On riots and race. What has changed, and what’s still bubbling under the surface, 20 years after the riots in South Central Los Angeles:
The L.A. Riots (or uprising, civil unrest, or rebellion, depending) are often considered the first ‘multiethnic’ riots. As a pivot point of race and urban relations, they constitute a resonant moment for immigrant America. Korean Americans living on the West Coast at the time remember the first day, 4-29, or sa-i-gu, with time-freezing clarity.
For many of us, the riots were a schooling in color and class. Our household, run by two working-class parents, was consumed by frantic arguments and phone calls about race, cities, and the distribution of wealth. There was talk of structural, large-scale discrimination, not merely individual prejudice or circumstance, which shaped the course of my life. Last summer, approaching the riots’ twentieth anniversary, I sought out the lessons of 1992. I was drawn in particular to the riots’ crucible in South Central, since refashioned as ‘South L.A.,’ though its infamy and boundaries–set by highways and thoroughfares–remain unchanged.
“South L.A., Twenty Years Later.” — E. Tammy Kim, Guernica Magazine
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