Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and an expert in polling and public opinion, was quoted in a Pacific Standard article dissecting President Trump’s announcement to cancel foreign aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Trump has made multiple threats in the past to cut off the three Central American countries due to his dissatisfaction with their respective governments’ failures to stop people from leaving. After his recent announcement that funds would be withheld from the three nations, experts objected, explaining that the funds help combat crime and violence, ultimately serving U.S. interests. Segura maintained that ulterior motives were behind the policy decision, which would fuel the asylum crisis. He tweeted, “Pay attention folks. This is an INTENTIONAL act to drive MORE asylum seekers to the U.S. border to help [Trump] maintain his crisis. It’s ugly, devastating in impact, and bad policy.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap, who has conducted extensive research on gangs, contributed to a KPCC discussion about the reality and evolution of gang violence in South Los Angeles. Concerns about heightened gang violence were prompted by the shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle, which remains under investigation. Looking at the data from current efforts to reduce gang violence through prevention, intervention and reentry, Leap confirmed that “what we’re doing is working” but there is still a long way to go. “The relationship between the communities of L.A. and law enforcement has changed radically in a very positive direction,” Leap said. Looking forward, she stressed the importance of prioritizing funding and trauma-informed reentry, arguing that “we must not become complacent.”
Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah stressed the importance of data-backed claims in a GQ article describing the controversial New York movement to decriminalize sex work in order to make workers safer. “Many people see sex work as morally repugnant, so public policy around it is very rarely based on the actual evidence,” explained Shah, whose 2014 research findings supported decriminalization of the sex work industry. According to Shah, “A lot of people make very big assertions about this topic, but most of the time there just isn’t any data to back them up, or the methodological constraints mean they’re not able to make causal claims.” Shah’s research linked decriminalization to reductions in both rape offenses and female gonorrhea cases. Shah concluded, “Except for the growth of the market, everything else that we worry about from a policy perspective — like public health and violence against women — gets better when sex work is decriminalized.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times detailing the ongoing conflict between newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Years ago, in response to scandals surrounding the county jails, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence created a 600-page report with recommendations for reform in order to “establish a culture of constitutional policing, and consequences for those who wouldn’t acculturate,” Yaroslavsky wrote. Many of the reforms were implemented under former Sheriff Jim McDonnell, but Villanueva “has vowed to eviscerate these reforms,” he stated. Villanueva has prompted further criticism as a result of his reinstatement of a deputy who was discharged for domestic abuse allegations. Yaroslavsky wrote, “Alex Villanueva can either get on board with the U.S. Constitution or get out of the way.”
Mark S. Kaplan, professor of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, has researched suicide and written about it from several perspectives. He joined the Scholars’ Circle podcast to talk about some of the potential explanations for the recently reported increase in suicides in the United States. The interview is the first segment of the podcast.
In the half-century since the Kerner Commission’s report on urban unrest, South Los Angeles has experienced little economic progress, according to a new study by the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, part of UCLA Luskin.
In 1960, South L.A. workers made 80 cents on the dollar compared to the average Los Angeles County worker. In the last 50 years, that gap has widened. Today, the average full-time, full-year worker in South L.A. earns about 60 cents on every dollar earned by the average county resident.
“This report is a sobering snapshot of the inequalities that have persisted in South Los Angeles 50 years since the 1968 report,” said Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. Disparities in earnings are the main driver of income inequality. Earnings are critical in overall quality of life — low earnings can translate into less access to necessities, amenities, and opportunities.
Earnings in South L.A. have failed to catch up to county levels, according to the researchers. That widening pay gap is driven in part by a steady decline of male wages.
South Los Angeles is home to 722,000 persons, and epitomizes the plight of inner-city neighborhoods. It is the site where frustrations of a marginalized and neglected community boiled over in 1965 Watts riots and 1992 civil unrest. These reactions to the lack of progress should not have been unexpected given the realities documented by this CNK report.
In addition to earnings, the study also documents inequities in:
Homeownership, the principal mechanism for wealth accumulation for middle-class residents, is lower in South L.A. than the county and has declined over time. Today, fewer than one in three South L.A. residents own their home.
The high demand for housing has translated not only to higher cost but also higher home values. After adjusting for inflation, the average home is priced at nearly three times as much today as it was in 1960. This places financial strain on new buyers and puts ownership further out of reach for renters.
Car ownership is critical in Los Angeles where, despite large investments in public transit, lacking a car can severely limit one’s access to job and educational opportunities. Availability of cars within households has improved over time; nonetheless, households in South LA are twice as likely to lack a car, according to the study. South LA residents remain three times as likely to rely on public transit for commuting.
Educational attainment is critical in preparing children to be successful and productive adults. However, public schools have continued to be “separate and unequal.” Elementary school performance on standardized testing reveals persistent gaps between South LA and the most affluent neighborhoods in West L.A.
Early childhood preparation can be critical toward the goal of fostering successful students. Fifty years ago, recommendations concerning education specifically prioritized the expansion of preschool programs. In 1960, preschool enrollment was virtually non-existent in both South L.A. and the county.
In 1990, children in South L.A. were only half as likely as county children to be enrolled in a private preschool. This can be taken as an indicator of the wide gaps in the availability of resources for education to residents in South L.A. compared to the county. This gap has grown since then. In 2016, county children are four times as likely as South L.A. children to be enrolled in a private preschool.
View the full report.
There are no definitive boundaries for South Los Angeles. Over time, the boundaries have shifted as the neighborhood has changed. This study is based on public use microdata areas (PUMAs), which are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. These are reasonable approximations of the curfew area for the 1965 Watts Riot, the post-1992 Civil Unrest Rebuild L.A. zone, and the Los Angeles Times Neighborhood Mapping Project’s South Los Angeles area.
All data, with the exception of school performance, come from PUMS samples. The 1960 data are extracted from IPUMS. Additional data come from tract-level statistics reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Data on elementary school performance combine assessment scores from California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting with historical information of schools, reported in the 1965 McCone Report.
This project was supported by the following partners: the Haynes Foundation, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, the UCLA Lewis Center, the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Professor Manisha Shah, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
“Burnout is very much about how we work, and not only about how much we work,” according to psychologist Alessandra Pigni, author of “The Idealist’s Survival Kit. 75 Simple Ways to Prevent Burnout.” She spoke Feb. 15, 2018, as part of a series of talks sponsored by Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin. Pigni talked briefly about her personal experiences, including observing caregivers under extremely stressful conditions while working for several years in combat situations in the Middle East as part of Doctors Without Borders. Pigni also shared insights from her research into burnout, which is the subject of a book and a blog, which is how she first came to the attention of Stephen Commins of the UCLA Luskin faculty, who provided the introduction for Pigni’s talk. Her presentation focuses on identifying the signs of burnout and taking steps to prevent it, which she refers to as the ABCs of burnout prevention: awareness, balance and boundaries, and civility. “C is also for connections — connections with people beyond work. You are not just your job,” Pigni told the crowd. Later, she addressed the concerns of students who are just entering the workforce and may not feel empowered to take action if they find themselves in a toxic workplace. “You will not survive for very long in a work environment that mistreats you,” Pigni said. “You can make it for a few months, if necessary. Otherwise, run a mile if you are being mistreated.”
View a Flickr album from the presentation:
Despite recent gains in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States such as gay marriage and the right to serve openly in the military, the fight against equality for LGBT people appears to be gaining strength, according to Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning. Violence against LGBT people has continued “unabated, however, during the recent period of legislative wins,” Goh writes in a recently published article, “Safe Cities and Queer Spaces: The Urban Politics of Radical LGBT Activism.” In the online article in Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Goh cites data from GLAAD and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, indicating that 2015 and 2016 were the “most deadly on record for transgender people in the United States, overwhelmingly affecting transgender women of color.” In LGBT communities, homelessness continues to be an issue, and socioeconomic disparities are reinforced, “particularly among women, people of color, young and old, and gender-nonconforming.” Goh adds that these overlapping identities and “systems of oppression exacerbate the marginalization of LGBT-identified people, creating ‘unjust geographies’ that intertwine race, class gender and sexuality.” Goh looks at how researchers, planners and others who contribute to the “making of cities” can understand and contribute to social movements, change and justice, and — through participatory observation and working with these groups — examines the efforts of two New York-based queer activist groups fighting for social and spatial change. — Stan Paul
By Les Dunseith
Today, Los Angeles is celebrated as an inclusive city known for tolerance, diversity and a welcoming attitude to immigrants from around the globe. Just 25 years ago, however, it was a city seemingly afire with racial distrust, anger and violence.
Things have changed so much for the better since the L.A. riots. Haven’t they?
That question was the focus of a weekend filled with reflection, debate, education and artistic interpretation as the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs joined with several partners to sponsor a series of special events marking the April 29, 1992, anniversary of the start of civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four white LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King. On that day and for five days to follow, looting, arson and violence led to dozens of deaths and $1 billion in damage in and around South Los Angeles.
The memories of those days vary starkly depending on an individual’s perspective and background, a fact that was highlighted by Dean Gary Segura during his opening remarks at one of the panel discussions co-sponsored by UCLA Luskin as part of Flash Point 2017, which was held on the UCLA campus and in Little Tokyo on April 28-30.
“L.A. uprisings. L.A. civil unrest. L.A. riots. L.A. rebellion. Indeed our very language captures the idea that the perspective that different communities have on the event, and what they understood about its causes and consequences, really depended on where you sat at the moment at which it occurred,” Segura said.
One of those unique perspectives is that of the Asian community, particularly people of Korean descent. Korean immigrants and Korean Americans who could only afford to set up shop in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles owned many businesses in low-income areas that were predominantly black at the time.
“When you look at one specific story out of 1992, the story of Korean Americans is that they are a dynamic community that was undergoing really dramatic demographic and political transformation,” said Taeku Lee, professor of law and political science at UC Berkeley. He was keynote speaker for a session that took place at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center on the opening day of the anniversary series, which was coordinated by the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
In 1992, cultural and language barriers, plus racial mistrust in some cases, had led to simmering resentment among some African Americans toward Koreans. In the riots, resentment turned to rage, and looters and arsonists disproportionately targeted Korean businesses. Today, Lee pointed out, the Korean words for April 29, Sa-I-Gu, hold great cultural and historical significance to all people of Korean descent.
The Korean perspective of the 1992 unrest was also important to Saturday’s events, held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
Segura noted that the enterprise represented an expansion of an ongoing speaker program known as the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture series to also include other types of programming on topics of historical and political significance. In this case, the weekend included speeches, panel discussions, art and multimedia exhibits, and the screening of two different films related to the 25th anniversary of the riots.
“The three-day Flash Point program is exactly what I had in mind when I asked to expand the Luskin Lecture Series into a series of public forums, and we at the Luskin School are proud to be a sponsor of this thought-provoking examination of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising,” said Segura during his introduction of filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson.
Her documentary film, “Wet Sand: Voices from L.A.,” offers a look back at the causes of the riots from the perspectives of various ethnic groups. It also speculates about whether some of those causes linger just below the surface today.
“Things have changed since the 1992 L.A. riot, and the aftermath; I think it stimulated people to think. So racism, overtly, went away a little bit. But the danger was that racism went inside of the people,” Kim-Gibson said during the panel discussion that followed the film. “Overt racism is sometimes easier to deal with than the racism that is inside. So we have to really follow up and talk about what really happened after the L.A. riot and what we still have to do.”
UCLA Luskin’s Abel Valenzuela, professor of urban planning and Chicano studies and director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, moderated the panel discussion.
“From destruction, from ashes, we can see rebirth and growth,” Valenzuela said of the progress that has been made since 1992. “There’s lots to be proud of, though we still have lots of work still to do.”
Only through greater understanding can progress result, said panelist Funmilola Fagbamila, the winter 2017 activist-in-residence at UCLA Luskin. She noted that distrust between blacks and Koreans at the time was often rooted in similar struggles just to survive, to provide for their families.
“We need to talk about unity that addresses the difficulty of power relations among different communities of color,” said Fagbamila, an original member of Black Lives Matter.
“It means looking at the role of anti-blackness in the way in which Korean Americans and Korean immigrants were in conversation with each other during this time. We have to be critical in how we are engaging each other,” she said. “But also loving. Our attitudes need to change in order to change the issues.”
Another panel on Saturday focused on the evolution of communication since 1992 to today’s world in which people with a story to tell can go directly to their audience via YouTube or social media rather than relying on mainstream news outlets.
Panelist Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, said the media narrative quickly became about interracial and interethnic conflict during the 1992 unrest. The same might not hold true today.
“We are at a slightly different moment. This is perhaps the success of Black Lives Matter,” she speculated, “that it has drawn attention to the ways in which we cannot see these moments of violence as those of individual participants, but we’ve got to see them as structural violence. We’ve got to see this as our liberation being bound up with the liberation of others.”
Today, she said, “even mainstream media has to pay much more careful attention to state violence, in particular police violence, in a way that I do not recall in the 1992 coverage.”
UCLA Luskin also served as sponsor of a screening of the feature film “Gook” on Saturday, during which a packed auditorium of attendees witnessed a fictionalized story of two Korean American brothers, owners of a struggling shoe store who have an unlikely friendship with a streetwise 11-year-old African American girl. Then the Rodney King verdict is read and riots break out.
Filmmaker and lead actor Justin Chon was on hand to introduce his film and answer questions about it. He was joined on stage by cast members and others who participated in the film’s production.
On Sunday, an artist talk in Little Tokyo featured works by Grace Lee, Grace Misoe Lee and Patrick Martinez. Among the works was “Ktown92,” an interactive documentary in process that disrupts and explores the 1992 Los Angeles riots through stories from the greater Koreatown community.
Flash Point 2017 and the weekend’s other events were produced in partnership with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications, UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, UCLA Department of History, UCLA Institute of American Cultures, UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Visual Communications.
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