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“We need to go on the offensive to put an end to this idea of ethnic cleansing in L.A.,” declares Noreen McClendon, executive director of Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles. “It is not happening.”Originally read on New American Media.
McClendon—an African American who serves as vice president of operations for the Watts Gang Task Force—is upset about a recent deluge of news stories claiming that Latinos are “ethnically cleansing” their African American neighbors in southern California. The reports, which McClendon characterizes as dangerously misleading, have circulated widely in print, broadcast, and Web media, generating alarm in civil rights circles and unrestrained glee in those of anti-immigrant activists and white supremacists. In McClendon’s view, all this hype obscures some basic realities: “Gangs kill each other. Gangs kill innocent people.” The ethnic cleansing label, she says, “is blown so far out of proportion” with the facts on the ground.
In January that phrase, which had previously appeared on gang-watch websites, was suddenly everywhere following the Los Angeles Times’ publication of an editorial by Rutgers Law Professor Tanya K. Hernandez. Referencing the trial of Avenues 43 members, Hernandez pronounced Green’s murder “a manifestation of an increasingly common trend: Latino ethnic cleansing of African Americans from multiracial neighborhoods.” Rather than explain this bombshell of a conclusion, Hernandez used the Green murder as an opportunity to present her thesis that Latino prejudices against African Americans often have roots in immigrants’ countries of origin–a subject on which she has published scholarly articles. This argument deserves consideration, but in presenting it as context for the charge of ethnic cleansing, Hernandez provided ammunition for those who would argue that Latinos, as a generalized whole, are a threat to African Americans and that the danger posed by new (read “illegal”) immigrants can be lethal. Ironically, the people actually charged with the Green, Bowser, and Wilson murders were members of Chicano gangs whose L.A. roots go back many decades.
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