Expert Commentary

Perceptions of minority residents on coalition building in South Los Angeles

2007 Tomas Rivera Policy Institute paper examining the sources of tension between African-Americans, Latinos and others in South L.A. June, 2007

Between 1970 and 1997, Hispanics in South Los Angeles increased from 10% of the population to approximately 50%. During the same period, 300,000 manufacturing jobs were lost and replaced by low-wage positions held by immigrants. At the same time, small businesses shifted from African-Americans to Latinos and Asians. After tensions erupted in widespread violence in 1992, incidents have continued between Latinos, African-Americans and other ethnic groups.

A 2007 paper by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, “Beyond the Racial Divide: Perceptions of Minority Residents on Coalition Building in South Los Angeles,” examines the factors that have led to this situation and explores possible solutions.

The paper’s findings include:

  • The main factors leading to ethnic and racial tensions were poverty and inequalities in access to resources and living-wage jobs.
  • Women were more likely than men to indicate experiencing racial slurs.
  • Prejudice or racism was not considered a serious problem among youth, but youths felt that older generations held negative stereotypes of youth.
  • African-American participants perceived competition for jobs and resources with Latinos. Latino participants agreed with this perception but did not perceive competition with African-Americans.
  • African-Americans perceived that neither group could empathize with the other, thus, unique challenges of each community must be addressed first before meaningful collaboration could progress. Latinos, however, felt that both communities should work toward common goals and avoid alienating the other.

As a possible solution, the author suggests that public schools and human-relation commissions actively pursue programs to improve inter-ethnic relations.

Photo from “Gang War” blog. Tags: California, Hispanic, Latino, African-American, race

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