“So here’s some ugly truth about the city of Los Angeles,” writes Matthew Fleischer of the racist elephant in the urban room (via Linda Poon): “Our freeway system is one of the most noxious monuments to racism and segregation in the country.”
Los Angeles was never a paradise of racial acceptance, but in 1910 some 36% of L.A.’s African Americans were homeowners (compared with 2.4% in New York City) — tops in the nation. L.A.’s comprehensive Red Car transit system, which offered easy, unsegregated access to the region’s growing economic opportunities, was fundamental to this success. Integrated, racially diverse neighborhoods like Watts and Boyle Heights emerged and thrived along these transit corridors.
But as L.A.’s population surged from 320,000 in 1910 to more than 1.2 million in 1930 — including tens of thousands of African Americans from the Deep South — white Los Angeles decided it was time to ramp up its own brand of Jim Crow segregation.
It’s not, of course, just Los Angeles, and Fleischer’s specificity in detailing the lengths to which urban planners in L.A. made sure to wipe out Black neighborhoods while preserving white ones is… depressing.