“I think it’s gang related. I don’t think it’s on a personal level,” said Victor a Hispanic and Los Angeles native about the violence between Blacks and Latinos in L.A. County.
“I got many Black friends and I love them. In jail [it’s different though] you have to join with your own race or else... and I think it spills over into the streets.”
Community leaders and law enforcement officials insist in the face of the violence that there is no substantial evidence to deem it racially motivated. But some say its hard to ignore the reality, especially on the heels of high profile cases like 14-year-old Cheryl Green and high school quarterback Jamiel Shaw... both were killed by Hispanic gang members, neither were gang members.
“On June 30, 2006, several Hispanics were shot and murdered on East 49th Street near Central Ave in South LA.,” said gang expert and publisher of www.streetgangs.com, Alex Alonso.
“There is a bit more print media coverage of this shooting, but the racial element is always being downplayed, suggesting that the problem between Blacks and browns is not that serious.”
Said Cheryl, another L.A. resident who declined to give her last name, “I think it’s gang related and I think some people are being racist. Everybody’s not like that but there’s a lot of retaliation, like maybe a Latino got killed by a Black person and that’s what motivates them...”
“I think its gang related.” agreed Carlos.
“But I think a lot of the gang related stuff spills onto regular kids. A lot of times the kids get caught up in it.”
In the last three years tensions between Black and Hispanic students has erupted into violence at Jordan, Inglewood, Santa Monica and other southland schools. Also during that time period, community members have reported having either witnessed violence between the races or have been threatened with it themselves. In an earlier interview with the Sentinel, L.A. County Sheriff’s officials said that statistics point to a different reality, that most crimes are not brown on Black or vice versa. Most crimes that are committed are Black on Black or brown on brown, they said.
However, Alonso said the tensions can be traced back to the early 90s. Before that, he said, there was rarely any conflict between the two groups. He and others speculate that the root causes “range from expanding drug markets, gang turf conflict, demographic and population shifts, and the California Prison influence.”
“In Highland Park [for example] the Avenues gang since the late 1990s have been actively using aggressive violent tactics to discourage Black residents from living in the area,” Alonso wrote in an online article on streetgangs.com.
“Using pre-1940s lynch mob mentality, the Avenues have resorted to murder to send a message to Blacks; get out and don’t come back...”
“It’s just a bunch of nonsense that first happened between a few groups of people and now they want to get everybody involved,” Carlos said, while waiting with this reporter at a burger stand in Jefferson Park.