On April 29, 1992 Los Angeles erupted into what has been known as the L.A. riots. Many people have compared these riots to the Watts riots of 1965. While there are some parallels between the two occurrences, there are major differences as well.
The 1965 Watts riots may have signaled the eclipse of an old order, WASP and conservative, personified by then-Mayor Sam Yorty and Police Chief William Parker. By the mid-1960s, a new governing coalition was already emerging, linking the black and Jewish communities, liberal on social issues, friendly to corporate priorities, and soon to be presided over by Tom Bradley. The Watts riots pointed out that black people needed a voice in government and with this new, liberal coalition it seemed likely that they would get it. There would be money and effort put into rebuilding the black community.
In contrast, the 1992 riots left only casualties. It ended Police Chief Daryl Gates's tenure as leader of California's law and order right. It has dramatized the self-subverting essence of Gateism: the creation of a police force so committed to the military repression of the inner city that merely to deploy it is to risk inciting total riot. It also revealed the limits of Bradley's administration, forever expanding to include the elites of one new group after another, but powerless to stop the growth of poverty and an alienated underclass.
Unlike the 1965 riots, there is no new order on the horizon. Bradley's appointment of Peter Ueberroth to administer the rebuilding of South-Central Los Angeles is less a strategy than a political ploy to capitalize on the success the 1984 Olympics brought to the city to induce the corporations who abandoned Los Angeles in the last two decades to come back and rebuild it. Furthermore, unlike the 1965 riots, minority Los Angeles emerges from the 1992 riots terribly balkanized: blacks and Koreans hating each other, and Chicanos disdaining the Salvad...