Reflections on "Straight Outta Compton"

Reflections on "Straight Outta Compton"

I just saw Straight Outta Compton near my home, in a tiny theater that dates back to the silent era (1913) and which has miraculously survived the wrecking ball. It brought up so many vivid memories and thoughts since N.W.A.'s music was kinda the soundtrack of my life as I grew into adulthood and was politicized by events depicted in the film.

And it necessitates a disclaimer: I deplore the misogyny in the film as much as I do in the music. Regardless, the music's rebellious anti-police message was a reflection of the spirit of resistance during that era, which has amazing resonance with Black Lives Matter today. And the time of the film's release is fitting too, as it's the 50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion (which ended 50 years ago tomorrow, after igniting Los Angeles -- not just Watts -- with 6 days of rioting).

Now the personal stuff: I was born in Long Beach, which touches Compton on its southeast border, and many of my older relatives lived in these municipalities of southern LA County when the area was heavily industrialized with well-paid jobs for the white working class. Much like the transformations in Ferguson, Missouri, Compton is predominately a residential bedroom community that has always relied on surrounding cites for jobs. And as the area began to deindustrialize, it went from being almost exclusively white in the 1950s to majority black by the 1970s. Then it transformed again in the 1990s and became majority Latina/o as the last of the Fordist factories closed and most of the few jobs that still exist today serve the supply chain extending from the LA/Long Beach port complex 10 miles away, to bring manufactured products from elsewhere -- mostly Asia -- through this international gateway.

As areas like South Central Los Angeles and surrounding towns suffered the devastation of economic hollowing out and unemployment, in the era of Ronald Reagan the state-level response to this social crisis was unleashing police repression and prison building. The Los Angeles Police Department created elite units, like Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) in 1979 and they were a rapid-response force to gang violence (in the tradition of LAPD's SWAT team, created in response to Watts).

As a 17-year-old I experienced their "kick asses and take names later" approach the summer after I graduated from a central LA high school in 1980. On one sweltering hot night my friends and I were drinking beer on the sports field of our closed-for-summer high school and got the stupid idea of walking around the campus. Unbeknownst to us, a 24-hour security guard was stationed in a newly constructed building. He phoned the cops and said he was being overrun by a street gang. CRASH arrived, having been dispatched from the infamous nearby Rampart Division, swinging batons and if we didn't get whacked right after getting chased down and tackled, we got handcuffed and thrown onto the hoods of the squadcars, with the cops gratuitously slamming our heads into the sheetmetal. The scene in Straight Outta Compton where Ice Cube has the exact same thing done to him by LAPD goons right in front of his parents is straight outta my memory (and he's from South Central LA, not next door in Compton). The CRASH cops kept asking us what our "set" (gang) was, but when we didn't understand they brought us into a more lighted area and saw the absurdity of a gang of a half dozen Latino, Asian and white kids who looked more like skateboarders than gangbangers. The cops simply uncuffed and let us go, as though nothing had happened.

I knew LAPD were pigs, as I'd watched the 1974 shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army live on TV, but I also learned that being white was no immunity to getting my ass kicked by the men-in-blue. That same summer, it happened again but this time at a house party just a block away from my former high school. A Filipina classmate and her brother had a house party on a weekend that their parents were away. Pretty typical, they cleared all the furniture out of the living room of their humble single family house to be a dance floor with one of their friends being DJ. It was like a mini-UN that reflected the diverse students I'd just finished high school with. There were only a dozen or so black kids in my graduating class, and they were all there. So were kids from families that had immigrated from China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Central and South America, and white kids of European descent like myself. It was a pretty mellow party and all of us were having fun, dancing and drinking.

Some of us were in the kitchen at the back of the house when we noticed the "ghetto bird," the LAPD helicopter shining its spotlight over the house and sending rays of intense light through the windows. Which is nothing unusual in LA, just the pigs prowling overhead looking for crime breakers (Mike Davis pointed out that LAPD choppers logged in more airtime than the British military did in all of Northern Ireland). Since we were inside and it was only around 11:00 p.m. and the music wasn't that loud, we thought nothing of it -- until out the windows we saw the riots helmets of a dozen or so SWAT team members running down the driveway along the side of the house. We immediately locked the back door and looked for an escape. As we made our way to the front, we saw the girl who was the party host standing at the front door attempting to negotiate with the pigs. Once the front door was fully open, they simply grabbed her and pulled her down the outside steps and sent her sprawling on the front lawn. The SWAT pigs formed a gauntlet and ordered all of us through it and out onto the sidewalk and into the street. If someone didn't pass them quickly enough, they got a jab with the riot baton or a whack across their backs -- sometimes both.

My friends and I had been at the back of the house, so when it was our turn to exit the house we practically ran outside and through the gauntlet and didn't stop till we were a block away. There, we looked back and saw some of our friends lying face-down on the lawn being handcuffed, all this punctuated by the pig copter that hovered in arcs overhead, illuminating the whole scene like light flares in World War I trench warfare. We counted around 15 squad cars clustered in the middle of the street, meaning at least 30 pigs to bust a party with 50 kids. Typical LAPD overkill, just like the film depicts, except in 1987 LAPD Chief Darryl Gates escalated this domestic war when he launched Operation Hammer as a campaign to racially profile, corral and arrest thousands of black and brown youth for essentially no reason -- although the media spectacle presented it as a crackdown on gang violence.

Straight Outta Compton does an excellent job of showing all this heavy-handed policing, including scenes of battering rams purportedly being used to raid crack houses. A must-read to understand all this is Gerald Horne's The Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s to get a sense of how the struggle against police harassment preceded Watts -- its roots date back to the LAPD Red Squads created in the aftermath of the dynamiting of the LA Times Building, which killed 21 during a strike in 1910, allegedly by the anarchist McNamara brothers -- and how since then it has been a highly militarized police state that regularly brutalizes anyone homeless, poor, working class, radical, queer, non-conformist (like wearing a zoot suit), and especially a person of color. Watch Cle "Bone" Sloan's' Bastards of the Party to see how the Crips and Bloods were born out of self-defense against white racist gangs that LAPD condoned. And watch Straight Outta Compton to see the events and listen to the soundtrack of the conditions that gave rise to the Rodney King Rebellion. Critique the misogyny, homophobia, and corrosive effects of fame and wealth (and Ice Cube's brief flirtation with anti-Semitism), but see the open expression of contempt for the pigs as the spirit that also animates Black Lives Matter. It's the same struggle.

It was true in 1965, 1992, and it is still true today, whether in Oakland, Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore or LA: FUCK THE POLICE!

Posted By

Hieronymous
Aug 17 2015 05:03

Share

Attached files

Comments

fnbrilll
Aug 17 2015 04:52

thanks again.

Cooked
Aug 17 2015 10:44

Interesting and well written. Nice!

jef costello
Aug 17 2015 14:22

Thanks, maybe this should be a blog post, it deserves to be seen by more people.

Hieronymous
Aug 17 2015 15:30
jef costello wrote:
Thanks, maybe this should be a blog post, it deserves to be seen by more people.

Thanks to all of you for the supportive words.

Could one of the moderators enable me to create a blog? Thanks.

Ed
Aug 17 2015 16:54

Okay, this has now been made a blog post. H, you now also have blogging permissions.

Cheers for writing this, very very interesting..

888
Aug 18 2015 04:23

This is really good!

S. Artesian
Aug 18 2015 13:21

H.--

Nice piece.

eugene
Aug 19 2015 15:25

Hey thanks for writing this in a personalized sort of way, I feel like it's not done enough. Growing up in the A.V. (Lancaster-Palmdale, which is now a ghettoized suburb of L.A.) and dealing with the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, the ghetto birds...ect. ect., I can relate while acknowledging that the experiences are still different. I often have a hard time relating similar experiences to others engaged in struggle and personal anecdotes such as this are refreshing, if for no other reason than that they help validate some of the various and unique experiences that are associated with growing up working-class.
Cheers.

Hieronymous
Aug 21 2015 01:41
eugene wrote:
Hey thanks for writing this in a personalized sort of way, I feel like it's not done enough. Growing up in the A.V. (Lancaster-Palmdale, which is now a ghettoized suburb of L.A.) and dealing with the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, the ghetto birds...ect. ect., I can relate while acknowledging that the experiences are still different.

Hey Eugene,

Thanks for the feedback. I'd really like to hear of your experiences with the LA County Sheriffs in the high desert ghetto.

Which brings up my own experience with them:

My dad grew up at the heart of unincorporated East LA, near the corner of Whittier and Atlantic Boulevards. My grandmother lived in same house near that corner from 1932 until she died the year of the Rodney King Uprising. The whole area had been surrounded by factories and all adult males in my family once worked in either the tire plants (B.F. Goodrich and Uniroyal) or foundries that were within walking distance. With deindustrialization, the area went from a varied ethnic mix to the Latina/o majority it is today.

My cousins grew up in that house too, were half Chicano, and constantly suffered the random intimidation and racial profiling of the LA County Sheriffs. One cousin explained the dynamic: the LA County Jails were administered by the Sheriffs Department and new recruits to the force had to work the jails for a couple years as their initiation before working the streets. And in the jails, the deputies ran a brutal regime; any time they were outside their cells, prisoners had to keep both hands in the pockets of their jail pants. Removing one's hands was seen by the jailers as an "assault" and it resulted in a severe beating. Those rookie sheriffs who couldn't show their brutality didn't survive this rite of passage and never made it onto the streets. So the ones who did make it were conditioned by regularly administering beatings.

I found this out firsthand. In the mid-1980s my grandmother, aunt and all my cousins but one were out of town together. It was another one of those hot sweltering LA summer nights and me and my friends were going to hang out with my remaining cousin after he got off work. We arrived early, found a hidden key, and let ourselves into my grandmother's house and waited. We raided the refrigerator and were eating when we heard loud raps at the front door. I went to answer it and no sooner had I opened the door, than I was being dragged out, handcuffed and thrown on the hood of a squad car in the street. All I can remember is getting several fists in my mid-section and feeling my face slammed on the car's hood. My two friends, who came to the front of the house to check on the commotion, were soon face-down on squadcar hoods too. The sheriff's deputies were all pumped up on adrenaline and kept shouting questions at us, but without allowing us to respond.

The pig haranguing me did calm down and ask what we'd stolen. I responded "nothing," and said it was my grandma's house. He simply said "bullshit" and continued the yelling. Then, they paraded the next door neighbors by us, who'd apparently called the police. They were elderly and despite knowing me my entire life, didn't recognize me and told this to the cops. They'd yanked my ID out of my wallet and noticed I lived in LA proper, all the way on the other side of town. This confirmed to them that we were burglars. My friends, indignant at being beaten up and laid out on the hoods (there were a half dozen squadcars), mouthed off -- only to receive more punches to their backs and mid-sections.

In my mind, I was resigned that I was headed to the hellhole of Men's Central Jail, which once booked into could take at least another day to get booked out of. I dreaded the thought and was worried my friends weren't shutting up and were were getting battered. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my cousin innocently walking down the street. He had a look on his face of shock and surprise; he rushed too quickly towards us and was too inquisitive and got too close to the cops. Before he even realized it, he also was lying handcuffed on the hood of a squad car. He protested that he lived in the house and I was his cousin. Which was answered with "bullshit." Literally, about an hour later the pigs verified my cousin's address on his ID as being the house we were in front of. The next door neighbors eventually came back out, squinted at us, and recognized my cousin and finally me too, so after almost two and a half hours in handcuffs, the sheriff deputies let us go. The beating had quieted us all down somewhat, so we were completely taken off guard when the pigs continued threatening us, telling us they were going to fuck us up and kick our asses if they ever saw us again as they drove away.

Years later, when I learned the history of how the LA County Sheriffs had killed LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar and three others on August 29, 1970 as they ruthlessly broke up a march by 30,000 during the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, it all became clear. That had happened just 2 miles west from where I was jacked up; my cousins related to me that harassment by LA County Sheriffs was a daily part of their existence. The U.S. was born in a bloodbath of genocidal conquest, which soon gave rise to a slave economy and a permanent police state. LA is among the places in the U.S. where the pigs most closely carry on this tradition of terrorizing with impunity. Thankfully, movements like Black Lives Matter have risen up to resist this; hopefully it will expand to include all of the working class.

Tyrion
Aug 20 2015 14:21

Powerful stuff, Hieronymous! Have you considered an ongoing blog or some other space where stories like the ones you've recounted here could be collected? I'd love to read more about your experiences.

petey
Aug 21 2015 12:00

very interesting, i know little at all about that entire scene, thanks.

Hieronymous wrote:
jef costello wrote:
Thanks, maybe this should be a blog post, it deserves to be seen by more people.

Thanks to all of you for the supportive words.

Could one of the moderators enable me to create a blog? Thanks.

who the hell downvoted that?

eugene
Aug 21 2015 23:52

Hey Hieronymous,

Your description of the LASD is about par for the course. Like LA proper, ghetto birds were in the sky virtually 24/7 and in fact, the Antelope Valley is where they train their pilots. Even when partying out in the desert, where you would think you would be safe, they would come out and shine the spotlight down, followed by LASD in their jeeps coming to fuck with us.

I can validate what you said about LA Central. I was there on a petty drug charge and while I’ve been in many jails sense, that one sticks in the back of my mind and was actually a determining factor of why I moved out of LA county. While I was there, I witnessed a level of brutality I had never experienced before, nor since. Being a young punk, I had a back patch that said kill cops, which got my head bashed against the wall. Deputies were bragging about whose ass they kicked today and the holding cell across from mine got tear gassed (there was at least 30 people crammed inside of it). That was all before even being processed.
Once on the range, racial segregation was strictly enforced by both prisoners and the deps. ‘Woods” (for those that don’t know, ’whites” imprisoned in the southwest and west coast of the US are referred to as peckerwoods) were denied food because “our” wood rep (the only one the deps speak to) stayed in his bunk, instead of lining up for breakfast. The following day, all blacks were denied lunch, all because a young kid didn’t know that he had to walk with his hands in his pockets. The dep mocked him saying, “looks like you’ve seen Boyz n the Hood to many times. No food for the blacks”. Luckily he was a kid, and older folks made sure that no one held it against him. In the lunch hall, you literally have less than a minute to eat your lunch and I along with the entire range, we were made to lay face down on our bunks as they savagely beat that same kid in the showers for bringing part of his lunch back to the pod in his pocket. I was also there on the day Tookie Williams was executed upstate. Again the entire jail was forced to lay face down on their bunks (out of fear of rioting) and the guards boasted of feeding us what they called “the tookie special”, which was two microwaved burritos.
Keep in mind that that was all within a week and half, before my security level was raised and I was moved to the 5 men cells, which is a whole nother story. So yeah, I can totally second what you were saying.
Outside on the street, it was what was to be expected, racist and corrupt. But my experience is still limited on account of being white. I was a lot more of a shit head than my black and hispanic friends were, but they caught charges for lesser offences while for me, it was boys will be boys until I turned 18, then I was white trash.

One thing for certain was that the LASD treated blacks and hispanic's as some sort of LA invasion, which was reflective of many whites in the valley. Not to dive too far off into this vast topic, but you referenced Mike Davis City of Quartz, (which was a pivotal book for me in helping deconstruct a lot of this shit), and the valley boom was the result of the white flight he talked about. Yet for those that ended up there, it was both the only option because most could not afford anything west of or in Santa Clarita, and also in terms of it being the end of the line in terms of commuting to work in LA. Obviously a significant portion of that working lower middle class, were black and hispanic. Short end of a long story is that during the housing booms they built entire subdivisions that stood vacant after each crash, those house were turned into section 8 housing that in turn “accommodated” those displaced through the urban renewal and gentrification of LA proper. This process has been on repeat since the 80’s.

The reason I bring this up is that it created in the shadow of the pseudo-liberal bastion of LA, one of the most racially tense environments one can think of outside of jim crow and one that I have never came close to experiencing elsewhere. I was young when rodney king happened but I can still remember the fear in the family, in the schools and elsewhere amongst integrated whites who literally perceived themselves as being under siege by “those people from LA”.

Add the immediate impact the State Prison has on the community, it opens up an entirely different dynamic of policing given the high rate of parolees and horizontal and racially motivated violence. All in some shit hole desert city that offers no real employment and blacks specifically, first endure displacement only to face continued terror from the state and white supremacist gangs. To this day, the AV has more than double the average of hate crimes compared to the state average and almost three times that of the national average. Growing up, nearly everyone I kicked it with had a brother or a cousin that had been to prison and came out a white supremacist (mainly of a non-ideological persuasion). Many of my former friends went that route, and I hate to admit it, but looking back, it could have just as easily been me if I hadn’t been first introduced to anti-racist skins and punx. Shitty but true.

edit: I got off track about the LASD's and the county housing authority's relation to the predominantly black population in Section 8 housing, which included unwarranted raids to "check for compliance". But here is an article filled with a bullshit reform talk but a bit of background. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-sheriff-antelope-valley-20...

Hieronymous
Aug 24 2015 03:08

Eugene,

Thanks for your excellent account and the link to the LA Times story about Section 8 raids. Very insightful and useful to see how the conditions of the class war affect us, especially the racial divisions in far-flung suburbs -- and exurbs.

eugene wrote:
I can validate what you said about LA Central. I was there on a petty drug charge and while I’ve been in many jails sense, that one sticks in the back of my mind and was actually a determining factor of why I moved out of LA county.

Being white, yet having so many fucked up interactions with pigs was one of the main reason I moved to Northern California. Like you, me and my friends did lots and lots of stupid shit, but when caught we were also often let go with a paternalistic warning by a white pig. Also, around 1984 I was cruising around LA with a carload of friends on a Saturday night. We were thinking of checking out some music along the Sunset Strip, but couldn't find anything. So we turned back and were headed east towards home when we made the mistake of turning off La Brea onto Hollywood Boulevard. Cruising was big then and cars were moving at a crawl. No sooner had we got stuck in the traffic, than a verbal beef was happening right in front of us between a car and a pickup truck. A guy riding in the bed of the pickup approached the passenger side window of the car to throw some punches, but wasn't able to do that because the driver reached out the window and put a pistol out in front of the windshield and shot him once -- hitting him in the leg. The guy hobbled back to the pickup, his friends dragged him in and they drove onto the sidewalk and raced down it to the next corner and turned off the boulevard. It was at that point that I decided I never wanted to live in LA again.

eugene wrote:
Once on the range, racial segregation was strictly enforced by both prisoners and the deps. ‘Woods” (for those that don’t know, ’whites” imprisoned in the southwest and west coast of the US are referred to as peckerwoods) were denied food because “our” wood rep (the only one the deps speak to) stayed in his bunk, instead of lining up for breakfast.

I once had the misfortune of doing a month at the rural jail of a Central Valley county (kinda like the old "honor rancho" of LA County) for a serious driving charge. I was hit with the whole "woods" thing as I walked in, since in the Central Valley it's common outside jails/prisons too. My naivety turned out to be a blessing, as I was put in a minimum security mixed worker dorm where there were no affiliations (gang, ethnic or otherwise). We delivered meals from the kitchen to the 10 or so other dorms, so I got to see the ethnic segregation. But the Sureños were segregated in remote pods in an adjacent maximum security building, were all chained together when they were moved (the rest of us just had individual hand and ankle shackles), and had to literally wear striped black and white jail clothes (the rest of us had clothes with colors indicating our dorm). Since all the dorms were in a square that enclosed the "yard," we could see all the other prisoners during exercise. Lots of 23-16 tattoos on whites, symbolizing W(hite)-P(ower) along with swastikas. There were lots of Norteños with their 14 tattoos, since this part of the Valley was their base, along with many Hmong gangsters but I don't know their broader affiliation. There were even a few Chinese Crips.

eugene wrote:
One thing for certain was that the LASD treated blacks and hispanic's as some sort of LA invasion, which was reflective of many whites in the valley. Not to dive too far off into this vast topic, but you referenced Mike Davis City of Quartz, (which was a pivotal book for me in helping deconstruct a lot of this shit), and the valley boom was the result of the white flight he talked about.

I finished reading City of Quartz while visiting family during an El Niño thunderstorm in 1992. I arrived in downtown LA at night and it was like a scene out of Blade Runner because the normally arid city was dripping wet and intersections flooded due to the heavy rain. I stayed with a relative who had become a yuppie and decided to move into a former warehouse, located east of downtown along the railroad tracks between the massive Civic Center complex and the LA River. The warehouse had been converted to "artists lofts" a decade before, but by this time was mostly full of stockbrokers, lawyers and other hip professionals. But since it had been a warehouse, the roof was leaking -- on me -- and I couldn't sleep. I woke up, parted the curtains and looked out the window. And what I saw directly across the street was the Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles (pictured above), the Post Modern federal prison that also happened to be on the cover of the copy of City of Quartz that I'd literally finished earlier that evening. It was surreal, to say the least.

eugene wrote:
The reason I bring this up is that it created in the shadow of the pseudo-liberal bastion of LA, one of the most racially tense environments one can think of outside of jim crow and one that I have never came close to experiencing elsewhere. I was young when rodney king happened but I can still remember the fear in the family, in the schools and elsewhere amongst integrated whites who literally perceived themselves as being under siege by “those people from LA”.

And I fully agree with you about LA -- and southern California more generally -- being a place of Jim Crow. As you move through the city, you see the demarcation lines separating the different ethnic and class enclaves. After the explosion last year in Ferguson, I read Colin Gordon's brilliant Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City (with his amazing Mapping Decline website) and could see how this white flight and resegregation dynamic plays out when working class people of color also suburbanize -- into places like the Antelope Valley, as you mention, as well as Riverside County (where many of my Chicano cousins now live) and other hinterlands. In other places where these explosions have occurred, like Baltimore and Oakland, are on the other end of this process as they are the hollowed out inner-city cores that everyone went in flight from.

My mixed feeling about LA had been inflamed a couple years before, in 1990, when a group of Bay Area labor activists showed a VHS video (at the beginning of the the YouTube clip above) with raw footage of the Justice for Janitors legally permitted march in LA's elite modern financial district of Century City getting brutally broken up by LAPD. For nearly a century LA was an "open shop" fortress, where the ruling class was hardly challenged (compared to the Bay Area, where there were general strikes in 1934 and 1946) and resistance was forced to take the form of urban riots in 1965 and 1992 (as MLK said, "riots are the voice of the unheard"). The May Day General Strike in 2006 showed that the Spanish-speaking proletariat could fight back. Hopefully class-based actions like those will fuse with the Black Lives Matter protests into broader class struggle resistance to the brutal austerity-driven conditions we are forced to live under.

jef costello
Aug 23 2015 19:49

There's a good book about the LAPD and how it was conceived of as a bastion of whiteness, the great white spot, and how the police department was run, specifically by Gates.
Unfortunately it was an ebook and I can't for the life of me remember it's name.

Khawaga
Aug 23 2015 23:59

Eugene and Hieronymous, I just wanted to say that I've found your respective posts really fascinating.

Hieronymous
Aug 24 2015 04:37
Khawaga wrote:
Eugene and Hieronymous, I just wanted to say that I've found your respective posts really fascinating.

Thanks, comrade.

jef costello wrote:
There's a good book about the LAPD and how it was conceived of as a bastion of whiteness, the great white spot, and how the police department was run, specifically by Gates.
Unfortunately it was an ebook and I can't for the life of me remember it's name.

If you can find it, please forward it to us. Sounds like a really important book.

Darryl Gates was unique as a large city chief of police because in nearly every U.S. city the job is non-partisan. Gates took strong advocacy positions on political issues and endorsed candidates. Gates was a straight-up racist and in 1982 said:

Gates wrote:
Blacks might be more likely to die from chokeholds because their arteries do not open as fast as they do in "normal people."

Horne's Fire this Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s has excellent accounts of LA's history of racism and with roots in attacks on the white working class:

Gerald Horne wrote:
LA was an antiunion town as a direct result of the furor surrounding the bombing of the LA Times building in 1910, and this helped to ensure an ample supply of cheap white labor. The subsequent trial of labor and left advocates and the resultant growth of the right wing in Southern California was a dominant factor in shaping racism there; cheap white labor feared cheaper black labor, and captains of industry manipulated one against the other. Almost no blacks were employed in the city's booming tire and auto plants during the early 1930s. They were excluded from most unions, except the left-influenced Packing House Workers. The exclusion from the private sector led blacks to the public sector for jobs, but obstacles were there also; teaching jobs were generally not available. In Pasadena blacks were barred from public swimming pools, but in a uniquely LA twist, so were Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Mexicans. (p. 28)

Then he gets to the rise of reactionaries:

Gerald Horne wrote:
LA provided fertile territory for hte growth of the ultraright. As Christopher Rand put it, the city "has few of the Abolitionist memories that have helped move Northern consciences." LA may have been victim of what Rand has termed the "horizontality to the U.S migration camp," whereby northerners migrate to the San Francisco Bay Area and southerners to LA, thus bolstering racist and regressive sentiment; there was enormous rightward pressure on elected officials like President Lyndon Johnson and Governor Pat Brown. By 1965 Southern California generally had developed a well-deserved reputation for being a headquarters of the U.S. right [emphasis mine -- H.] The right in this region had developed a taste for violence that reached back at least to the racist Chinatown Massacre of 24 October 1871 that cost eighteen their lives. The image of gun-toting blacks in 1965 Watts was perceived by some ultrightists as a challenge that had to be met. Other militant rightists responded by deserting LA in droves for Orange County to the south, which played a role in boosting this populous region into the forefront of right-wing politics nationally. (p. 264)

After the Rodney King Rebellion in 1992, Orange County wasn't an escape hatch any more -- as witnessed by the 2012 uprising in Anaheim, home of Disneyland, after the police killing of an unarmed Latino man (Anaheim was also where there had been Klansman cops as far back as the 1920s). The new way out of LA was the high desert -- like what Eugene describes -- or moving due east along highway I-10 into San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, and even pushing as far out as the Moreno Valley and then south along 1-215 to the valley around the once remote farming town of Hemet. Others have followed the well-worn trail of racists down I-15 into northern San Diego County, to places like Fallbrook that was once the base for White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger. But John Birchers used to be all over Southern California. Don't know if their Cold War politics survived the times.

jef costello
Aug 24 2015 08:20

I confused Gates and Parker (I read another book about Gates at some point.
The book isn't massively political but it's interesting.

LA Nori the struggle for the soul of america's most seductive city.

http://www.johnbuntin.com/book.html

eugene
Aug 24 2015 21:19

Something that is worth mentioning is that as the cost of living goes up in California and manufacturers outsource to Arizona because it is a right to work state, white flight from Southern Cali continues along with all elements of the working-class. Living in Phoenix now, it is essentially the mirror continuation of Los Angeles. It has allowed working-class home owners to sell their homes in Cali for at least double of what they pay for a new one in the Phoenix valley. For instance, my parents were able to sell their home in the AV (a shit hole) that was nonetheless integrated with section 8 housing for $240,000 and were able to buy an almost brand new home in Gilbert AZ (a uber white and ultra conservative suburb) for $190,000. At least half of their new neighbors are from so-cal.

Phoenix which is known nationally as being the home of right wing extremism and racist legislation, (militia men, the home of NSM, SB-1070 ...ect. ect.) has become a magnet for the conservative white middle-class, fleeing so-cal and the mid-west and why it is virtually the complete opposite (in terms of politics and a culture of white supremacy) than that of all the other major cities in the state, which tend to be genuinely bi-cultural and somewhat liberal. It is literally as if the white middle-class migrated to Phoenix, only to get pissed off that there were so many Mexicans already living in the region.

Yet I think an odd dynamic is starting to form with in the Phoenix Valley, because the "affordable" cost of living and near guarantee of employment, Phoenix as the fastest growing city in the states, is also attracting thousands of working-class people from the east coast, west coast and the mid-west. Virtually everyone I worked with in manufacturing was from out of state, from traditionally union strong states, had a history of union membership and high wages, and are now working through temp agencies for as low as 10/hr. In my experience there political orientation (even if a-political) is in stark contrast to the prevailing politics of the state, making Phoenix a clash of the hegemonic white supremacist upper/middle-class and a nationally and internationally migratory, pissed off, disenfranchised and left wing leaning working-class, who are struggling hard to get bye on depressed wages. Hopefully it is a powder keg waiting to go off, but it's to soon to tell.

And thanks again Hieronymous for your informative and insightful contributions.

bastarx
Aug 25 2015 01:44

It hasn't been updated for 3 years but this Phoenix anarchist blog had some pretty interesting stuff on it.

http://firesneverextinguished.blogspot.com.au

Steven.
Aug 26 2015 11:51

Just to add thanks to Hieronymus for writing this excellent blog, and for the interesting comments, and also thanks to Eugene for that as well.

On a less happy, admin note, I need to say the following:
admin: some users have been abusing our down vote function. Down votes should be used for users posting rude, bullying, discriminatory or other comments which breach our posting guidelines. They are not to be used to bully other users. I have banned one user who has registered a duplicate identity in order to down vote people. While up/down votes are anonymous for users they are not to administrators, so this is an official warning. Continued abuse of the up/down votes will result in bans.

Kate Sharpley
Aug 26 2015 14:57

Fascinating stuff - thanks to both H & E. Personal writing is strong stuff, and seems to have sparked a whole load of constructive responses.

Now, forgive me if this is too librarianly, but could you not whack a subtitle on it? Something that says 'This is not just a film review'?

Just an idea.