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Twenty years after riots, L.A. residents say race relations are better

April 11, 2012 |  2:35 pm

Twenty years after riots, L.A. residents say race relations are better

Nearly twenty years after Los Angeles was shaken by the worst civil unrest in U.S. history, residents say the city is safer than it was in 1992 and relations among its racial and ethnic groups are significantly better than they were then.

Most also say riots like those that swept through the city in 1992 are unlikely to break out again in Los Angeles in coming years, according to a new report.

The survey by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University suggests, however, that many Angelenos are relatively pessimistic about the overall direction of the city, with more than four in 10 saying it is headed in the wrong direction. That is worse than at any time since 1997, when researchers from the center first surveyed residents’ attitudes about the city in light of the 1992 violence.

SHARE YOUR STORY: What do you remember of the L.A. riots?

But the loss of optimism about the city’s direction is driven largely by the still-struggling economy and housing market and not by concerns about race, crime or gangs, researchers said.

On race relations in particular, Los Angeles residents were strongly positive, with nearly seven in 10 respondents saying the city’s racial and ethnic groups were getting along well, said Fernando Guerra, the center’s director.

“We almost see a post-racial L.A. in terms of people’s perspectives,” Guerra said. “Multiculturalism has begun to sustain optimism in Los Angeles, where in the past, the concern with race relations -- even about affirmative action and how to mitigate the racial discrimination of the past -- used to drive a wedge between Angelenos. That’s no longer the case.”

The survey found large majorities of all major racial and ethnic groups -- Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and whites -- said the groups were getting along “very well” or “somewhat well” in Los Angeles today. Majorities of all racial and ethnic communities also said relations between Latinos and blacks in the city have either improved or stayed the same as they were 20 years ago.


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Photo: Cornelius Pettus, owner of Payless market, throws a bucket of water on the flames at neighboring business Ace Glass on April 29, 1992. Credit: Hyungwon Kang / Los Angeles Times.