Cultural Diversity In Local Politics EssayOverviewThis paper explores the limits and potentials of ethnic and racial coalitionbuilding in Los Angeles. The demographic changes that have occurred in LosAngeles during the past twenty years have been extraordinary, both in scope anddiversity.
The area has witnessed a literal boom in population growth, increasing from 7million in 1970 to 8. 8 million in 1990. (US Bureau of the Census) However, it isthe dramatic change in ethnic and racial diversity of the population which hascaught most observers attention. Los Angeles has taken on a new form in terms of its racial diversity, movingfrom a biracial to a multiethnic setting.
The non-Hispanic White population hasdeclined from its 71 percent share in 1970 to a narrow numerical plurality of 41percent of the county’s population in 1990. Meanwhile, the Latino and Asian Pacific population witnessed a doubling– from15% to 39% — and near quadrupling from 3% to 11% of their population sharesrespectively. Meanwhile, African Americans, while slightly growing numerically,were a constant share of the county population (11%) during this period. (Oliverand Johnson:57-94)Thus, on the eve of the twenty-first century, Los Angeleshas one of the most ethnically diverse populations of any metropolitan area inthe country.Order now
What does this ethnic diversity mean for multiethnic coalition building in thepolitics of Los Angeles County? Does the changing demography increase theopportunity for ethnic cooperation? Or, has the ethnic changes increased ratherthan decreased the prospects of interethnic conflict?IntroductionAfter the 1992 riots, a clarion call was issued from all corners for theemerging multiethnic majority to take its rightful place in the politics andleadership of the city. A multiethnic coalition, it ws suggested, could lead thecity to a new multicultural future. This call was clearly built on the assumption that three divers groups AfricanAmericans, Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos could come together and pursuea coalition built on their common interests. But what do we do know about the prospects of multiethnic coalitions? There isvoluminous literature on urban politics. However, this literature has beenshaped principally by the question of racial politics.
(Browning, Marshall andTabb) That is, how have traditional urban politics, read White politics, beenaffected or impacted by the role of Blacks on the urban scene. Probably the most influential work on Black/White urban political coalitions wasCarmichael and Hamilton’s Black Power. (Carmichael and Hamilton)In this work,as in most of the literature, the foundation of coalitions were based on commoninterests. They argued that all political relations are based on common self interest benefits to be gained and losses to be avoided.
From this perspective,Carmichael and Hamilton argued, there were no permanent friends or enemies forBlacks in their struggle for freedom and power only temporary alliances whenself interests coincide. Thus, they rejected the notion that White liberals, whose ideologicalorientation was favorable to Black aspirations, should be viewed as reliable andenduring allies. Rather, they were perceived as one among many which could beeither potential allies or potential adversaries on the road to power. Carmichael and Hamilton’s emphasis on interests and ideology alone, whenextended to the multiethnic scene of Los Angeles, portends a rather bleak futurefor multiethnic coalitions.
Alliances forging common interests are not readily evident or clear among thediversity of racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles. Moreover, class and ethnicdivisions between and within ethnic and racial groups have structured competingand cross-cutting interests that, on the face, appear to be overwhelming. Ethnic groups, for example, have diverse interests based on such factors ascitizenship, ethnicity and class. Latinos are divided by the diverse interest ofan immigrant noncitizen population and citizen native population. This becameevident in the aftermath of the riots when the mostly Mexican Americans,citizen-based East Los Angeles leadership attempted to disassociate themselvesfrom the more Central-American and recent Mexican immigrant-based residents ofSouth Central Los Angeles. (Ramos and Wilkinson)This divisionexpressed a long standing concern that the Latinoization of LosAngeles politics was in fact being ushered in under Mexican hegemony.
Likewise,diverse interests are apparent on the basis of national origin. Among Asian Pacific Islanders, long standing historical divisions betweenKoreans, Japanese, and Chines cause, in some critical cases, group enmity asopposed to unity. And even African Americans have strong class cleavages that,despite the concerted attempts of some middle class Blacks to reach out to theneeds and the concerns of their less advantaged brethren, show increasing signsof developing into two separate communities.Thus, in the context of .