What links the MTA to the LAPD is their common — and distinctly two-tier — view of the city. When it comes to transportation, this is a city of us (motorists) and them (the non-white, bus-riding poor). When it comes to policing, this is a city of us (the middle-class, the merchants, the non-young) and them (the young men from Latino and African-American communities). The LAPD may exemplify the us-versus-them mentality more than any institution in town, but Los Angeles as a whole has cultivated this sense of otherness more than any current-day American city. As the middle strata of the local economy have eroded, as the economic and cultural gaps between the city of affluent whites and non-affluent non-whites have widened to gulfs, our government has made two sets of rules. How the buses run in South-Central, how the cops police Rampart — these are practices specific to the Other Los Angeles. These are practices, apparently, that are acceptable to L.A.’s governing classes; and were it not for federal law and a Democratic Justice Department, it’s not clear that the Other L.A. would have a remedy at all.
Or, to treat this at the level of theory: Anyone who argues the classic (pre-20th-century) liberal position that equality before the law should be unaffected by social and economic inequality just hasn’t spent much time lately in L.A.