I was one of the large number of white reporters who covered the Watts riots a half-century ago, unaware of the causes of the terrible events unfolding before our eyes.
I knew nothing of the long history of residential and school segregation that preceded the riots or of the years of brutal and racist law enforcement by the largely white Los Angeles Police Department. Nor did I know of the closing of tire and auto plants and other factories that left so many South L.A. residents jobless.
I was working with another white AP reporter, Jim Bacon, who was acclaimed for his coverage of his usual beat, Hollywood. We had been assigned to interview Watts residents. Bacon usually hung out with big stars like Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, yet he was as comfortable in Watts as he was in the bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel.