After a welcome season of respite, the central L.A. narrative is turning back to gangs. The New York Times ran on its front page this story by Randal Archibald about gang violence in L.A. with a focus on the Harbor Gateway drama, providing an overview of the problem in L.A. for an international audience.
Sam Quinones in the L.A. Times reports that the 204th Street gang called a truce with its black neighbors on Tuesday. The county is joining the fight, with a focus on the Valley. But last night, In the Hat posed some crucial questions about the Harbor Gateway truce.
In L.A., racial hate always makes a sexy story. Sometimes, as seen in Highland Park, the line is legit, sometimes, as I wrote once, it is not. I asked Luis J. Rodriguez, a man who knows quite a bit about gangs and communities, about this subject when we spoke on Sunday, and here's some of what he had to say, addressing the conclusions of an L.A. Times op-ed by Tanya Hernandez that I found to be dangerously generalizing and selectively stereotyping (She basically says Mexicans are naturally racist, which is extremely offensive to L.A.'s actual culture, character, and intelligence). Rodriguez said:
"Yeah, Mexicans are prejudice, so are blacks, so are whites. You do a survey of anybody, you’re going to find prejudice. That’s not where the problem lies. The problem is when you have poor people, and resources are minimal, people start dividing up in all kinds of ways. And one of them is racial. [...] I find the divisions to be very superficial, but they're very powerful.
"It's not an issue of more suppression, more police, they need more resources. It has to be seen as a health issue, not just their physical health, but their spiritual, intellectual, emotional health. I think we need to have meaningful jobs for people. Gangs exist when there’s a vaccum of those things. You don’t start by arresting gangs and going to war with them. It's like gang warfare against gangs. It doesn’t make any sense. You do it by bringing real resources, life-awakening centers, real leadership, consciousness and education. I know it can be done because I've seen it done."
* Photo by Monica Almeida of The New York Times. Previously, "United by hoods, issues, and bullets."