THE BLOG
04/14/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Black History Month in Los Angeles. Anybody Notice?

There is a large exodus of African Americans from Los Angeles, many of whom are moving to southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi, the very states that wrecked the most havoc on them in the past.

We know that the results of child abuse can be devastating and the results long lasting. There are people to call: DCSF, police, social workers, etc. These resources are often able to help.

Consider African Americans. Their treatment during the years of 'legal' slavery, beginning approximately 270 years ago, was unspeakable: beatings, lynching, degradation, rape, destruction of families, etc. 'Illegal' slavery continued long after that. The results of those experiences continue today. By "continue," I am not referring to today's prejudice, but to a Darwinian sort of continuing, experiences that change the essence and soul of a person, causing fundamental and lasting changes. And they had no one to call.

I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in the early 60's: a white, wild eyed, liberal. I was a server at a sorority -- African American cooks, white servers. Cooks said I was probably black, just light. Very tight relationships. Then there was Oakland. "The Time Out," a club amongst clubs. T-Bone Walker. Blues. Me and my date white. Everybody else black. No thought about race. Just Cool People.

Then in '63 to Boston, Med School. Back to LA. '67. Residency at Children's Hospital, LA.

Different Days, Different times.

Stokely Carmichael, a great leader, joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960, later the Freedom Riders. He spent 49 days at Parchman Farm. (Hear Mose Allison "Parchman Farm"). On June 5, 1966, James Meredith, solo march, shot by sniper. March carried on by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Floyd McKissick, the Rev. James Lawson, Stokely Carmichael and other prominent civil rights leaders.
 In his famous
 Black Power Speech, Carmichael called for "black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, and to build a sense of community." Carmichael coined "Black is Beautiful" and advocated "a mood of black pride and a rejection of white values of style and appearance." He was a Black Panther.

During the early 60's, prejudice, hatred, separate but equal, KKK, etc., continued. Bobby Seal, Tommy Smith. Rosa Parks, Huey Newton, fought brilliantly, leading to '64.

1964, theoretically, marked a turning point in America. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a new age in race relations appeared to be dawning. But the states acted quickly to circumvent the new federal law. California reacted with Proposition 14, which moved to block the fair housing components of the Civil Rights Act. This and other events, the Civil Rights Act notwithstanding, further promoted feelings of injustice and despair.

On August 11, 1965, a routine traffic stop in South Central Los Angeles provided the spark that lit the fire of those seething feelings. The riots lasted for six days, leaving 34 dead, over a thousand people injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, and hundreds of buildings destroyed.
After the riots, then Governor Pat Brown named John McCone to head a commission to study the riots. The Commission concluded that the riots weren't the act of thugs, but rather symptomatic of much deeper problems: the high jobless rate in the inner city, poor housing, bad schools. Only token efforts were made to address them, or to rebuild what had been destroyed in the riots. From then to now.

The depth of the Watts-South Central problem was news to me in '67. I pretty much got, unlike Berkeley and Oakland in 62-64, the 'you're not welcome here.' 'If you're white, get back.' Daniel Moynihan coined the term "benign neglect." Probably made sense then. 'Whitey' just wasn't welcome.

Whatever one thinks about African Americans 'doing for themselves,' as many Caucasians supposedly did, many Blacks have not or cannot. Reminds me of stories of Native Americans, another decimated group. At least the U.S. established reservations for Native Americans. The irony here is that the recompense our country offered to Native Americans, albeit very slight, far exceeded any such efforts made on behalf of African Americans.

As for African Americans, White Americans supported and benefited from slavery in many ways. The 'bill' was paid with bigotry, racism, terror, the KKK, lynching's, and destroyed families.

In L.A., we do little. The tired white-black debate (get over it) vs. (you owe us) is both destructive, non-productive, and irrelevant. Right or wrong is irrelevant. Action is what is needed. It will have to come largely from 'Whitey'.

(I should add, that we do have a number of prestigious churches who make positive inroads into the community, such as the West Angeles Church of God in Christ -- Bishop Charles E. Blake and the AME Church-Pastor John J. Hunter.)

African Americans in Los Angeles have no political advocates of any weight or substance. There is Congresswoman Maxine Waters. As a representative of her constituents, many of whom are African Americans, she is fundamentally a failure. Her main claim to fame in recent years was that she and a group of 'elite' politicians got together, met for some time regarding Los Angeles race relations, and concluded "no one is to use the "n" word." And, were that not pathetic enough, the Congresswoman was named by the "The Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington" as one of the 15 most corrupt members in Congress. She won this prestigious award (sic) in 2005, 2006 and 2009. Reading her Congressional Record reveals virtually nothing related to the City of Los Angeles. Then we have County Supervisor of the Second District of Los Angeles, Mark Ridley Thomas. His main concern of late is how to use $750,000 to spruce up his office. This money from Los Angeles, which is broke.

The Los Angeles Black community is a perfect target for governmental stimulus. Businesses, industries and jobs all need to return. Their return should be welcomed and made economically attractive. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles for African Americans is nearly 20%. They are a huge pool of people who are able and want to work.

The United States owes them. Los Angeles owes them. I want to keep them here.