Los Angeles By X

Los Angeles By X

"She Had To Leave..."

“Los Angeles” by X has always been a controversial song because of its opening lines, which are explicitly racist and homophobic. What a lot of people don't realize is that singer Exene Cervenka isn't identifying personally with the racist woman in the song. She's just describing a type of person she met sometimes in Los Angeles.

I've met this type of person myself in big cities like New York and elsewhere. Even some of my own friends could fit into this type to some extent. You grow up in a smaller city somewhere and you think of yourself as anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-LGBT etc. Then you go to the big city and it's much more tribal than you ever realized, with clear dividing lines between different groups and a general attitude of distrust and mild hostility. You aren't sure if you can feel safe or comfortable in any group other than the one you happen to be a member of. You aren't sure if there are neighborhoods where you wouldn't be welcome to go at all.


The culture around you is one in which a lot of people take stereotypes for granted. It might shock you at first, but little by little you start to participate in it. You start to tell jokes that would have shocked you back home. You start to see things in terms of “us vs them.”


And then, before you know it, you've morphed into a bigot. You might not even see it, but when you visit friends from back home, they see it right away. They want to know why you seem to have changed, and you ask yourself what happened.


The story of X's “Los Angeles” has a lot more clarity if you just take the first eleven words in isolation from the rest of the song, because they describe something that really happens to some people:


“She had to leave Los Angeles. She had started to hate...”