Zoot-Suit Riots Exemplify Ethnic Tensions in Los Angeles (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: The zoot-suit riots made it clear that the two primary causes for the polarization of the Mexican-American and Anglo communities in Los Angeles were overt racism and tradition.
Summary of Event
The events that culminated in the zoot-suit riots of 1943 cannot be traced to only one or two sources. A close examination of the social and political climate of Los Angeles in the early 1940’s reveals that a combination of factors was responsible for the riots. All these factors, however, reflect the city’s attitude toward minorities in general and, more specifically, the Mexican-American population of Los Angeles.
Fully expecting a sea attack from Japan after Pearl Harbor, military and civilian authorities in Los Angeles took a hard look at the activities of all minorities in the city. First, all Japanese were moved inland, away from the shoreline. This fear of subversive activities among the Japanese was extended to all minorities by a series of books that were widely read and discussed by people in Los Angeles in 1943. The paranoia generated by books such as Martin Dies’s The Trojan Horse in America (1940) and Harold Lavine’s Fifth Column in America (1940) led to the creation by the California State legislature of a joint senate-assembly committee to investigate communist, fascist, Nazi, and other foreign-dominated groups. The Mexican-American community became one of the...
(The entire section is 1784 words.)
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