By Angela McRobbie
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Additional resources for Zoot Suits and Second-Hand Dresses: An Anthology of Fashion and Music
14. 'Strong Measures Must be Taken Against Rioting', Los Angeles Times, 9 June 1943, p. 4. 15. 'Zoot-Suit Fighting Spreads On the Coast', New York Times, 10 June 1943, p. 23. 16. As note 15. 17. 'Zoot-Girls Use Knife in Attack', Los Angeles Times, 11 June 1943, p. 1. 18. Joan W. Moore, Homeboys: Gangs, Drugs and Prison in the Barrios of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, 1978. 19. 'Zoot Suit Warfare Spreads to Pupils of Detroit Area', Washington Star, 11 June 1943, p. 1. 20. Although the Detroit Race Riots of 1943 were not zoot-suit riots, nor evidently about 'youth' or 'delinquency', the social context in which they took place was obviously comparable.
In addition to these measures, the commission urged that arrests should be made without undue emphasis on members of minority groups, and encouraged lawyers to protect the rights of youths arrested for participation in gang activity. The findings were a delicate balance of punishment and palliative; it made no significant mention of the social conditions of Mexican labourers and no recommendations about the kind of public spending that would be needed to alter the social experiences of pachuco youth.
For many pachucos the zoot-suit riots were simply hightimes in Los Angeles when momentarily they had control of the streets; for others it was a realization that they were outcasts in a society that was not of their making. For the black radical writer, Chester Himes, the riots in his neighbourhood were unambiguous: 'Zoot Riots are Race Riots'. 34 For other contemporary commentators the wearing of the zoot suit could be anything from unconscious dandyism to a conscious 'political' engagement. The zoot-suit riots were not 'political' riots in the strictest sense, but for many participants they were an entry into the language of politics, an inarticulate rejection of the 'straight world' and its organization.