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Letters to the Editor: Los Angeles has had many reckonings with racism. Will The Times’ be any different?

L.A. Times building
The former headquarters of the Los Angeles Times is seen next to L.A. City Hall in 2013.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Of all the labels I’ve used to describe my identity, “Angeleno” is perhaps the one to which I most closely connected. To me it encapsulates not only a sense of place, but a sense of time and being. I can feel the city as part of me, and I believe I understand it for what it is and what it is not.

Reading the editorials and reports on the Los Angeles Times’ history of racism has brought back a flood of emotion and forced some introspection. I appreciate the desire by elements of the minority white population of our city to atone for generations of deliberate and racist segregation and repression.

However, I cannot help but feel like we’ve been here before. While Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s remembrance of his own experiences in apartheid South Africa added welcome context to the L.A. Times’ soul searching, I could not help but think that what marked apartheid was not only physical segregation based on race, but more importantly the overwhelming economic and entrenched political domination exerted by the white minority.

To a great extent, this same situation exists now in Los Angeles and the rest of California, and there is no sign of real change on the horizon. I hope that this time, we see greater effort toward building a more just and equitable future, but honestly I have my doubts.

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Felix Nuñez, San Gabriel

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To the editor: Thanks for reporter Teresa Watanabe’s article acknowledging the existence of Asian Americans. As a fellow third-generation American of Japanese ancestry, I can relate to everything she wrote.

Many years ago, I was a journalism major at Cal State Dominguez Hills with dreams of writing for your paper. A job at The Times would’ve been proof that I had made it. However, seeing hardly any Japanese American bylines, I switched majors and gave up trying to become a journalist.

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A decade after that, in the year 2000, I was working at an organization dedicated to teaching the stories of the World War II veterans of Japanese ancestry who bravely fought for this country while their families were behind barbed wire in internment camps.

This is an American story that all Americans should learn; however, coverage of our organization’s efforts to tell it appeared mostly in Rafu Shimpo, a publication based in Little Tokyo, and other small local papers.

We always knew the chances of getting our story into The Times was slim. Watanabe was our contact at the paper, and I remember a wonderful article she wrote during my tenure at the organization. Being on the pages of The Times seemed to legitimize us.

I was grateful for the article, but something else infuriated me. Why was it so hard to get our story out? I knew the answer, but I hated to admit it: The story was not important in the eyes of white America.

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Asian American stories are American stories. They should not be viewed only as cultural stories, because we are part of this melting pot. Many of us are from families that have been here for several generations. Our stories deserve to be heard by everyone.

Thank you, Ms. Watanabe, and thank you to The Times for what I hope will be a shift in your view of your fellow citizens.

J.M. Hirata, Torrance

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To the editor: Thank you for your commitment to be better.

Yes, 80 years later, we remember L.A. Times’ support for the wrongful imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. That’s three generations of scars.

We all need to do better. So, please encourage the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to apologize for terrorizing this city — and to stop.

Susie Ling, Monrovia

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To the editor: This is my first letter to the editor, but I felt compelled to comment on your series of articles on the L.A. Times’ reckoning with racism.

When I read the initial pieces, I almost gave up because there were so negative and divisive. But I kept on because I wanted to see why they were being published.

I have been so moved by the individual articles — particularly the one by columnist Sandy Banks on her experience being a young Black reporter in Los Angeles who had just moved here from Cleveland — that I want to thank the writers for sharing their perspectives.

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Those journalists’ pieces have given me much better insight into how people think and feel, and how they react to the things that happen to them. They have helped me understand what is meant by systemic racism, and to become aware of its prevalence in our society.

Through their eyes and their stories, I can now see how much systemic racism has framed my views of society and our communities, and how it did so just by reading this newspaper over these many years.

We need to hear many voices and views.

Katherine Pene, Porter Ranch

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To the editor: I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every member of the staff at the Los Angeles Times for daring to have integrity in a sensationalized world.

I am a product of Los Angeles County’s foster system. I was fortunate that I was adopted into a loving extended family who challenged me to discover who I am, for I was the only Black child in an all-white family. I never knew what it meant to be Black.

Now, I am a 40-year-old proud gay Black man, but it wasn’t always this way. For the longest time I denied by own Blackness for fear of rejection by my peers. It took a lot of soul searching and the influence of my adopted city of Oakland for me to fully grasp what it means to be Black.

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To be Black in Oakland is an incredible experience. When I walk down the street, I am greeted as a brother with handshakes and smiles, and I feel accepted for the first time in my adult life.

Restorative justice is not an easy process for anyone to undertake, so it warms my heart when an institution such as yours dares to admit its past transgressions against the pursuit of truth and sets out to fix them.

Robert Stinson, Oakland

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To the editor: Thank you to reporter Greg Braxton for telling his painful story of employment at the L.A. Times, and thank you as well to the L.A. Times for printing it.

After thinking for years that I as a white person was not a racist because of the diversity of my friends and my beliefs, I am now in my 80s beginning to understand systemic racism and how it invades so much of our culture.

Braxton’s story of covering the 1992 riots successfully and then being returned afterward to his former unremarkable suburban reporting post touched me profoundly. I am sorry that he bore this hurt for so many years before finding some peace.

The L.A. Times deserves praise for finally airing its dirty laundry. Thank you.

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Suzanne Darweesh, Fullerton

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To the editor: Your long editorial on the L.A. Times’ history of racism was truly amazing and soul searching. Publishing this when you did, on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, seems particularly apropos.

For 60 years my husband, Gerald Rosen, began his day reading the L.A. Times cover to cover. For 40 years he taught minority group relations at Cal State Fullerton and frequently used articles from your paper in his class — sometimes to praise, but often to challenge. He would have turned 77 this week.

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I wish you had published this one year ago so he could have been with us to thank you for this birthday gift. I only hope that other newspapers will follow your lead and recognize their history.

Barbara Rosen, Fullerton

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To the editor: As a longtime reader and subscriber to the Los Angeles Times, I want to express my gratitude for your editorial and your owner’s piece committing to changes at the paper. My wife and family believe in the promise of America and in the critical role that news, information and quality journalism play in the maintenance of our democracy.

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Although the process of democracy will continue to unfold — filled with conflict, tension, progress and setbacks — your self-reflection has given me a renewed sense of hope and faith in the Los Angeles Times and the American dream.

Every year, my wife and I evaluate our budget, and we take stock of the waste that is created by the home delivery of the newspaper and the value of continuing our subscription to the Los Angeles Times given the alternatives. I want you to know that your articles on diversity and your efforts to strengthen our democracy (beginning with your own organization) have renewed my belief in and my support for the Los Angeles Times — for now, and for as long as the current ownership, the editorial board and the rest of your staff continue to strengthen our community on its quest for truth.

John Keisler, Long Beach

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To the editor: I let my L.A. Times subscription lapse a while ago, partly out of frustration with the digital platform but mostly because compelling stories seemed to be in short supply.

Your series on the paper’s reckoning with racism has been a bold move in the right direction. Entries this week from columnist Sandy Banks and others are stories that need to be heard. These personal tales shed light on a painful past, but the honesty, patience and persistence of these gifted reporters offer us the hope of a better future.

I’m glad to be back with the L.A. Times. Keep up the good work.

Steve Wright, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: As someone who’s been reading the Los Angeles Times my entire reading life, I thank you for your editorial facing up to your own failures in the matter of previous racist coverage of significant events. It is valuable, for example, that you remind your readers of the paper’s shameful stance on Japanese internment and the Zoot Suit riots.

I also write as a historian of California, so I know something about Harrison Gray Otis and his often malign influence on local and state politics a century ago.

Your editorial is courageous, and it is also good, accurate history.

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Glenna Matthews, Laguna Beach

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To the editor: I am learning so much from this series and I applaud your plans to do better.

Now, please really follow through on them and stay alert, because white supremacy culture is very resilient. But if your efforts are done well and sustained, I can’t imagine a better legacy for Soon-Shiong and the many journalists of color who have fought for years for a better L.A. Times.

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Cynthia Freeman, Los Feliz

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To the editor: Reading the articles about diversifying the Los Angeles Times took me back to 1956.

I was a young, white, male high school teacher from the Midwest, new to Los Angeles, but somehow knowing which paper to subscribe to when I moved here. Fast-forward to today, 64 years later, still a subscriber to the L.A. Times.

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But look at all the changes. Now, instead of an all-male staff, you have reporters, columnists and editors who are female, Black, Latino and Asian. Your new owner is from South Africa. All I can say is, good for you.

I have changed along with the paper. Instead of voting Republican as I used to, for the past 40 years I have called myself a proud liberal.

Keep up the good work, and keep up with the changes that reflect our pluralistic society.

Robert Carrelli, Thousand Oaks

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To the editor: Thank you, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and the rest of the L.A. Times, for an honest evaluation of how and why the newspaper has contributed to systemic racism.

I have been a faithful reader for more than 50 years, and I can say that this examination is powerful and honest. What more can we ask than to admit when journalism may be a part of the problem and strive to change?

I will join you in the journey as we do the work of making kindness, mercy and justice not just words, but the experiences of people’s lives.

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Karen McGlinn, Costa Mesa


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