Story by Amber Chen & Sam Grotenstein
Opinion Editor & Staff Writer
Illustration by Tarry Song
Local media and community forums have recently received vehement backlash over their critiques of the SPPD. Hints of prejudice, if not the employment of outright racist fearmongering, characterize these adverse reactions — all of which operate under the false pretense that racism is non-existent in South Pasadena.
The aforementioned is an assertion of “not in my backyard,” or “nimby” ideology. Nimbyism is the advocacy for large-scale advancement, contrasted by resistance to localized progressive efforts. For South Pasadena residents, this means recognizing racism as an issue on a national scale, but not in our own self-proclaimed liberal community.
Nimby ideology has not only formed local pro-police sentiments, but narrowed anti-police ones to focus on the SPPD’s exorbitant budget, rather than the department’s inherent racism. Yet, despite few reported cases of police misconduct, the SPPD reflects much of South Pasadena’s covert racism. There is a pattern of Black and Latinx people consistently making up a disproportionately large fraction of those suspected of and reported for petty crimes, a trend depictive of racial profiling.
South Pasadena is not immune to overt racism either, as can be seen in multiple instances of blatant racial prejudice directed at South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform leader London Lang. For example, an individual shared a photograph of Lang on a local Facebook group with a caption detailing their worry that one Black man would lead a violent riot. This is not an anomaly, but a daily lived reality for the few Black people that call South Pasadena home.
South Pasadena’s nimbyism is further physically embodied in a traffic barrier that has divided Via Del Rey and Los Angeles’ Van Horne Avenue since 1976. The division was created to “keep out crime,” which was inaccurately and discriminatorily equated with the largely Latinx population of El Sereno.
The sharp racial contrast between the two cities’ demographics is a direct result of the racism that is cemented in the pillars of South Pasadena’s restrictive infrastructure, as in every corner of American civilization. This city in particular is still reeling from the lasting implications of its 20th century prejudice turned application, as seen in its policies of redlining, sundown laws, and a rejection of integration.
As South Pasadena becomes increasingly diverse and accepting, one is given the impression that these policies have failed. Yet, it has become clear that the larger goal at hand was to operate in the interest of white supremacy. White exclusivity was only assumed to be the inevitable outcome. South Pasadena was built for and still operates for white people. Racism is not only in our backyards, but the foundation of our houses.