Riots in Detroit and Los Angeles

Causes and Motives of the Detroit Rioters

During the Second World War, Detroit was the center of the American automobile industry and was considered a developing and prosperous city. However, the problem that virtually all the major cities of the United States of that time faced was racial inequality and intolerance (Santoro and Broidy 335). Thus, this motive became the reason for the famous Detroit riot in 1943, one of the most brutal and dangerous uprisings in American history.

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The riot began with a banal fight between white and black teenagers in an amusement park. Sailors, who stood up for the white children, soon began to fight with the adult African-American residents. Quite soon, local people started to join the sailors. According to Hollitz, by this time a lot of rumors have spread in the city (193). In those places where black people lived, they believed that white sailors threw off a black woman with a child from the bridge. In that part of the city where the white population predominated, they supposed that a black man raped and killed a white woman on the bridge. The riot heated by these rumors gained such strength that the police had ceased to control the situation by midnight of that day (Sugrue 32). African-American residents destroyed shops belonging to whites and also attacked all people that caught their eye. The white population began to break down and burn shops, houses, and cars belonging to blacks.

All these events were unrest in wartime, which made the situation even more complicated. The city government had to ask federal authorities for help in order to calm the situation. These events may have triggered subsequent riots, which also arose on the basis of racial inequality and intolerance.

Comparison of Riots in Detroit and Los Angeles

While comparing the Detroit rebellion with a riot in Los Angeles in 1943, there are some similarities and differences. Both events took place in the same year, and sailors were the main participants on one side. Moreover, the conflict in Los Angeles also began with an ordinary city fight.

However, the other side was not African Americans, but Latinos who received the nickname Zoot Suit because of their rather strange and baggy suits (Navarro 72). These people behaved quite defiantly, and one day, after beating a group of sailors, they provoked the wrath of the authorities. As it was Detroit, the number of rioters involved in the suppression increased significantly, and sailors who were to deal with the gangs of Latinos were sent by the government (Murakawa 104). Several thousands of people from the army were used to liquidate Zoot Suit as a class and to ensure that their gangs no longer terrorized the city (Brown 441). Thus, the outcome of both riots turned out to be the same: the authorities managed to calm people’s unrest.

Nevertheless, the consequences of the uprising in Detroit were more severe and large-scale in comparison with the events in Los Angeles. The number of people involved in that uprising was much more significant, and the damage done by the residents was severe as they destroyed not only personal but also public property. Therefore, regarding consequences, the uprising in Detroit had greater power than that in Los Angeles and could be considered one of the famous American riots.

Works Cited

Brown, Ben. “Cops and Chaos: A Historical Examination of the Police Role in Riot Control.” Journal of Applied Security Research, vol. 10, no. 4, 2015, pp. 427-465.

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Hollitz, John. Thinking Through the Past. Vol. 2. 5th ed., Nelson Education, 2013.

Murakawa, Naomi. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Navarro, Armando. “The South Central Los Angeles Eruption: A Latino Perspective.” Los Angeles – Struggles toward Multiethnic Community: Asian American, African American, and Latino Perspectives, edited by Edward T. Chang and Russell Charles Leong, University of Washington Press, 2015, pp. 69-86.

Santoro, Wayne A., and Lisa Broidy. “Gendered Rioting: A General Strain Theoretical Approach.” Social Forces, vol. 93, no. 1, 2014, pp. 329-354.

Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton University Press, 2014.

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