What’s Good for Boyle Heights Has Been Good at the Los Angeles Coliseum

  • Frank Andre Guridy Temple University Press


George Sánchez’s 2004 article “What’s Good for Boyle Heights Is Good for the Jews” brings to light the fascinating history of the cultural and political dimensions of what he calls “radical interracialism” in the mid-twentieth century. As I delve more deeply into the racial, ethnic, and recreational history of Los Angeles, I find myself strongly indebted to the work of Sánchez and his cohorts of ethnic studies scholars working on Los Angeles. Sánchez’s research on the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights during the 1940s and ’50s has uncovered what Luis Alvarez calls a “counter-history of Los Angeles”: a narrative of the city’s and county’s history that disrupts the dominant understandings of decentralization, privatization, and apartheid-like segregation. To Sánchez, Boyle Heights was a “particular site of ethnic cooperation in the midst of racial segregation and political conservatism.” Recalling the neighborhood’s history during this period, he writes, “better situates our own search for neighborhoods of diversity that truly worked together in the past and our hope of a multiracial Los Angeles that can work together in the future.” Following his lead, I examine Sánchez’s formulation of “radical interracialism,” as articulated in his essays on Jewish cross-racial interaction in Boyle Heights and its political manifestation in the ascendance of Edward Roybal, the first Mexican American to serve in the Los Angeles City Council since the late nineteenth century. In these essays, Sánchez historicizes the making of cross-racial linkages on both cultural and political levels. Inspired by his research, I take up his challenge by embarking on my own search for radical interracialism in an unlikely yet ubiquitous urban institution—a sports stadium, whose hidden history of racial integration and public culture counters the social hierarchies inscribed in the neoliberal ballpark of the urban gentrifying present.