Author to Discuss Role of JAs, African Americans in L.A. Political Struggles

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Scott Kurashige will discuss his book “The Shifting Grounds of Race” on Saturday, July 30, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, First and Central in Little Tokyo.

Los Angeles has attracted intense attention as a “world city” characterized by multiculturalism and globalization. Yet, little is known about the historical transformation of a place whose leaders proudly proclaimed themselves white supremacists less than a century ago. Kurashige highlights the role African Americans and Japanese Americans played in the social and political struggles that remade 20th-century Los Angeles.

Linking paradigmatic events like Japanese American internment and the African American civil rights movement, Kurashige transcends the usual “black/white” dichotomy to explore the multiethnic dimensions of segregation and integration. Racism and sprawl shaped the dominant image of Los Angeles as a “white city.” But they simultaneously fostered a shared oppositional consciousness among African Americans and Japanese Americans living as neighbors within diverse urban communities.

Kurashige demonstrates why the two groups joined forces in the battle against discrimination and why their trajectories diverged. Connecting local developments to national and international concerns, he reveals how critical shifts in postwar politics were shaped by a multiracial discourse that promoted the acceptance of Japanese Americans as a “model minority” while binding African Americans to the social ills underlying the 1965 Watts Rebellion.

Multicultural Los Angeles ultimately encompassed both the new prosperity arising from transpacific commerce and the enduring problem of race and class divisions, according to Kurashige. This book adds new depth and complexity to our understanding of the “urban crisis” and offers a window into America’s multiethnic future.

Kurashige is associate professor of history, American culture, and Asian/Pacific Islander American studies at the University of Michigan. He co-authored with Grace Lee Boggs “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-first Century.”

 

For more information on this and other museum events, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

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