Can we all get along?
My mother and aunt were in Los Angeles visiting a family friend when a Simi Valley jury acquitted Sgt. Stacey Koon and his police colleagues of any wrongdoing in the beating of Rodney King. And the riot that broke out soon after greeted them while they were headed to LAX, keeping them in LA for more days than they’d expected.
Korean-owned businesses in LA’s Koreatown were looted and burnt down to the ground while the truth behind race relations between Koreans and blacks were exposed for their ugly truths and poignant moments:
Owner of a furniture store on Florence and Normandie
[Crowds swarmed his store, and he hid in the attic with his co-workers.]
They broke glass table tops, carried off ensembles, capped off gunshots. I could see it all from my vantage point. … It was incredible. I told [my wife] to close up [her clothing] shop and go home. “Call the police and tell them we are trapped.” … We hid for three hours while people laughed and stole and rioted. That whole time, I kept thinking the police were coming.
Somebody lit a bunk bed display on fire. Smoke choked me. I couldn’t see anything. I looked out and saw the house next door in flames. The display mattresses I left outside had been used as kindling. I just ran for my life. I told the first officer I saw, “There are two men trapped in my building. Help them!” The officer didn’t move. I ran to the next man and told him the same thing. I got the same non-response. I went to the next and the next. I begged five officers to do something. But nothing. Had I been able to speak English better, I would have told them to have courage.
Fifth-grader at Wilton Place Elementary in Koreatown
This one Mexican kid [in my class] came up to me and said, “You, stupid Korean … I hate you.” I just started crying. He said, “Because of you, everything is ruined.” I said, “You guys are the ones who were stealing everything, you guys were robbing everyone.” One black kid comes, and he goes, “Well, you know, you Koreans hate all black people.” I said, “I don’t hate black people, I don’t hate you.” He said, “Yeah, you do.” And that’s when I totally realized what racism was. I didn’t even know what prejudice was.
Watts resident and community activist
Mr. Lee has always hired local folks … at Watts Market. He was like family in the neighborhood. [Mr. Lee and his family] supported all of our activities and stuff. They sponsored the Little League, the football games. Mr. Lee’s store was burnt down [during the riots], but one of the things that folks noticed a couple of days after, somebody had spray painted on the wall in big black letters, “Sorry Mr. Lee.” Mr. Lee ended up owning a laundromat there. It’s still there now. Three months ago, I went over there to wash my clothes.
Excerpted from KoreAm
The acquittal was baffling. Hadn’t we all watched the same tape where Rodney King gets beaten to a bloody pulp by the LA police? But the reality is that we hadn’t been watching the same tape after all. Because me, a Korean-American woman raised in NYC, is not seeing what an ex-cop in a suburban town outside of Los Angeles is seeing. No big surprise that we came away with divergent conclusions. And, if I’d been paying closer attention to who was on that Simi Valley jury, NRA members & ex-military officers among them, I wouldn’t have been confused by the verdict.
The police do and get away with a lot of bad stuff, but taking matters into our own rifle- clutching hands doesn’t seem like a good way to restore order either. Weren’t those people, trapped in mobs and burning basements during the riot, victims of people taking matters into their own hands?
The irony all these 20 years later is still stark: Cops trying to contain the fire that cops had indirectly sparked.
Stacey Koon is a limo driver now. I wonder how many times he gets pulled over by the LAPD.
So here’s some peace between the wars:
Watermelon Punch (수박화채)
(adapted from A Korean Mother’s Cooking Notes by Chang Sun-Young)
This recipe dates back to the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910) of Korean history and proves that watermelon, an often racialized fruit, has been––and still is––respected and admired by all races throughout the centuries.
1. Cut off the top of the watermelon and reserve for a lid. Poke a lot holes in the watermelon with a long chopstick and pour honey into the holes. Put watermelon lid back on and cover with wet paper.