Tuesday, May 01, 2012 2:32 PM
wisdom has it that hindsight is 20/20, but twenty years after the
LA Riots we’re still looking back with questions. New stories about
what happened are coming to light, as are new analyses about
circumstances that gave rise to disorder. While many publications
are using this anniversary as a chance for reflection, the underlying
question always seems to be, “Could it happen again?”
Understanding the causes leading up to the LA Riots is crucial to answering that question. A People’s Guide to Los Angeles offers an excellent brief on the circumstances that led to the riots
(unfortunately, you’ll have to get your hands on a print copy). Authors
Laura Pulido, Laura Barraclough, and Wendy Cheng cite “four powerful
and intertwined dynamics: residential segregation, police repression,
economic restructuring, and collective resistance.” The Guide illuminates
how structural inequalities bred community activism, which played a
crucial factor in the Watts Riots of 1965, the creation of the Black
Panther Party, and the uprising in 1992 (all responses to widespread
abuse of power by the police).
The Mental Floss History of the United States offers more causes and outlines the five days of disorder following the acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King. Los Angeles Magazine supplies a timeline focused on race-related civil disorder in South LA, as well as photo documentation of the riots. The final toll according to Mental Floss:
“[s]even thousand fires had destroyed 613 buildings and damaged another
960, while looters robbed and vandalized 2,700 businesses, many of
which never reopened. The total cost of the damage was $1.5 billion,
almost all in African American neighborhoods. As in previous riots, most
of the victims were also minorities: the death toll included 25 African
Americans, 16 Latinos, eight whites, two Asians, and two immigrants
from the Middle East.”
those impacted by the riots, Korean Americans have emerged with a
strong voice. Many Korean immigrants did not speak English fluently
enough to speak with the press in 1992. Their children are now old
enough to share powerful memories of 4-29, or Saigu. KoreAm has compiled an oral history
detailing how Korean merchants and individuals were targeted during the
riots, from looting and burning in Koreatown to media portrayal of
Korean immigrants as angry and violent. The publication also shares
reflections on how Saigu created solidarity within the Korean American community.
In Guernica, E. Tammy Kim, shares memories of the riot alongside her recent pilgrimage to South LA in search of “the lessons of 1992.”
A Korean American in Seattle at the time of the riots, Kim finds that,
while demographics have changed, many circumstances are the same. The
population is now mostly Latino, though African Americans and Koreans
still inhabit the neighborhood. “Outside Lee’s Market, I offered to help
Rita Nunley with two plastic bags full of groceries. An African
American woman, hair tucked into a kerchief and eyes ringed with dark
circles, she was a distant relation of Latasha Harlins [an African
American teen killed by a Korean shop owner in March, 1991]. In 1992,
Nunley was working for the Post Office. She remembers her boss locking
the staff inside the branch office until the coast was deemed clear.
Rita had hoped the riots would change the city’s inequalities, but, 'Conditions are the same now,' she said. 'I don’t know why it’s not
happening again.'” Similar thoughts were echoed by South LA teens, whose
teachers struggle with how to teach the riots when the history is still being written.
A recent survey found that most Angelenos believe that racial tensions in the city have eased reports The Pacific Standard.
However, the same study found that “public education, transportation,
jobs, street quality, air quality, housing costs and health care quality
have gotten worse since 1992.” The Pacific Standard makes no mention of police brutality, though Tim Cavanaugh of Reason claims that the problem of a “police force more focused on terrorizing the citizens than on solving crimes [...] has been largely solved, thanks in large measure to William Bratton’s work as chief of police.”
While some publications can’t resist the temptation to fan the flames of racial tension, others show that racism does not always trump compassion. Recent Los Angeles Magazine covers, featured in coverjunkie, put a face on the ever-shifting social constructs of race and ethnicity. And The Awl’s Maria Bustillos reminds us that “Reginald Denny, a white guy, was rescued by a black guy named Bobby Green, Jr., who saw [Denny’s] beating taking place on live television, realized that it was going on nearby and rushed out to help.”
Sources: A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, Mental Floss, Los Angeles Magazine, KoreAm, Guernica,Pacific Standard, Reason, coverjunkie, The Awl
Images: First Marine Division along Crenshaw, from licensed under Creative Commons. "I am Black I am White I am L.A." from Los Angeles Magazine, design director Steve Banks, via coverjunkie.
Friday, November 04, 2011 1:15 PM
If Japan is called “The Land of the Rising Sun,” then South Korea should be called “The Land of the Rising Pop Star.” The influence of Korean pop music—or K-Pop for short—can be heard in America’s Top 40 list and seen in the wardrobes of suburban American teenagers. K-Pop’s upbeat, ultra-polished, dance-beat happy vibes seem like an unstoppable force in music culture. It’s time you got acquainted.
“This music can be flat, derivative, and sometimes really, really annoying,” writes James Brooks at the independent music gold-standard blog Pitchfork. “It can also deliver the kind of senses-shattering, hands-in-the-air euphoria that’s a defining marker of great pop.”
Korean pop is most visibly a YouTube-based phenomenon, with many of the genre’s most popular names blowing their American counterparts out of the water for total views. (For example “Gee” by idolized girl group Girls’ Generation racked up 56 million views—Lady Gaga, who blatantly appropriates K-Pop aesthetics, only garnered 44 million for her recent “The Edge of Glory.”) Although these infectious songs may seem like a viral anomaly, much of the success goes to a rigorous promotional machine. As Brooks describes it: “K-Pop groups are usually assembled, managed, produced, and even housed by all-inclusive record label/talent agencies that make Simon Cowell seem hands-off.”
Gaga aside, there is some indication that Korean music is being given the nod by more independent gatekeepers as well. Rakaa—one of the rappers from iconic group Dilated Peoples and an unofficial hip hop pater familias—included “Ambassador Slang” on his latest album, Crown of Thorns. The song features guest appearances from a large stable of Korean and Korean-American rappers, including Tablo, Dumbfoundead, and Mithra Jin. The chorus speaks to a new alliance:
Ambassador slang - International range
Build bridges while we clash and bang
Ambassador slang - You don’t have to ask the name
Global with the cash and fame
If you’re interested in this new wave of music culture, also be sure to check out this recent article on Grantland, as well as KoreAm Magazine’s ongoing coverage. Here are a few videos to whet your appetite.
Girls’ Generation, “The Boys”
Hyuna, “Bubble Pop!”
2NE1, “I am the Best”
Sources: Grantland, KoreAm, Pitchfork
Image from “Knock Out” by GD&TOP.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 4:45 PM
Paul Chappell still lives by the examples his Korean American mother set when he was growing up in Alabama: “Don’t talk too much; be stoic; be calm; be respectful; be on time; don’t gossip; keep your word; fulfill your promises; dress conservatively.” The 31 year-old West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran is neither soft-spoken nor passive when it comes to his decidedly progressive convictions, however.
A peace activist and author of two books, including The End of War: How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet and Our Future, Chappell now lives by the words of civil rights leader James Lawson, who said that the “difficulty with nonviolent people and efforts is that they don’t recognize the necessity of fierce discipline and training, strategizing, planning, and recruiting.” And, having seen combat up close and personal, he believes that that a world without war is not only possible, but that “what’s naïve is to think that wars can continue and humanity will survive.”
In a wide-ranging interview posted online earlier this year by KoreAm—a monthly magazine that covers and analyzes the news, culture, and “people of Korean America”—Chappell engages on a wide-variety of subjects: The racial challenges of his childhood (his father is white-and-African American); the seeds of terrorism, which grow in the soil of hopelessness; and the strategic importance of seeing things through the eyes of both your opponents and those you hope to persuade.
In a particularly thought-provoking segment of the conversation, Chappell compares war to slavery, both flawed institutions based on inaccurate assumptions and opportunistic lies.
“Today, many of us believe that human beings are naturally violent, so war is inevitable,” he tells interviewer Leslee Goodman. “Look at who benefits from that myth. If human beings are naturally violent, politicians can’t be held responsible for making war; they’re just trying to protect us from the violent people all over the planet. Weapons makers can’t be held responsible; they’re just trying to help us defend ourselves. But in truth humans aren’t naturally violent, so we’re all responsible. War is a choice. General Omar Bradley, a veteran of World War II, said, ‘Wars can be prevented just as surely as they are provoked, and we who fail to prevent them share in guilt for the dead.’”
Image by dewwww, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, August 22, 2008 1:57 PM
Last week’s New York Times detailed the tragic case of Hiu Lui Ng, a New Yorker of 17 years who died a grisly death after his cancer and fractured spine went insistently undiagnosed at a detainment center in Rhode Island. This week, the paper followed up with a similar story of a detainee who crossed paths and cells with Ng; Marino De Los Santos lived to tell his tale (and file a lawsuit). The July issue of KoreAm recounts the cases of two women—one who died in custody, the other still ailing there—and their thwarted attempts to receive proper care. And in an extensive investigation back in May, the Washington Post weaved the narratives of several detainees—many who died, some who survived abysmal care—into a withering dissection of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureaucracy fatally unequipped to meet the post-9/11 demands hastily placed upon it.
In the past five years, the Post found, 83 detainees have died in custody or soon after being released. Thirty of those deaths, according to analysis and expert reviews arranged by the Post, may have been caused by the actions, or inaction, of medical staff. “The detainees have less access to lawyers than convicted murderers in maximum-security prisons and some have fewer comforts than al-Qaeda terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,” the Post’s Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein wrote.
I’ve often wondered at the unwitting and anodyne adoption of the word “detainee” in the years since September 11, 2001—its easy migration from referring to “terrorists out to kill us” to aspiring immigrants and asylum seekers swept up in the bowels of a frightened, misguided bureaucratic reflex. “Detainee,” it seems, is meant to delineate someone outside the criminal justice system per se, someone whose case awaits judicial review. “It’s not like we’re throwing folks, in prison, see; they’re going to detainment centers.” The words roll of the tongue and the conscience.
But as the dismal state of medical affairs at the publicly and privately run “detainment” facilities shows, it’s time to start calling things by their right names. Perhaps if people “detained” because of paperwork glitches (which played a crucial role in Ng’s situation) or people denied proper medical care because of software errors (see Yusif Osman’s case in the Washington Post) were reported as being sent to “death houses” or “disease centers,” our linguistic faculties might be triggered into focus, and with them our moral compass.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!