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McKenzie Thomas Jennifer Rodrick English 115 15 November 2016

Analysis Of “Los Angeles” Los Angeles is a city of many traits. In Beverly Hills, the wealthy reside in large, beautiful, and expensive house and mansions. These people are mostly doctors, lawyers, actors, singers, and other career positions that provide more than enough money to predominantly white individuals. In South Central, minorities often live in poverty. It is well-known to the Los Angeles residents that one does not go to South Central at night time, and that it is still not a safe place during the day. In the Hollywood Hills area and the West Hollywood area, residents live in over the top mansions and beautiful houses. I once overheard someone say to their friend on a street in West Hollywood that their friend bought a house for 1.3 million dollars. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is home to a countless number of homeless people. Almost everywhere in Los Angeles homeless people can be found. The homeless individuals are also often African American. Los Angeles clearly has many sides to it, and can shape an individual in multiple different ways based on who they are, where they came from, their race, how much money they make, and many more factors. In the short story “Los Angeles” by Richard Rayner, found in the book Another City, the main character experiences Los Angeles in the time period of the Rodney King riots in 1992. He is a white man from England and lives in a rougher neighborhood. At the time of the riots, he decides to have his African American friend help him go and see the riots. By doing so, he faces great fear and has experiences like never before. Los Angeles and all of its sometimes unusual events and characteristics shaped the author’s identity by forcing him to



acclimate to the crime and mischief in his neighborhood, by making him more fearless, and by changing his view of how other races fit in to society.

One way that the author’s identity has been shaped by Los Angeles is by forcing him to acclimate to the common and regular crime and mischief in his neighborhood. For example, Rayner recalls a morning where he and his girlfriend go to the parking garage below their apartment building to find “human excrement

Thomas 2 acclimate to the crime and mischief in his neighborhood, by making him more fearless,

on the windscreen of [their] car

. . and took over an hour to wash and scrape off” (173). While Rayner’s girlfriend is horrified by what had happened, Rayner himself brushes the occurrence off. This event is one example of how the author has become more immune to the “unpleasant reminder[s] of the nature of [his] neighborhood” (173). Even though this incident was extremely unfortunate, Rayner accepts the fact that the homeless people in his area often do things of the sort, so he washes it off and moves on with his day. Another example of how he has gotten used to the crime in his neighborhood is by the fact that the author refuses to move out of his neighborhood to a safer one. In fact, the article “New FBI Crime Figures Confirm: Black Towns Most Dangerous, White Areas Safest” claims that “black-dominated cities are the most dangerous places in America” (“New FBI Crime Figures Confirm”). This seems to be true in Rayner’s story, but this does not drive him out. For example, in response to listening to one of his friends question his motivations for living in the dangerous neighborhood that he lives in, he replies that his apartment “was a particularly




beautiful piece of history, designed and built in the 1920s by the movie director Cecil B. DeMille” (174). By brushing his friend’s advice off so casually and responding simply by stating his building is beautiful, he shows the readers that crime will not drive him out. This statement proves that Rayner is used to the crime in his area and that he is more comfortable just dealing with it rather than moving away to somewhere where “blacks wouldn’t exist at all” (175). The author makes a statement by staying in his apartment building in his rough neighborhood. When Rayner moved to Los Angeles, he immersed himself in a new culture. Even though this culture includes crime and tension between the different races, he proves his ability to deal with the drastic differences between his lifestyle and the lifestyle of others who participate in crime. Although Rayner was at one time surprised by the way “the people of [his] neighborhood accepted [the behavior of the police department] with such indifference,” he still refused to leave his home (174). This shows that the author has now become used to the side of Los Angeles that includes crime. His identity now includes an attribute that is better equipped to deal with being immersed into a city with a high crime rate. Another way that Los Angeles has shaped Richard Rayner’s identity is by making him much more fearless. When the Rodney King riots broke out in South Central and a few surrounding areas, the author could not contain his curiosity. For example, Rayner stated that “if the riots were going to start again, [he] wanted to see them for [himself] (180). This proves that the author is willing to immerse himself in an extremely dangerous situation despite the possibility of injury or even death, as the riots had already caused there to be “thirteen dead by the end of the night” on the first day of the riots (180). Rayner decided to call on his African American friend Jake to help him to witness and experience the riots firsthand. He and Jake drive through the city and look at all of the African American people running through the streets,



stealing merchandise from looted stores, and setting things on fire. As they drove, they “were passed by LAPD cars, not moving singly, or even in pairs, but in groups of four and five” (180- 181). By driving around and watching the riots, Rayner shows extreme bravery. Even the police are afraid, but this still does not motivate the author to go home. According to the article “Effects of Crime on Society,” people who live with or live around it often deal with “paranoid and depressive behavior associated with the effects of crime” (“Effects of Crime on Society”).

Proving this point, Rayner admits to Jake that “[he’s] the sort of person

who lies awake in

. . . bed thinking someone’s about to break in and slit [his] throat,” though, in addition to not moving away, he, too, continues to stay with Jake in the car and check out the riots, instead of being too afraid and just going home. Another frightening aspect of this drive was when an African American teenager “stopped in the middle of the street with a bottle of Budweiser which he was getting ready to throw at a car, ours” (184). Afterwards, however, the teenager realized Rayner was with a black man and went on his way. Though this frightened the author, along with all of the other scary aspects of the drive, he was still determined to accomplish his goal of being a firsthand witness to the riots. Los Angeles can be a frightening and dangerous place at times, but the author has become far more fearless due to having resided in the place that he has. One more way that Los Angeles has shaped Rayner’s identity is by changing his view of how other races, namely African Americans, fit into society. The author describes the demographic of the suspects he witnesses being stopped to be “always black, usually young, often well-dressed” (173). As a professional young man himself, I suspect that Rayner is often disturbed by the fact that average-looking African American people are stopped so commonly. He also mentions how violent the police officers are to black suspects under the command of police chief Daryl Gates (174). He witnesses various officers outside of his apartment window



spewing out threatening statements to African American suspects such as “be careful now, I’m in the mood to hit me a homer” (174). While the author’s neighbors all seem to be okay with this

behavior, Rayner is disturbed by the fact that the “LAPD

was seen less as a police force than

. . . an army at war” (174). To Rayner, the fact that African Americans were seen as something other than normal was an unusual concept. When the author lived in New York, he had a very different way of looking at African American individuals. Los Angeles, however, has brought out a new way of viewing black people. Rayner now finds himself categorizing African American people into groups of “smart professional blacks,” “middle-class blacks,” and “the bums on Hollywood Boulevard” (175). Instead of seeing an African American as just another person, he now automatically puts them into categories, whether he likes it or not. In fact, during the riots, after a group of black people killed an innocent white man, Rayner, if he had been given the chance, “actually saw [himself] with a gun in [his] hand” killing the particular African Americans who killed the innocent man (179). Previously, the author would not have wished to be violent, but because of the way Los Angeles is, he sees a new side of himself. All of these factors lead Rayner to feel differently about black people. He now feels more of a division between himself and them because of the crimes they may commit and because of the way the police treat them. It would be unavoidable for the author to feel as though he is on equal footing as African Americans now, due to all that he has seen. This affects his identity by making him more aware of his race and culture and of the race and culture of black people. In conclusion, “Los Angeles” depicts the story of a man who has been forever changed by the racial divisions of Los Angeles. Throughout the story, Rayner describes through his actions what it is like to live in a place where all races are not on equal footing. Whites are seen as superior, whereas blacks are seen as less-than. This story seems to be true for the entire United



States nowadays. With a resurgence of police brutality against African Americans, riots have erupted in many southern states, and the Black Lives Matter movement has been formed. The story by Richard Rayner sounds almost like a prequel to the events happening today. The United States has proven that it has still not been able to rid itself of racism. Here in Los Angeles, there is still an undertone of racism against black people among a certain segment of the population. Over time, one can only hope that race will not have to be a very large defining factor of our identities any longer, as it was in “Los Angeles” and still is today.



Work Cited “Effects of Crime on Society.” People of our Everyday Life. Leaf Group, Ltd., 2016. Web. 16 November 2016. “New FBI Crime Figures Confirm: Black Towns Most Dangerous, White Areas Safest.” The New Observer. 4 December 2014. The New Observer, 2016. Web. 16 November 2016. Rayner, Richard. “Los Angeles.” Another City. Ed. David L. Ulin. 1 st ed. San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2001. 173-184. Seib, Al. Empire Liquor Market Deli in South Central Los Angeles. 1992. LA Times. Web. 16 November 2016.