Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles Essay

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Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles
Topic: The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943: What caused them, what happened, and what were the effects?

Causes for the riots in 1943
History of racism
Stylish dress seen as un-American during wartime.
Stage set for riots
Sleepy Lagoon murder case and the Zoot Suit riots
Effects of riots
Cultural repression
Political activism in Mexican American community
Series of reforms in the Los Angeles Police Department
Mexican Revolution, World War I, “brown scare”.
Mexican Americans depicted as security risk
Formation of racist policies and procedures
Bias in criminal justice system.
Academic theories of criminal behavior
Media sensationalized violence in barrio
What happened
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In fact, an “expert” from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department who testified at the Sleepy Lagoon trial is quoted as saying:
Let us view it from the biological basis. . . Total disregard for human life has always been universal throughout the Americas in the human population. And this Mexican element feels a desire to kill or at least to draw blood (Tobar, 1997). On top of the racism faced in the courtroom was the media bias against the Mexican American population. In the process of covering events in the city, the then Hearst-owned papers did a series of articles on the pachuco gangs, depicting Mexican American neighborhoods as being fraught with violence, places of raping and pillaging (Tobar, 1997). This was the atmosphere of the city at the time of the Sleepy Lagoon murder in 1942, when the body of Jose Diaz was found at a common swimming hole after a party. Because of the public outrage over pachuco gangs, which was instigated by the media, the sheriff’s department went on a sweep of the city’s barrios, rounding up and arresting over 600 young men in connection to the Sleepy Lagoon case. Eventually 24 men were indicted for murder, and 12 were convicted (Tobar, 1997). During the trial in early 1943, the defendants were forced to stay within a “prisoners’ box” and not
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