Diversity in Local Politics
This paper explores the limits and potentials of ethnic and racial coalition building in Los Angeles. The demographic changes that have occurred in Los Angeles during the past twenty years have been extraordinary, both in scope and diversity.
The area has witnessed a literal boom in population growth, increasing from 7 million in 1970 to 8.8 million in 1990. (US Bureau of the Census) However, it is the dramatic change in ethnic and racial diversity of the population which has caught most observers attention.
Los Angeles has taken on a new form in terms of its racial diversity, moving from a biracial to a multiethnic setting. The non-Hispanic White population has declined from its 71 percent share in 1970 to a narrow numerical plurality of 41 percent of the county's population in 1990.
Meanwhile, the Latino and Asian Pacific population witnessed a doubling -- from 15% to 39% -- and near quadrupling - from 3% to 11% of their population shares respectively.
Meanwhile, African Americans, while slightly growing numerically, were a constant share of the county population (11%) during this period. (Oliver and Johnson:57-94) Thus, on the eve of the twenty-first century, Los Angeles has one of the most ethnically diverse populations of any metropolitan area in the country.
What does this ethnic diversity mean for multiethnic coalition building in the politics of Los Angeles County? Does the changing demography increase the opportunity for ethnic cooperation? Or, has the ethnic changes increased rather than decreased the prospects of interethnic conflict?
After the 1992 riots, a clarion call was issued from all corners for the emerging multiethnic majority to take its rightful place in the politics and leadership of the city. A multiethnic coalition, it ws suggested, could lead the city to a new multicultural...