there's a fight going on between LA's Koreans and Bangladeshis over district naming. In the area known (and mapped), but unofficially, as "Koreatown," the growing Bangladeshi community has asked for a portion in the center of Koreatown to be named, officially, "Little Bangladesh."
More than a name is at stake. Although largely symbolic, the recognition afforded by a special district designation can help establish a community within the cultural mosaic of Southern California, said Hamid Khan, executive director of the nonprofit South Asian Network. When noted on maps and street signs, it can also attract visitors and help local business.
I remember visiting Koreatown throughout the 90s, and all anyone ever said was that there were more Latinos than Koreans in Koreatown.
I think such district naming has less to do with who actually lives there, and more to do with recognizing a particular minority that is (supposedly) only found there. There are no efforts to name Koreatown anything Latino because all of LA is considered Latino.
Two things may be happening here: the first is that Koreans are no longer perceived as being restricted to Koreatown. Perhaps Korean businesses and residents have become so ubiquitous, that they're now perceived to be a universal LA minority, rather than one contained within their enclave. The second is that, in the past decade, Bangladeshis have become a substantial minority.
I'm not commenting on what's right here, just on how demographics are changing. Used to be, immigrants of color took over enclaves from European immigrant groups; now they're taking them over from each other. So much for API solidarity.
In other news, the owner of my local cafe just informed me that I live in Koreatown, Oakland. I didn't know that. Turns out, a Korean business owners association voted to create a Koreatown Northgate Oakland Community Benefit Association in 2007, and have been active for the past half-year in doing stuff like getting the Koreatown designation for Telegraph between 20th and 35th approved, buying banners for the street, and starting a blog, which has, so far, only reported on a stolen trash can (but here's hoping.)
Sure there are a lot of Korean businesses and community centers in this area. But the area is still mostly black. And the Korean businesses aren't concentrated. Some of the best restaurants are above 35th, and there's a strip mall around 40th. Also, ground zero for the primarily white gallery center of Oakland's monthly Art Murmur event, is between Grand and 26th along Telegraph. So an argument could be made for this area being designated some sort of artist game preserve.
I don't really care what it's called, but I see the issues, is what I'm saying. I guess they need to designate someplace Koreatown -- if they need to do it at all -- but the area chosen seems somewhat random ... or maybe simply chosen so as not to step on toes. Get much above 40th and you're into the "Temescal" shopping district. They already have banners. Get much below Grand and you're into the new condos-and-entertainment district called "Uptown." They've already sunk a lot of money into bringing the downtown "Uptown" back ... money that's looking like thrown away since the subprime mortgage crisis.
I wonder if it will make a whit of difference, is what I'm wondering.