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'What Does It Mean To Be Black In LA?' A Co-Worker Shares Her Thoughts

Social workers join Black Lives Matter members during a demonstration against racism and police brutality, outside City Hall in Los Angeles June 13, 2020. (Mark Ralston/Getty Images)
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The theme of LAist's Black History Month coverage this year is: “What does it mean to be Black in L.A.?” We'll publish reponses from community members and staff throughout the month. Add your voice to the conversation below.

This week, we've heard varying perspectives on being foreign-born and integrating into L.A.'s Black community. A Black man living in Inglewood, who was raised in neighborhoods across the city, shared what it was it was like to have no sense of community among Black people and to be seen as a threat by white people.

Today, we hear from Laurie, who has worked for our newsroom's radio station, 89.3 KPCC, as an account executive for more than nine years. She shares her experience moving to L.A. as a Black child from Chicago's Westside, trying to assimilate. She said she understands L.A. now as a city of "contradictions," embracing diversity but still struggling, and even perpertuating, the ills of racism.

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"I have a love for the city and all the different cultures that live here. But it’s also a place where I have been discriminated against and felt the stings of racism.

"I moved to the L.A. area from Chicago when I was 8 years old where I lived with my family in mostly non-Black communities. This was quite a change from the all-Black community that I lived in on Chicago’s Westside. In L.A., my playmates were largely white, Asian, and Latino. My brother and I went to a K-8 grade school where we were the only Black children. It was painfully obvious. However, my Asian and Latino friends made the adjustment easy for us. They were very accepting of us, and we were accepting of them. But often the white children would call us the n-word or compare us to some awful stereotype that they learned at home. Since there were no Black children for us to commiserate with or sort out the racism that was directed at us, we suffered in silence.

"Growing up Black in L.A. meant being in the minority in a city full of different minorities. At times, it has felt isolating, especially since I grew up in areas that were largely non-Black. L.A. is a diverse city. That’s one of the things that I love most about it. You interact with, and therefore are accepting of, different races, cultures, and religions. Diversity becomes the fabric of your everyday existence. L.A. is a city where some aspects of Black culture have widely been accepted. However, racism is still very much alive here. As “liberal” and diverse as the city is, as a Black person, I have still faced a lot of discrimination here.

"To be Black in L.A. means dealing with contradictions. It means living in a city that has embraced diversity on many levels, while also allowing institutional racism to endure. Black communities still face endemic racism when it comes to policing, inequality in schools, lack of access to health care, affordable housing and healthy foods. L.A. is not perfect. We still have a lot of work to do. But the city has been better than most in terms of its acceptance of all cultures, including Black culture."

— Laurie M., San Gabriel Valley



The first installment of our The 8 Percent project began exploring the inextricable ties between L.A. and its Black residents — how Black migration, community and culture have shaped and changed L.A. For Black History Month, we’re homing in on a more specific experience — yours. Tell us: What does it mean to you to be Black in L.A.?

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