what they symbolized as expressed in our pop culture. The work they inspired is both an expression of the imaginations of cultural artists and, in turn, fired the imaginations of the consumers of the material. For some, the riots were almost a random event, linked tenuously to the Rodney King beating: I came to Los Angeles in at about the age of six, and the city burst into flames just to welcome me.

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As a boy, it was disturbing to see fire in the distance and smoke wafting to the Jefferson Park area where I was growing up. Though seeing the tanks and half-tracks rolling along Exposition Boulevard was cool. How do you refer to them? What distinguishes a riot from an uprising or a disturbance?

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But, as you said, language matters. Communities rebel against an occupation, and a disorganized rebellion functions as a riot. Please enter your name. The E-mail message field is required.

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And so, we must begin. O marked it as to-read Mar 08, Please create a new list with a new name; move some items to a new or existing list; or delete some items. Alvarez, while realizing her foolish pathos, pleads with the young man to spare the tree, so harmless, so L. The E-mail message field is required.

Please enter the message. Please verify that you are not a robot. Would you also like to submit a review for this item? You already recently rated this item. Your rating has been recorded. Write a review Rate this item: Preview this item Preview this item. Really Great Books, English View all editions and formats Summary: Collection of essays, personal reflections and interviews regarding the Rodney King riots. All authors were Los Angeles residents at the time of the riots. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private.

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