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Pitting One Minority Against Another:Black Korean Conflict during the 1992 L.A. Riots

주정숙 1

1경희대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper aims to review the black‐Korean conflict during the 1992 L.A. riots as an instance to examine how conventional and new elements of the racial relations in the U.S were intertwined and how this worked to reinforce the existing racial order. The 1992 L.A. riots were triggered by the brutal police beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the ensuing acquittal of the perpetrators. This demonstrated the persistence of violent racial bigotry and the moral bankruptcy of the contemporary U.S. Despite this continuity, the 1992 riots also highlighted new developments in the U.S. racial and ethnic relations, as Korean Americans were specifically targeted for ventilating the anger and frustration of the rioters in regard to entrenched racism and the larger social structure. Against this backdrop, the paper first examines some of the factors that led to the black‐Korean conflict during the 1992 L.A. riots. It shows that the dominant structure and white racial discourse contributed to these factors, fueling divisiveness and pitting blacks and Korean Americans against each other. In this regard, conflict could have occurred among any minority groups, not necessarily between blacks and Korean Americans. It also examines how the black‐Korean conflict served to sustain and reinforce the existing power structure. Thus, while the social structure perpetuating African Americans’ victimization remained intact, their anger led to the victimization of another minority group, Korean Americans.

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