“Zoot Suit Riots”
Life in the early 1940’s was filled with the effects of the bombing on Pearl Harbor. World War II had just begun and many homes were without their fathers, brothers, and uncles. This led to a growing national rise in juvenile delinquency as mothers, aunts, and older sisters had to fill the gaps in the workforce left by their male counterparts. In Los Angeles a group of young people who seemed to embrace the big band, jazz culture, much to the dismay of the white middle-class at the time, was known as the zoot-suiters. This group was a group of young people of color who did not want to conform to the restrictions of segregation. This group of youth who wore zoot suits were being labeled as “delinquents” by the media of the time. Eventually an incident occurred at the Sleepy Lagoon that solidified the zoot suiters as criminals and resulted in the zoot suit riots.
Throughout the World War II era, racism was prevalent. African-Americans were segregated from the white population and treated as second class citizens. Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps after Pearl Harbor. Their property was confiscated and their homes and businesses were lost. Mexican-Americans, although classified as "white" for census purposes, were still treated in the same respect as African-Americans. Perceptions of Mexican-Americans at the end of 1940 continued to reflect images of racism. “The Office of public opinion conducted a poll which listed nineteen adjectives that might be used to describe Central and South Americans. Eighty percent chose "dark-skinned," while 40 and 50 percent of the respondents chose "quick tempered," "emotional," "superstitious," "backward," "lazy," "ignorant," and "suspicious."” (Constructing the American Past) These ideas of racism towards Mexican-Americans intensified when groups of young people decided to wear zoot suits at a time when the war was affecting shortages in cloth production.
Zoot suits are...