Content Warning: This article addresses the issue of violence.
On March 16, 1991, Tasha Harlins, a 15-year-old black girl, entered the South Los Angeles liquor store owned by Soon Ja Du, a Korean immigrant. Harlins entered the store, put in a backpack a bottle of orange juice worth $ 1.79 and approached the store counter. Doo accused Harlins of stealing, and when Harlins turned toward the exit after a brawl, she was fatally shot in the back of her head by Doo.
Du went to court and was convicted of manslaughter with a sentence – five years probation, 400 hours of community service and a fine – that incited hostility on the part of the Los Angeles black community.
On March 3, 1991, a graphic video of four Los Angeles police officers – three of them white – beating Rodney King, a black man, was broadcast nationwide. King, on probation for robbery and chased by police in a swift chase, was kicked and beaten for 15 minutes with an audience of a dozen other police officers. A jury found the four officers not guilty.
Nearly a year after Harlins’ death, residents of her neighborhood set fire to hundreds of Korean-owned businesses while calling her name.
Nearly 30 years after the Los Angeles Uprising, also described as the 1992 Los Angeles riots by dominant media outlets, Asian Americans for Justice have hosted a panel of civil rights experts and media critics to discuss media coverage of the uprising through a retrospective lens.
Panelists included Jarrett Hill, president of the National Association of Black Journalists of Los Angeles and an accompanying press instructor at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism; Angela O, co-founder of the American Pacific National Bar Association; Connie Rice, co-founder of the Promotion Project and the Municipal Institute; Stuart Quo, President of Emeritus and Founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Justice – Los Angeles. Connie Chong Zhu, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, hosted the panel.
Chong Zhu began with an overview of the events that took place on the streets of Los Angeles 30 years ago. She held that the media descriptions of Harlins’ case had created a misinterpretation of the facts.
“Our criminal justice system puts the life of the Korean immigrant at a higher value than that of an adolescent girl – who was black; and when [four officer’s] The verdict was issued in the king’s blow only a few months later, [the injustices] “Show again how anti-black our criminal justice system was,” said Chong Zhu.
She talked about how the uprising had disproportionately affected Korean businesses, with 40% of them suffering subsequent damage. While Koreatown burned down, Chong Zhu said desperate calls to the 911 hotline from Korean store owners were ignored while police and firefighters gathered at the scene to protect Beverly Hills.
Chong Zhu said the media framing of Korean and black communities – Koreans who were portrayed as “guarding the roofs of shops with guns down the street” and the black community said “burning buildings and looting shops” – provided little connection. Around the racism and systemic oppression that the two communities faced in Saigo.
AAAJ noted that mainstream media at the time exacerbated disputes between Korean business owners and the black community by using “race-related” violence instead of “unfairness-related” violence.
“It’s such a complicated and crowded issue that we knew we could not do it justice in a one – hour zoom,” Chong Zhu said. “Our ultimate goal was … [to] “See if we can help frame the way the media covers the Los Angeles Revolt … it will help the media think about the way they frame race and race relations and give it a little more thought.”
Monica Luzano, president of the College Futures Foundation and event facilitator, asked panelists to provide the context for the struggles the black community suffered 30 years ago. Rice said that by 1991, the black community had seen 80,000 jobs leave the South Center with little medicine or coverage by the government and major media outlets.
“The dominant media did not cover it much and it was covered a bit in the African-American newspaper Los Angeles SentinelBut when all the economic base and your work base leave, you will have a real gap there and people have fallen between the chairs, ”Rice said.
Rice presented clear details – lack of opportunities, inaccessibility and police cruelty – to illustrate to viewers the conditions of the black community during the 1990s.
“The dominant media has covered most of Black Los Angeles as discrimination and violence, because that’s what elite communities fear,” Rice said. “We focused on building skyscrapers in the city center, we did not focus on building communities and building families and reinvesting in the infrastructure that created the mobility upwards.”
Oh said that because the Korean community in the 1990s was made up mostly of first-generation people, they were not ready for Saigo. She added that Koreans only read about owners being attacked, hacked and killed in their small businesses from the Korean news. While the facts have remained the same in the American and Korean news, the panel discusses subtle nuances in language that have created harmful rhetoric that feeds stereotypes for both groups.
“If your identity was ethnic Korean, you would be shocked by what you saw,” Orr said. “People asked me,‘ Well, why were they [Koreans] In these communities? ‘ They could go here, and they had no special plans. “
Kwoh, writer on Korea Times Who was worried about me LATimesCoverage of the incident, then wrote a letter to the editor to “reduce it” because it would only cause greater misunderstanding. Kwoh stated that although only a very small percentage of Korean Americans tried to defend their businesses with guns, LA Times Use an image showing American Koreans with “guns on rooftops shooting at people.”
Following his letter, Kav met with Az-LA Times Editor of Stage Coffee. Kwoh’s successful support for precise language led Kofi to hire Chong Zhou to better engage and understand the communities the newspaper reported on.
“It had to do with reporters who live in the community, who know the community, who speak the language of the community and can really understand the issues,” Kw said. “The lesson I learned is that you have to confront the forces that exist … because if you don’t, you just get media that does not maintain a multi-racial democracy.”
Hill said the goal of communication has always been profit and that the goal now is to change the system and bend it to the needs of what we need it to reflect now.
“I think it’s important to always identify, one: what these systems were set up to do; but then again: the ways we can start to change them and become more inclusive and diverse and egalitarian to be able to better address the community issues we create, but also exacerbate,” Hill said.
Prospective journalists entering the field should take a stand to maintain a diverse context, Rice said, and read the history of the stories they cover.
“You have to fight to get your articles that cover both the conflicts and the emerging alliances in these communities,” Rice said. “When you have a journalist covering South Los Angeles and the violence, give context to it.”