April 29, 1992

Racism in the United States is…complicated. Given the lazy nature of human brains, it takes  great effort to try and understand all the factors that go into prejudiced thinking and actions. For real though, if everybody learned the basics of psychology and neurobiology (NERD ALERT) I think we’d be leaps and bounds closer to a society full of understanding and love, rather than what it feels like we’re in now—a sea of fear and hate.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King riots. When we think of race relations in this country, it’s likely we think in terms of black and white. Literally. This is party due to the fact that our brains default to recalling dominant figures (NERD ALERT, PART DEUX). It’s also due to the choices media makes. What narratives do they choose to tell? What narratives do they ignore?

My guess is that few people outside of Korean Americans realize how much of an impact April 29, 1992 had on the Korean American community in LA. Korean American mom-and-pop stores bore nearly half of LA’s total financial loss (more than $1billion in damages). Depending on who you talk to, this fact is seen as intentional or coincidental.

Tensions between African Americans and Korean Americans had been escalating for years leading up to April 29, 1992. A year long boycott of a Korean run market in New York City’s Flatbush section was prompted by an alleged assault of a Haitian woman by a Korean American. African American newspapers such as the Los Angeles Sentinel ran articles warning that Koreans were taking over the black community.

Racism in the United States is complicated.

I see so many examples of marginalized populations turning against each other, or engaging in oppression olympics. It all feels like distraction to me.

Watts riots in 1965, Rodney King riots in 1992, Ferguson riots in 2014. These eruptions keep happening and will continue, until we choose to address what’s at the root of racism. I want us to get there. I want to believe we’re capable of that.

Photo by David Butow/Corbis

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