1943: Zoot Suit Riots

Despite the fact that many young Mexican Americans served in all branches of the armed forces during WWII, the press played up the Sleepy Lagoon case by stereotyping Mexican Americans as dangerous ruffians, transforming the term “Mexican” into a synonym for lawlessness. Racial tensions rose in Los Angeles and events soon led to the Zoot Suit Riots, in which servicemen attacked Mexican American youths at will without police intervention. The riots were largely brought to an end on June 9 when senior military officers declared Los Angeles off-limits to servicemen.