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Ethnic Politics in Compton

April 26, 1998

Re "Compton Latinos Still on Outside Looking In," April 16:

There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County, well over 90% of which are politically and economically controlled by white people. Because of the increase in the Latino population over a short span of time, many Hispanics remain underrepresented, in both appointed and elected civil service positions, even in cities where they predominate.

To select Compton, one of only two black-run municipalities in this county, as a case study in Latino political underrepresentation is blatantly racist and mean-spirited.

In the 1960s, many middle-class Latinos joined the "white flight" from Compton and by 1980 African Americans had become the predominant ethnic group. Facing widespread discrimination in the private sector, many black people applied for civil service positions with the city, were hired and have since risen through the ranks.

Most of the Latino leaders who are demanding to be appointed to elective offices in Compton are longtime merchants who reside in other cities. Since everyone knows they are nonresidents, few blacks and Latinos support them at the polls.

The irony of your story targeting black politicians of Compton is that Hispanic underrepresentation is most glaring in your own backyard. One need look no farther than the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the L.A. Board of Education. In spite of the vast and growing Latino population in Los Angeles, and the distinct minority status of whites, no one has ever demanded that white elected officials give up their positions to Hispanics.

Labeling a tiny minority of black elected officials with limited political clout in an embattled suburb as anti-Hispanic is not only a transparent diversion from the real racists in this county, but also insults me and my colleagues, who have appointed Latinos to our staffs, supported Hispanic candidates who reside in Compton and fostered goodwill across racial lines.

LEGRAND H. CLEGG II, Compton City Attorney

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