A Disturbing Racial Incident : Seemingly routine social evening erupts into violence in a parking lot

Anaheim has come a long way from the dark days in the 1920s when the fear of social change was so great that the Ku Klux Klan virtually ran the town.

In the decades since, the forces of modernization have created a much different, multicultural society in Orange County; certainly one where, in 1990, a trip out for a soda by a black high school cheerleader with several companions, one of them white, should be no more than a thoroughly routine social evening.

Or at least that's the way it should be. But in these too often overheated times, places on the map like Howard Beach and Shoal Creek can quickly become ugly reminders of the extent to which the hard-won major civil rights victories of the last 40 years can be set back by incidents or policies in the neighborhoods and playgrounds of modern-day America. That happened last week in Anaheim when a group of youngsters, most of them black, came back to a condominium complex after an evening out. Racial violence erupted in the parking lot after the white girl in the returning group had a dispute with some white teen-agers she encountered.

Amber Jefferson, a 15-year-old black girl from Garden Grove, was simply along for the ride and some soft drinks and snacks. She ended up being so severely beaten with baseball bats and maliciously cut with a piece of glass from a mirror that doctors worried whether they could save her life. Now that they have--after 10 hours of surgery--she faces years of recovery. The Orange County Sheriff's Department is investigating, but it is apparent from all the eyewitness accounts to date that the violence was fueled at least in part by racial insults of whites against blacks.

The condominium complex where the attack took place is home to a mix of ethnic groups and has a reputation for harmony. This incident shouldn't be allowed to tarnish that. It should be denounced for what it is, and serve as a reminder that stamping out racism requires constant vigilance.

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