The View Looking Back
Joe R. Hicks gives an account of his encounter with a young Caucasian National
Guardsman who threatens him at the point of a rifle and calls him the N word,
in his article “Lessons
From the Ruins
” [August 12–18]. He was incensed by how he was treated, and
he had a right to be. As I read this article, I thought of my uncle’s account
of his experience during the Watts riots and of how harrowing it was for him
and his family as he had his wife and young children huddled together on the
floor of their home while stray bullets flew in every direction.
My uncle was a young preacher who had come to L.A. in 1960 from a small town
just outside of Atlanta. Atlanta, like many cities at that time, was segregated,
and Los Angeles held great promise for black Americans who came here from the
South and Midwest. The image of Los Angeles at that time was of a progressive
metropolitan city that was free from the constraints of race that plagued every
other part of America.
Initially, my uncle seemed to have found a place where he was free to express
himself openly and be judged by his merits and not by his ethnicity. Imagine
his shock at finding himself in the midst of an explosion of frustration and
anger that threatened the lives of his family. Imagine his pride when he hears
that Atlanta’s greatest native son, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is coming to
town to help. Imagine his utter dismay when he hears that black Angelenos have
told Dr. King to go home, that they “booed” this great man and told him that
they didn’t need him here. Imagine his puzzlement at discovering for the first
time that there were black Americans who didn’t think like black people in Atlanta.
Imagine his chagrin at discovering that L.A. was no different in its attitude
toward black Americans than Georgia or any other part of the segregated South.
How much better off is South Los Angeles today than it was 40 years ago, even
though the people within the community, such as Tim Watkins and the Watts Renaissance
Committee, are working diligently every day to make it so? What has changed
between black American citizens in Los Angeles and the police and judiciary?
Until August 1965, Los Angeles was seen as a cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse
city that afforded great opportunity to black Americans. Until just after 1965,
Atlanta was a traditionally segregated Southern city. In 2005, Atlanta is an
international city, which affords great opportunity to all and is seen as a
mecca of opportunity for black Americans. In 2005, Los Angeles has passed its
racial problems on to another generation.

—Micah Penn
Los Angeles

Camp Cindy
Marc Cooper’s ahistorical assumptions about Iraq and troop withdrawal are becoming
the best comedy spot on the Web [“Camp
August 19–25]. Now we have an almost compulsive apology happening
for occupation. “We” can’t leave . . . we need a “viable” strategy. One would
suggest to Cooper that he read Stan Goff on this issue . . . to understand how
Central Command could take troops home in 60 days. So it’s viable. Perhaps,
though, he fears civil war, like his pal, former war supporter Juan Cole. Well,
perhaps, Marc, but Rahul Majadan thinks otherwise. He posits that troop withdrawal
would lead to more cooperation among the factions now fighting. It’s hard to
know . . . but what we do know, for certain, is that as long as troops and bases
are in Iraq, violence will continue. The occupation is the engine for this violence
far more than sectarian infighting. There may be no perfect solution to the
crimes of this invasion and occupation, but Cooper’s endlessly snide and myopic
embrace of Western paternalism is getting pretty stale. Should the French have
stayed the course in Algeria? I mean, the U.S. prolonged the debacle of Vietnam
because “we” feared civil war. Cooper needs to study his history a bit more.
He also needs to quit his desperate desire to be seen as the “reasonable” one
on the left. He needs to do this for two reasons: It won’t happen (he’s not
reasonable), and it makes his already very soft politics into a pathetic latte-liberal
soufflé. The Iraqi resistance has a right to resist. It’s their country, not
yours, Marc. Over 90 percent want the U.S. gone now. Listen to them!

—John Steppling

Krakow, Poland

Border Patroller
Your story about me [“The
American Character,
” September 2–8] is so full of errors and distortions
I couldn’t even finish reading it. Your comment about my moving my wife out
is untrue and personally offensive.
Your side is losing this battle, and you are sinking to personal attacks to
try to stem the tide. It will not work.

—Glenn Spencer

In the article “The
American Character
” [September 2–8], we incorrectly stated that Glenn Spencer’s
wife accompanied him to Arizona; she did not, and still lives in Los Angeles.

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