“Homelessness” in Los Angeles Today is the Result of Decades of American Discrimination

Winter in Los Angeles; Winter 2016
Winter in Los Angeles; Winter 2016

In Los Angeles lives the type of progress towards social issues much like what the rest of the country faces, where the wealth of executives at the city’s largest institutions sits unthreatened while masses of low wage workers beneath struggle to make it to the next paycheck. These economics are accepted as irrevocable facts, natural and indefinite as the geography of Los Angeles, rather than as circumstances of human decision-making which have been reinforced over the course of time.

The same principles apply to the treatment of those who’ve exited the workforce or who’ve declined or been prevented from entering it to begin with, such as the so-called “homeless” of L.A. This is a population made up of veterans, LGBTQ youth, formerly incarcerated Black & Latinos, and swaths of others who’ve been historically neglected by Uncle Sam and generations of U.S. populations.

Recently, the L.A. Times has taken up a new series regarding the issue, and while it is a step in the right direction, editorials like these still need to work on their context.

Take for example the Times’s neglect to mention the legacy of homeowners’ and City Councils’ historic anti-Blackness. This is not just a documented phenomenon in Los Angeles, but throughout major cities in the U.S. It is relevant because to discuss “homelessness” without its racial component and documented antecedents would be like discussing crime in America without discussing who is criminalized in America and why. Of course, L.A.’s city council just recently voted to criminalize people sleeping in their cars overnight. Do not wonder why or for whom that is directed towards: Disproportionately, Black & Brown people.

Anti-Blackness in American cities has been best documented most recently by Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay on Redlining districts in Chicago, for example, or by Isabel Wilkerson’s coverage of race rioting in Harlem, New York, and other cities with The Warmth of Other Suns. Mike Davis has also discussed anti-Black fervor in Southern California in his landmark City of Quartz.

For those with less time, just know that in the 5os white and white immigrant homeowners and landlords firebombed Black families when they moved into their neighborhoods in urban America, while in other cities they pelted them with rocks and beat them to a pulp largely without any legal repercussions. Once these actions no longer worked to keep the influx of Blacks fleeing Jim Crow in the U.S. South for the “free North,” whites either up and left further north, or further into the U.S. inland to maintain the dividing lines.

“White flight,” as it’s called, didn’t have to be catastrophic in and of itself, but the phenomenon largely left Black families and neighborhoods in urban America to desolation since so many of the small businesses and government jobs that were virtually monopolized by whites, too, going with them and draining neighborhood of important tax revenue as a result.

Lo and behold, then: Today in our major cities so many descendants of yesterday’s dividing lines happen to be “homeless” and predominantly Black, the likes of whom today’s homeowners and City Councils, as well as even Neighborhood Councils (as opposed to yesterday’s ‘Covenants’ and ‘Associations’), resent and resist. This is not a coincidence. But it is historic.

One might say it’s history repeating itself, albeit on upgraded terms. Blacks fleeing Jim Crow in the U.S. South for the “free North” during the 20th century is significantly different from Black veterans and formerly incarcerated Blacks or Black LGBTQ in the 21st century needing basic shelter and the means by which to support themselves. But these struggles are not disconnected and at their core are a result of the same hate-based policies against non-whites.

If the L.A. Times is serious about garnering attention for “homelessness”, then, it will do well to make sure its reporting accounts for the circumstances across American history that have led to this issue’s proliferation, or at another glance, its modernization.

We can do this, Los Angeles


Back in Los Angeles, Renewed

After a week of meandering through the Midwest, I’m finally back on the west coast. In the midst of its cool and breezy daylight, with bacon grilling on the skillet and a plane engine whirring far out in the clear blue sky, the town has never felt so
fresh; Chicago made for some awesome Times, but I love Los Angeles and wouldn’t trade it for any other city in the world.

Now, it’s time to rebuild myself. As if with new eyes, or at least a renewed vision, I’m at a point at which I can look at things back home from the ground up again.

A new school-year has just begun, and with it, a world of transitions start over again. In the same light, this August 19th, JIMBO TIMES will enter into its third year of production:

And it suddenly dawns on me that in the blink of an eye I might never again see my city the way I get to now. The time is special: particular to sounds, sights, scents, and other essences all of their own. Like everything else, it’s only temporary. For a second, I want to pause every bit of it to stand indefinitely in the moment. I realize that even if it’s not perfect, it’s more than plenty, and that even if it’s a struggle, it’s one I’m fiercely determined to go the distance with. After all, every last inch of L.A.’s concrete has strengthened my feet, every one of its lights has guided my journey, and each of the strangers I’ve encountered along the way have all accompanied me throughout its long road. Together, we are still here: still hungry, but also still humble; day in and night out, each with our own kind of love for this miracle and madness of a home. For me, sometimes it’s not much, but other times, it is everything. Tonight, it is everything.

Today is also my brother’s first day living in San Jose, California. He’s been back home in L.A. since finishing his first semester at Chico State, but now he’s in a transition again, too. School starts for him next week, but before then, it’s just him and a strange new city. I still remember meeting up with him in the city of Chico like it was just the other day.

In reality, it was some two months ago in the early days of June, at the outset of summertime. Looking back at our time at home in the middle of our twenties, we’ll be able to say we managed to be loyal about it for more than one occasion: hugging mom together, riding out to the park together, enjoying fish tacos and a beer or two together.

Tomorrow, mom is also off to an adventure, leaving for a week to visit our abuelita in Oaxaca. I’m happy for her, but also naturally just slightly worried. Flying can be exhausting, and the little Señorita will definitely need some rest after her flight. Still, I trust she’ll be in good hands. She’s the heart of lions. Of course she’ll be just fine.

As for yours truly, there’s a world to bring to fruition. All the projects I’ve had the pleasure of citing throughout the pages as of late, and even more.

It goes on, and it will continue to drain me, but I’m so grateful for each part of it. I can feel it all flowing right through like water and the wind on my skin. Los Angeles’s water and wind, that is, tremendous in every ounce they get to me.