Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Take on Race, Class and Ralphs in Los Angeles

"Ralphs needs to stop playing South Los Angeles residents for idiots.  While everyone in South L.A. may not have the benefit of personal transportation when it comes to grocery shopping, enough of us do and we have seen what a Ralphs can look like and what ours should look like."

Jasmine A. Cannick has a recent editorial in the LA Watts Times entitled "Ralphs has unfinished business in South LA".  In it, she turns the focus from the recent labor dispute, to the issue of how Ralphs allegedly runs its stores differently in different parts of the City of Los Angeles. She brings up the fairly new Ralphs on 9th between Flower and Hope in a mixed-use building in Downtown LA:

"Ralphs Fresh Fare, as it’s being called, offers expanded groceries, liquor, fresh and organic produce, a floral department, a fully staffed meat department and a wine cellar —a wine cellar!  Oh, and did I mention the sushi, soup and salad bar?

"Let me be the first to say that we eat sushi in the hood.  Not only do we eat sushi, but we’d like a cheese selection that doesn’t begin and end with cheddar and mozzarella.  How about bringing fresh and organic produce to a community of overweight and obese people where French fries are often considered a vegetable?"

The contrast in essence, as she see it, goes something like this:

"Unlike their 3rd and La Brea, and Fountain and La Brea stores on the West Side of Los Angeles, which cater to a lighter shade of customers, or their Vermont and Adams store, which bends over backwards to attract USC students, South Los Angeles patrons have to put up with dimly lit stores that continue to hide the true appearance of the produce, fruit, poultry and fish being sold.  Add to that narrow aisles, old shopping carts, small parking lots and an even smaller selection of products to choose from — with not one South Los Angeles location open 24 hours."

What actually strikes me about this is that I can't personally confirm whether or not it's true because I've never been to any of the South LA Ralphs she's talking about. However, I have been to the 3rd and La Brea and the Downtown locations she mentions while living in K-Town (plus another closer one). Despite passing through South LA a lot on the Blue Line or on the 110, I can't say that I've ever spent a ton of time actually exploring many of its neighborhoods.

I'd say that's a problem, and it's one that I hope to correct. Because unfamiliarity breeds misunderstanding, and perhaps, allows discrimination based on race and class to go unnoticed by the more affluent, more white, and (perhaps) more powerful parts of the City.

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