"The ultimate world-historical significance--and oddity--of Los Angeles is that it has come to play the double role of utopia and dystopia for advanced civilization," Mike Davis, City of Quartz.
I was driving home, listening to 92.3 The Beat, a hip-hop radio station, when the acquittal verdict for the three police officers charged in the Rodney King beating was announced by the DJ. This was a year or two before the takeover of The Beat by DJ Theo Mizuhara, his silky voice becoming synonymous with all things hip-hop. I wonder if he would have been able to calm the rage of his listeners, whether his Japanese-American background would have meant anything for those calling in to voice their outrage and pain. I can remember how the ever-present sun made it necessary for me to put down the sun visor even though I was wearing sunglasses. It's funny how you remember such tiny details.
My car became an echo chamber as listeners called in, expressing their rage, disbelief, and more profoundly, powerlessness in a world where the definition of justice was meant for others and not for them. The acquittal of the three police officers was the final insult, the final denouement, you could say. Soon Ja Duk's acquittal in the shooting death of Latasha Harlins was a wound barely scabbed over for those living so many miles south of the 10 Freeway. Their lives were as removed from the glitter and fairy dust so synonymous with the other zip codes. Metal bars across every window and door in their neighborhood served as a reminder of being shut out from the endless possibilities of invention and reinvention and being shut in to their dead end lives. It's a sick irony the prison industrial complex reigns so prominently and dominantly in this state where the instinct for self-protection, to keep the world out, was not just symptomatic of tough neighborhoods, but was endemic to this suburbanopolis of perpetual sunshine, Pacific Ocean, and the dream factories of Hollywood. Every house, no matter how simple or grand, whether in Compton or Bel Air, resembled a prison with bars or fortress-like walls and electric gates.