May 9, 1943: Al Capp satirizes zoot suits in a series about “Zoot-Suit Yokum.”
In Part 1, we saw that in 1942, The Times originally portrayed zoot suits as a youthful fad, but that attitudes hardened toward them once the War Production Board outlawed them to conserve fabric. We saw that some servicemen were hassling zoot-suiters and there were regular reports of crimes committed by Eastside zoot suit gangs.
Jan. 14, 1943: Here’s an essay by Timothy Turner, and the headline, unfortunately reflects the bias of whoever wrote it rather than Turner’s thoughts. Turner was an interesting fellow who spent many years in Mexico and covered the Mexican Revolution.
Here’s part of what he has to say:
The Mexican problem confronting this city today is compounded by color prejudice. Most of these young Mexicans have much Indian blood. There is a definite caste system against them. It is not like that against the Negro. Like Orientals they can go into restaurants and theaters. But a young Mexican American finds the economic bars up against him. He or she cannot get a job in stores or offices, even as a waiter or waitress in restaurants. The Mexican, however, can be a bus boy. This is being changed by the manpower shortage, and we are beginning to see Mexican faces where we never saw them before. Mexicans have been barred from many factories engaged in war work, causing much bitterness. The Mexican, generally speaking, is left to hard labor or the most menial work. We have graduated a whole generation of young Mexicans out of high school, educated sons and daughters of Mexican laborers into a middle class which for them does not exist.
This, folks, is a daring statement for the editorial page of the conservative, right-wing Los Angeles Times.
March 22, 1943: A Times cartoon shows zoot-suiters as “solid citizens minding their own bizness.”
On March 22, 1943, The Times published a story by Turner that makes fun of the zoot suit but is sympathetic to young men who wear them. “The zoot suit is no label of juvenile delinquency,” he says.
The Zoot Suit Riots are three months away….