Watched Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit last night – a powerful film depicting LA’s Zoot Suit Riots and run-up events. In the 40s, Latin (African, Italian and Filipino) Americans seen wearing the Zoot Suit – high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and a long coat with wide lapels and shoulders – as cultural identity were often deemed immoral, criminalised and attacked. Former Los Angeles City Councilman Norris Nelson officially stated, “The zoot suit has become a badge of hoodlumism.”
Still, young Mexican Americans, often referred to (in the derorgative) as “Chicanos”, created a youth culture and turned a class-based term of derision to one of ethnic pride – sound familiar? Known wearers included Cesar Chávez and Malcolm X, with X describing “a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic’s cell”. Can’t fit into caption how relevant the message of this film is in the day of Trayvon, racial profiling and more.