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'South-Central' Label Distorts the Truth

November 30, 2002

Bravo for Marcy De Veaux's critique of the media's egregious misuse of the term "South-Central" (Voices, Nov. 23). The site of the tragic murder of Merlin Santana is in the Crenshaw district, near the predominantly black community of Leimert Park, a formerly white enclave that was deemed to be within the boundaries of the Westside when racially restrictive covenants prohibited blacks from residing there up until the 1950s. It wasn't until whites began moving out of areas like Leimert Park en masse in the 1960s that the boundaries of South-Central began miraculously expanding farther westward and the designation became cultural shorthand for any predominantly black (and presumably less desirable) neighborhood in the city.

The "devolution" of the black west side into South-Central offers deep insight into the intractability of racial segregation in L.A., for, ultimately, this brand of misrepresentation allows the mainstream media to cling to the myth of cultural pathology when depicting communities of color -- further devaluing the lives of black and brown crime victims.

Sikivu Hutchinson

Los Angeles

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Covert racism, like slapping the "South-Central" badge on a perfectly good community just because it's black, only serves to defame that neighborhood to protect surrounding communities from having to shoulder the burden of the nearby crime problem. Such characterization is potentially destructive when it comes to image-driven costs of living like insurance and property values, as De Veaux suggested, not to mention psychological images imported to the most vulnerable residents, investors and potential visitors.

Hopefully Police Chief William Bratton and the people of Los Angeles will ignore the context in which this and many other stories are reported and reject the "crime-ridden" characterization.

Justin Williams

Los Angeles

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"As Killings Ebb and Flow, Fear Keeps Its Grip on South L.A." (Nov. 25) is heartbreaking. I feel so sad for the victims' families and for those who must live their lives with those "rules."

Am I left with writing my elected representatives to demand that the local, state and federal agencies devote more resources to reverse this situation? What steps should those agencies take? Better education? But the "better education" isn't going to occur unless it's safe for the residents to be taught and the teachers to teach.

Is a bigger police force needed to provide security until the people of that region have the education necessary to believe that they can find a career that is fulfilling spiritually and economically? Is the bottom line that the gang members will need to feel like they have a stake in society before they develop empathy for other people? Probably so.

I have no hope that the law-abiding residents of South Los Angeles can take back their communities by themselves. They will need the government's help, and help from communities and people who are better off.

I also have little hope that the current Republican administration cares about this problem or that it will do much to resolve it, unless it comes under tremendous pressure. I hope to be proved wrong on that point, but we need to apply the pressure, just in case.

We citizens had better start addressing this problem now in a serious fashion or it will only get worse, and more people will be forced to live and die in such terrible conditions.

Raymond McKown

Los Angeles

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