What I’m about to write is rather controversial but let it be known that I’m not against any minority group (for I myself am a minority in the US), but this is to bring out the ugly side of this tragedy in U.S. history.
The last few days I’ve been reading different news story, op-ed pieces about the 20 year anniversary of the Los Angeles Riot in 1992. A common theme among them is the racism with African Americans as the victims. This infamous clip of Rodney King being beaten no doubt trigger undercurrents of things that were there:
It seems that the dominant narrative even twenty years after the riots is the victimization of African American as minorities–whether in terms of economics, discrimination or police brutality. Tolerance, national apology and the cry for reform and a nation to do something on behalf African American captures the national dialogue.
However, I think this also takes away the forgotten side of racism that also took place during the riots, one that I believe is not mentioned much in media attention. It disturbs me that it seems some people even glorify the L.A. riots as a way of speaking out to be heard. The reason why it disturbs me is because the riot causes many lives to effected detrimentally–and some of these lives were killed or physically maimed for life. Talking about it as if it’s a case of speech and expression don’t make any sense for me as a Christian. While it seems that many writing online have the same trajectory of talking about the Rodney King beating, the acquittal of the officers, the riot itself and how things have changed/or not change, don’t forget the fact that racism did take place even during the riot itself.
And the saddest thing about it is the riots targeted other minorities–especially Asians.
I found this image to be a powerful portrayal of the attacks on Asians during the L.A. riots:
If you are like me, this is the first time I’ve seen this picture, and I wonder why is that.
In the beginning hours of the riot, an Asian man stepped off the bus, not knowing that he has entered in the hornet’s nest of a violent rioting mob. He is seen by the mob, then attacked–on the basis of his skin color and shape of his eyes, etc. If pictures speak a thousand words, then studying it carefully must be like reading. My heart break when I see this picture–his clothes are torn, he is manhandled and other hands are attempting to grab a hold of him. He is trying to escape with all his might–but is held by a smiling man, who found this funny. Even Rodney King did not have smiling police officer during the event. Questions flood through my head: What happened to the guy’s shoe? Who’s money was it that the attacker was holding? Is it a wallet belonging to the Asian man that is in the attacker’s hand? It begs for an explanation of what events transpired before this. And what ever happened to this man?
In the same way as the man’s face is covered in this picture, I think it symbolizes powerfully how so many of the victims of this riot are faceless to America; yet, there is no doubt that this man is truly one of us–flesh, blood and bone.
But I want to accurate–Asians are not the only victims during those early hours of the riot:
In terms of the dominant narrative of the L.A. riots, how Asians typically fit into the story is the imagery of Koreans armed to the teeth ready to shoot it out in defending their liquor store.
In the politics of editorial choice by the media, the dominant narrative often fail to capture fully that a lot of Asians were real victims of this riot–and talks about moving on, or the need of White people needing to reconcile with Blacks must not forget that if one were to use this framework in understanding the riot, there must also be the consistency of addressing the real flesh-and-blood-and-property racial victims of this riot too, instead of glossing over it and making the perpetrators who are nothing more than victims not responsible for their actions.