A Tale of Los Angeles: Smog, Racism and Police Brutality

Oh, Los Angeles. You're supposed to be the star of this little production called "City of Angels". What are you thinking? What are you doing? What in tarnation is going on?!

Los Angeles, your agent might refuse to represent you anymore if you keep acting out like this.

The first headline I read yesterday morning was, "Los Angeles Remains Most Polluted US City".

Great, just great. I'm sure my two sons are going to have the lungs of a pack a day smoker by the time they're 18. I can't say I was totally surprised about this given the brown haze that hangs over this city, particularly during the summertime. But by the end of the day, I started to wonder if it's the bad air that clouds folks judgment out here.

After reading about my reduced lung capacity, I went and clicked on the 7 am broadcast of the KTLA morning news. I wanted to see what was brewing with our scheduled immigration reform marches. A reporter standing on the corner of Broadway and Olympic in downtown popped onto my screen, saying, "I think the turnout is going to be pretty small this year. I've only seen a few protesters so far this morning." Um, yeah, moron. If it's 7 am and the march didn't start till like 10 in the morning, who's going to come down 3 hours early?

Tuesday is normally the day I'm in the office for meetings. However, since our office is located in downtown LA, we had to shut down for the day due to the marches. Never fear though, it wasn't a day off. It was a "work remotely" kind of day. So, around 10:15, I headed up Vermont to the Starbucks in Los Feliz, met with my boss, and then stayed to get a few things done.

While 10,000 people were busy marching in downtown, I got the "pleasure" of overhearing a conversation between what I'm guessing was a realtor (R) and her friend (F). I sat right next to these two and typed their conversation as they talked:

Realtor: You know what, I know I work very well with the Europeans and civilized people from New York and Chicago.

Friend: I LOVE Europe.

R: Exactly. I mean, this lady yesterday wanted me to drive around the neighborhood so she could see if she liked it, and then asked me, where are the black people?

F: Are you serious?

R: I told her, "Honey, this is Beverly Hills, there are no black people!"

F: laughing out loud at this comment.

R: Seriously, they come here and they want a nice neighborhood but they want "diversity". If they want diversity, move to Inglewood and get shot.

Sigh. I'll spare you all the verbatim of the rest of the conversation where the friend went on to discuss his three master's degrees and how he's trying to hire someone for a job, but he wants someone that is a recreational drug user. "Someone that can have a little fun on the weekend, you know." Clearly, book learning and letters behind your name doesn't mean anything.

I headed home for lunch and then drove over to another Starbucks by USC. I met with three of the teachers I supervise and it was finally time to head home again. As I drove north on Hoover Street, I heard the buzz of helicopters overhead. By the time I got to Hoover and Venice, northbound traffic was at a standstill. There was no southbound traffic.

Oh no, I'd forgotten about the afternoon march down to MacArthur Park.

Now, when I think of MacArthur Park, I don't think of a place to take my kids to play even though it's sort of pretty there. Instead, I think of drug deals, crime, fake ids, prostitution...you get the picture. It's also in one of the most congested, poor and heavily recent immigrant parts of the city, the Westlake district. Hoover Street drives by there.

Time for a u-turn and some creative driving to try to get around this march/rally.

As I drove, I turned on KNX AM1070 and heard that there was a scuffle going on with the police. The reporter said rubber bullets were being shot into the crowd, that the police were hitting reporters with their batons. It wasn't until I watched the 11 pm news that I saw the footage of what went down.

It made me feel sick. Maybe you don't come over to this blog regularly and you think I'm crazy. Maybe you come over and frequently share your thoughts. Maybe you're too shy and you never leave a comment. That's all fine. But, I want you to click this link and watch this footage.

Seeing that footage made me feel broken-hearted about this city of supposed angels. It made Los Angeles look sooo bad.

But I'm also a little bit glad.

I'm glad that we're being forced to pull back the veil, revealing once more the truths about what's really going on in this city. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. And I know it's not just my city. It's your city too, even if there's no media footage to show it.


none said…
Remember how coverage of the LA riots was suppressed?

They are still to this day not talking about the scope of the damage and loss of life.

What is is going to take to fix LA?

I live in a culturally diverse city with a lot of poverty and pretty much everyone gets along or at least ignores each other.

Gang on gang and domestic violence are the only things we see around here and not even much of that.
Horrible and eery. I wonder how many Rodney King type incidents don't get reported. Yes, a LOT needs to change before the human race kills itself off completely.

I mentioned the smog honors to Flip yesterday, who is from L.A. He wasn't surprised.

As for your overheard conversation at Starbucks, the degree of emptiness is truly dazzling. I love my image of you madly typing away at the next table, recording their vapidity for the masses.
West said…
Those reporters were just ASKING for it!
When Boston gets bad press I sometimes feel a little depressed myself. Especially with the urban warzone nonsense that's got young people shooting each other for no good reason at all. As for the conversation, it's funny the things people say when they think no one else is listening. I'd love to see these two end up on YouTube and then have to go around doing the apology parade with Al Sharpton. It would be funny for about 5 seconds and then it would just be sad.
Anonymous said…
The ignorance of whites is just astounding. Last Saturday I asked my agent as we were looking at houses about the neighborhood of a particular house. She responded by saying, "the neighborhood is mixed...there are a number of "coloreds" that live here"....amazing huh! I was so shocked all I could do was laugh! Honestly I don't think she was racist, just ignorant as hell!!

Will this video change LA...No it won't...Just as daily marches and t.v. footages of blacks killing each other and actin' ignorant hasn't stopped blacks from doing dumb shit...t.v. footage of whites being racist and overly violent won't change anything either!
Liz Dwyer said…
Macro level, it's going to take a profound change in spirit and a desire for justice to transform LA (or anyplace else on this planet). LA gets to be the poster child of badness this week, but I really do think this kind of stuff is everywhere. Most of the time, people here just ignore each other as well, but I actually think that's bad and contributes to the problem. We should be truly engaging with each other in a positive way instead of pretending and staying in our own corners.

My neighborhood bar/karaoke joint is called the "Smog Cutter" -- if all the smog goes away, they'll have to change the name. My neighborhood wouldn't be the same if that happened...

The typing/eavesdropping thing -there are so many screenwriter/novelist types hanging out there that I'm sure I blend right in! ;)

Yeah, what were those reporters thinking? Who told them they could actually cover the rally?

What happened at that rally was the lead story on NBC nightly news and the lead story on MSNBC for awhile yesterday. It did make me so sad because I love this city in so many ways and it gets such a negative image.

Wouldn't that be something to be able to put folks on blast on YouTube? Too bad I don't know how to use the record feature on my cell phone. Oh, and I don't even know how to upload to YouTube... oh wait, someone just put a video of me on YouTube doing something crazy! (Just kidding, I think!)

But I don't think it's just white folks. I think we're all part of the problem. We all play our role, our part in what's going on in our society. White folks have their issues that they need to work out, but so does everyone else.

And no, I don't think this video will change LA all that much, but who knows...

Jameil said…
wow... that doesn't even look like america. i don't even know what to say.

how do you always overhear these insane conversations? i guess we're crazy for wanting to be around black people no matter where we are, huh?

i did hear this guy at the gym say about the michael richards thing "they need to get over it, he apologized" and i wanted to throw things and cuss him out and say "SAYS THE FAT MAN AT THE GYM WHO STANDS AROUND AND NEVER WORKS OUT!! WHY DO I ALWAYS SEE YOU TALKING BUT NEVER WORKIN OFF THAT GIANT BELLY?!" but then i'd be wrong.
Jameil said…
oh yeah and i live in pittsburgh... the number 2 city on that list. THAT WAS NOT ON THE PAMPHLET!!!!
Liz Dwyer said…
When I watch that footage, I definitely feel like it should be happening somewhere else. It's a bit surreal. And it's only 2 miles away from where I live.

I think I get to overhear so many things because I don't have an office job. I'm always out around people all over the city so I get to see a wide variety of people, places, things...and I get to hear a lot of conversations. I spend a lot of time in coffee shops as well. People relax there, they let their guard down. A coffee shop feels private when it really isn't.

Pittsburgh...Yay! You feel our LA smoggerificness! Is being number two like having a half pack-a-day smoking habit?
Anonymous said…

You are a woman of the world, and it always leans in to let you know it.

In line at a mailing center:

Soldier, home from Iraq: "It was horrible seeing all the conditions the little kids had to grow up in. They don't deserve that, and I wasn't making much of a difference."

Woman (about age 51): " Oh, yes, it is terrible, they're all so cute, with those dark little eyes. But then they grow up and they're...well, they're like all those others, you know?"
Jon said…
I've got to find a new Starbucks... All the big green stores out here are boring!

I really, really, really hope that our society realizes that something has got to be done to bring about some peaceful solution. Rubber bullets and CS gas don't really do much but disperse the crowd, we need our elected officials to work together to help solve problems rather than just sucking up bribes. Change has got to be on the horizon.
Liz Dwyer said…
I'm sure that soldier is going to be haunted for the rest of his life by what he saw. That woman has no idea but she needs to wake up and get a clue.

I'll bet if you go into your local SBUX at the right time and just sit and listen, you'll hear and see similar stuff. Go sit in there in the afternoon when it's really slow. Eavesdrop on the employees. It's fascinating.

And I agree with you, change is coming. It's like the last few moments of darkness before the dawn. We just need that dawn to get here a little faster.
Anonymous said…
Great post. Overhearing such a comment must have been horrible - it kind of makes you feel like life is even worse for black people than it ever was because now we "think" it's better.

As for the police brutality, NY and LA are a darn mess. The video is disturbing, but far from surprising.

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