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Assessment of Interracial/Interethnic Conflict in Los Angeles


Los Angeles has a history of considerable racial and ethnic conflict, ranging from the “zoot suit riots” of 1943 through the Watts riots of 1965 and the so-called “Rodney King” rioting in 1992. Politics in Los Angeles has often reflected this intergroup conflict, from Sam Yorty’s mayoralty campaign against the black Tom Bradley, that many observers felt was laced with quasi-racist appeals, through the high-intensity contentions over busing for school integration in the 1970's and over illegal immigration in the 1990's, to the ethnic rivalries that surfaced in the 2001 mayoralty race between James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa.

At the end of World War II Los Angeles County had an overwhelmingly white population. That has changed over time, most dramatically in the last two decades. Now there is no majority ethnic group in Los Angeles County. The largest consists of Latinos, with about 41% of the total population, according to the 2000 Census. Trailing well behind are non-Hispanic whites, at 32%. True “minority” groups include Asian Americans (12%) and African Americans (10%). This combination of a history of ethnic and racial conflict in the area, and the sharply changing demographics that are bound to alter the social dynamics of ethnic relations in Los Angeles, led us to focus the 2001 Los Angeles County Social Survey on perceptions of and attitudes about ethnic and racial conflict.

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