Jan 22, 2007
On December 15, 14-year-old Cheryl Green was shot to death in the Harbor Gateway neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Cheryl and her three friends, who were wounded in the attack, were deliberately targeted, and for one reason only: being black. The two killers, whom the police and media described as “Latino gang members,” were looking for somebody – anybody – black, when they spotted the four teenagers.
As horrendous and disgusting this racist attack is, it is not an isolated incident. The killing of Cheryl came after at least a decade of harassment of black residents in Harbor Gateway. In fact, for almost two decades now, Mexican and Central American gangs have been harassing and attacking black residents in some of L.A.’s ethnically mixed, working-class neighborhoods, in a systematic effort to force them to leave.
One such neighborhood is Highland Park, which recently came under media spotlight because of the trial of four gang members. According to testimony at this trial, racist attacks in Highland Park between 1995 and 2001 included: two murders, one of a black visitor looking for a parking space, one of a black resident who filed a police report for continuous harassment; the shooting of a 15-year-old boy riding his bike; the assault on a jogger and knocking a woman off her bike; drawing outlines of human bodies in chalk on a family’s driveway – incidents eerily reminiscent of Klan terror black people have faced in this country in the past.
Racist, anti-black attitudes certainly exist among immigrants, who either pick up the deep-seated racism of American society against its black citizens or bring it with them from their own countries. Undoubtedly, such attitudes feed into the racist violence we see in L.A. neighborhoods.
But there is something beyond the obvious racism in this situation. It’s not clear what exactly is behind the attacks in Harbor Gateway, but there is a range of possibilities, one of which is that the local gang may be linked to the Mexican Mafia. During the investigation of the Highland Park murders, an informant told the FBI that the Mexican Mafia had ordered those attacks. In their territorial rivalry for drug trafficking, the only competitors for the Mexican Mafia were black gangs also involved in drug trafficking. The Mexican drug gangs have openly attacked black people to get rid of black neighborhoods.
Another possible link is real estate interests, who could be using these thugs to clear an area for development. In one such incident in L.A.’s history, the largely Mexican-American population of Chavez Ravine was driven out to make room for the Dodgers Stadium in the 1950s.
One thing is certain: these attacks are part of the never-ending terrorism that black people have faced throughout this country’s history. And, just as in the past, there is only one way this terrorism will stop – by black people organizing to defend themselves, to shut down racist violence with the force necessary.
The majority of Mexican-Americans, or Hispanic people in general – as people of other ethnicities – are certainly appalled by these racist attacks. But few of them are coming forward to denounce these attacks. Maybe they themselves feel terrorized by the thugs. But it’s important for Hispanic workers to take a stand against these racist hoodlums who come from their own community and whose terror, in the end, will be directed at everybody in the community.