Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Racial Clashes Continue at Lakewood High

High school is meant to bring about turmoil to students with complex courses.  High school is not meant to create an atmosphere that creates ethnic tensions.

In high schools nationwide have to deal with conflicts centered on racial differences, and the ordeal can be traced back decades – it can be pinpointed to the integration of schools back in the civil rights era – so nothing is new.

The distinguishing factor in the clash occurring at Lakewood High School is the probability that the tension between Asian and Hispanic students can eventually spill over onto the streets in the form of gang violence.

The danger posed here lies within the number of students that commute to Lakewood from the neighboring city of Long Beach.  A good amount of students attending Lakewood, which is part of the Long Beach Unified School District, are from Long Beach.  A further breakdown in this percentage shows you that a significant amount of students come from Long Beach neighborhoods that are notorious for gang and criminal activities – north, west, and central Long Beach.

Over the past three weeks, Asian and Hispanic students at Lakewood have gotten into arguments and confrontations.  As everything in high school, the clashes started with a few stare downs.

“They [the Asians] came over to where we kick it at,” said R.A., 17, a male Hispanic senior. “They tried to punk us, make us look like (expletive).”

R.A., a resident of North Long Beach, described the initial encounter as a “slap to the face,” saying that the Asian students walked across the Hispanic students’ hang out spot “to see how active” they are.  These sorts of events continued to occur for a couple of days, said R.A.

The confrontations took to a higher notch on Sept. 14 when Asian students walked by again, this time verbally making threats and insults.

“They came in talking (expletive),” said senior Joseph, a central Long Beach resident. “We [weren’t] gonna act like bitches, so we told them what's up.”  Juan, 17, acknowledged the fact that he and the rest of the Hispanic students in the area returned verbal threats.

After that altercation, Joseph, R.A., and the rest of the Hispanic students went over to the Asian hang out spot and confronted them.

“They [the Hispanics] came up to us trying to tell us that if we wanted to catch one (fight),” said Willie, a senior student, “we had to catch a fair one, a one on one.”

Willie, R.A., and Juan all acknowledged that gang affiliations were made known.  All of the three students live in areas with heavy gang activity. Willie said he lives in a neighborhood in central Long Beach heavily controlled by the Asian Boys Crip gang. Juan lives in Eastside Longo turf and R.A. lives in Northside Longo ‘hood.

This exchange caused commotion with the rest of the student body and everyone within the vicinity became aware of the dispute.  Since the scene was made much bigger, faculty and administrators became aware of the situation.  The one who handled the quarrel was Assistant Principal Donald Williams.  He arrived at the scene, separated the two groups and pulled key individuals for questioning.

“I questioned students who had previous conduct issues,” said Williams.  “I also took in the those who seemed the most riled up.”  Williams had the students write descriptions of the scuffle.  That as far as school administration went.

Long Beach Unified School District spokesperson Chris Eftychiou said in an email that racial issues and riots are quite common in the school district.  Jordan High school as had its fair share of racial conflict, along with Cabrillo and Millikan high school.

Williams says that there has not been any more clashes since staff stepped in, but students say otherwise.  There is no issue at Lakewood, but the conflict stepped outside.

Joseph says that they are now being “rolled up” on by the Asian students in cars.  “They act like they’re gonna do something.”

Other students, like Willie, are trying to keep the peace.  “R.A. is my homie. I got Mexican homies.  I’m trying to keep it cool between us.”

This is not the first time a racial motivated dispute has occurred at Lakewood.  In the 2010-11 school year, there was an opposition between the African American and the Hispanic students.  There also was a Black/Mexican riot at Lakewood in 2006 (this reporter attended Lakewood during that time).

Jeffrey Johnson – also an assistant principal at Lakewood – did not acknowledge the event at all, despite being named by students as one of the officials at the scene.

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