TEN YEARS GONE: Excellent essay by Scott Ganz on his wonderfully titled “Captain’ Scott’s Electric Love Bunker” Weblog, on the tenth anniversary of the Rodney King-inspired L.A. Riots. Here’s an excerpt, but read the whole thing:
The 1965 Watts riots, ignited by frustration over civil rights, were targeted not at segregators but at Jewish merchants in the area. This caused an abandonment by Jewish shop owners of the neighborhood, which was promptly repopulated not only by local African Americans, but by Koreans. To this day, the area surrounding my place of worship, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, is Koreatown. Just like 1965, largely Black and Hispanic (technically Latino) rioters attacked what they perceived to be alien merchants in their neighborhoods… cruelly turning their legitimate frustrations at racial injustice into hypocrisy. Tensions between Blacks and Koreans (including an earlier incident in which a Korean shop owner shot and killed a Black customer after they argued) erupted that day, creating a disorganized pogrom against Korean businesses.
One thing that struck me even then was that Rodney King was a horrible reason to turn the city on its ear. He was, after all, a drug-addled moron who ran from the police, driving at top speed and endangering the lives of his friends in the car as well as a host of other motorists and pedestrians. And while he may not have been a worthy martyr, his attackers were certainly villains. They represented the worst of what happens to police officers. Cops have a host of problems dealing with people on and off the job. Eventually, all men become suspects, and all women either victims or prostitutes. You get lied to so often as a police officer that you start to abandon trust altogether. You get so traumatized by the constant danger that you lash out at anyone who puts you at risk at all. Then, add excitement from a high-speed chase and a hefty dose of bigotry, and you get an explosion of irrational violence that can’t be excused, contributing factors be damned.