Why We’re Talking About Race in L.A.


You’d have to go back 20 years ago this month to remember a time when race was discussed in this country as much as it has been in the last week. The death of 18-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida has ignited a national discourse about the topic, about what it means to be young and black and wearing a hoodie in a gated community. Twenty years ago we were discussing the L.A. riots and wondering: How did we not see that coming? After all, unemployment and racial tensions were high (sound familiar?). South L.A. was reeling from a killing: A Korean shop owner, Soon Ja Du, mistakenly thought a black teenager named Latasha Harlins was stealing some orange juice, tussled with her, and shot her in the head. (You can’t help hearing echoes of the Trayvon Martin case.) We had a black mayor who wasn’t talking to the white police chief (who himself would have been better suited as sheriff of Tombstone, Arizona). Los Angeles should not have been taken by surprise when the four officers were acquitted of beating motorist Rodney King and the city erupted. In the April issue, pegged to the anniversary of the riots, we tackle the topic of race in Los Angeles; it’s one of the most complicated, ambitious projects I’ve worked on as an editor. We don’t just look back at the riots, we also look at the city today, exploring how diversity has long been a source of fear and inspiration here. We also look forward, interviewing six Angelenos born in 1992 from mixed-race backgrounds to hear what they think. As for the cover, we created three versions, a Los Angeles magazine first, featuring three faces of the future. Please pick up a copy—or three—of this important issue.