Good Exploration Of Justice In Southland By Nina Revoyr Essay Example
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In Southland, Nina Revoyr writes a fascinating story of murder, race, history, and murder in Los Angeles. It is a story about Jackie Ishida, a young Japanese-American woman who is getting acquainted with her sexuality, rediscovering her cultural heritage, and focused on unearthing the skeletons that occupy her family’s past. During her last semester of law school, her grandfather, Frank Sakai, breathes her last in unexpected circumstances. Her grandfather, a Second World War veteran, owned a grocery store in the racial mixed neighborhood of Crenshaw District. At the beginning of the novel, Jackie’s aunt Lois discovers money totaling $38,000 in the closet that belonged to Frank. The beneficiary of the money is a mysterious person called Curtis Martindale as per the stipulations in the will. Jackie is given the task of finding who this mysterious beneficiary of this will is. Jackie meets James Lanier, Curtis cousin who tells her that Curtis was an employee at the Frank’s grocery store. In the pursuit of fulfilling the will's demands, Jackie discovers that Curtis is long dead and he along with other 3 teenage boys black descent were frozen to death in the freezer of the store during the 1965 Watt’s riots. The murders were never reported hence they had not been solved all these years. This prompts Jackie to engage in the arduous task of piecing together information to unravel the people and motivations for these murders. In this task, she is joined with James Lanier, a cousin to Curtis Martindale, one of the victims.
The story places much emphasis on the pursuit of justice, community interrelationships, and the essence of building coalitions. It confronts three narratives that occur in Los Angeles during different times. The present is tackled in the chapters 1994, post-1992, and Los Angeles riots. The other narrative is the Watts riots of 1965, and the third one is the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.
The death of the four black boys in Frank’s grocery store is one if the injustices perpetuated by racial hatred. James tells Jackie that “the four black boys were found dead in the store’s walk-in freezer, and my cousin Curtis Martindale was one of them” (Revoyr 64). It was surprising that Jackie knew nothing about her grandfather’s store. The injustice meted to the black boys was extreme and the person who committed harbored immense brutality towards them. James tells Jackie “there was a freezer in the back of the store, where your grandfather kept meat and ice. Someone locked them all in there during the uprising. They could have frozen to death in a matter of hour” (Revoyr 64). Despite this caliber of this cruelty, the incident did not attract any media attention, and it went unreported. Lanier also notes that no one would have cared about the death of the black boys, but it was surprising that Jackie’s family did not vary any responsibility. Many residents of this neighborhood thought the person was Nick Lawson, a white cop with a history of mistreating black kids. This thought provoked other black boys living in Crenshaw neighborhood took the revenge against Nick Lawson ultimately driving him off the streets to take up a desk-job. No charges were ever brought against him. Despite the brutality of this white cop, he escapes any charges and walks scot free.
This incident underlines the racial injustice that was so rampant during this time. The author includes this incident to enable readers get a sneak peek into the America of the past or the historical prevalence of racial injustice that was important in L.A. in the past. There have been many improvements as it regards racial injustice as compared with past, but the problem persists.
The most recent incidence of police brutality towards African-Americans is the brutal shooting to death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, by a white police officer. The officer was later acquitted of any wrong doing. The racial injustice especially towards minorities is something that has no place in current times. It serves to exacerbate tension among the racial groups which may deepen rifts between people with different racial backgrounds.
Jackie is on a mission to seek solutions to the unsolved murder in her grandfather’s grocery. Moreover, she is focused on carrying out an investigation into the history of her grandfather in Crenshaw neighborhood. The Holiday Bowl that had been later given a new name, Family Bowl avail a crucial setting for Jackie’s investigation. Here she meets Kenji, her grandfather’s friend also a Second World War veteran. He suffers first-hand racism while taking a leave from the army. His return to witness his wife give birth to their child is met with terrible outcomes. A government doctor, profusely drunk and racist, causes the death of both his wife and child (Reft n.p). Many tragedies come his way causing psychological trauma. To get some healing from the perpetual tragedies, he dabbles with bowling.
The amount of distress the drunk and racist doctor causes him are immense, and it is only worthwhile that he engages in bowling to be to stomach it. Racial injustice was coming from unlikely quarters; from a black doctor. It shows that racial injustice is something that has been propagated by all races. It was not a preserve of the whites only.
Even minority groups contributed to it propagated it in different forms. The intention to include this example of racial injustice is to enable people o remember that America is made up of many racial groups, and all these groups have potential to prejudice each other.
Furthermore, the author explores the Watts riots of 1965. The riots lasted for six days resulting in loss of property totaling forty million dollars. The riots were triggered by an incident involving Marquette Frye, who was an African-American motorist and Lee W. Minikus, a white Patrol officer from California. Minikus pulled over Frye and arrested him for suspected drunk driving. A crowd of onlookers gathered at the scene of the arrest, and the tensions resulted in violent altercations. The violence transitioned into a large-scale riot in an African American neighborhood that was excessively impoverished in South Los Angeles.
The rioting led to thirty-four deaths, numerous injuries, and over four thousand arrests. Actually, Frye’s arrest was not the root cause of the expansive riots but was due to high unemployment rates, inadequate schools, and poor housing. The findings of the commission of inquiry constituted by the governor were not implemented by the city leaders. They had suggested that conditions of African Americans staying in Watts region needed to be improved.
The Watts riots show that the inequality that exists in society is a major factor in propagating racial injustice and prejudice. The poor minority groups may feel cheated and thus view the well-off white counterparts with hatred. The justified thing is to ensure fair distribution or national resources among people from all races to reduce the rich-poor gaps.
Additionally, the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War is the third narrative that the author smoothly weaves in this story. Thousands of Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during the Second World War just because they were of Japanese ancestry. They relocated into internment camps, and this was one of the most extreme violations of civil liberties. The worry among most Americans is that citizens of Japanese ancestry will spy for Japanese government. Thus, fear was responsible for the internment of Japanese-Americans. This fear was not informed by any concrete evidence. Unsubstantiated fears among people may cause racial tensions which can culminate in ugly internment camps. Revoyr brings up this issue to enable people remember the past unfairness meted to people of Japanese ancestry. This is important today because it lays barely past mistakes thus laying precedence for those in power to rely on concrete evidence before falling into the trap of persecuting a certain segment of society.
Civil Rights Digital Library. "Watts Riots." CIVIL RIGHTS DIGITAL LIBRARY. The Digital Library of Georgia, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
Kirsch, Jonathan. "A Rainbow Arcs over L.A. Noir." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 29 June 2003. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
Kuroki, Mikage. "LA Stories: Identity and Conflict in Post urban Culture." (2011).
Reft, Ryan. "Not Bowling Alone: How the Holiday Bowl in Crenshaw Became an Integrated Leisure Space." KCET. 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
Revoyr, Nina. Southland. Akashic Books, 2008Ushistory.org. "Japanese-American Internment." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
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