On Tuesday, President Obama told reporters that the events in Baltimore were “not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new,” and indeed, they’re not. Today marks the twenty-third anniversary since Los Angeles policemen were acquitted in the brutal beating of Rodney King. Following that, people in LA were outraged and took to the streets. In what are typically called the “LA riots” people watched a 24-hour news cycle broadcast live from helicopters above the streets. Since that time, there has been a good deal of scholarship specifically about the events in Los Angeles in 1992. Here are a few of the books, with links to WorldCat for locating a copy at your nearest library:
- Gooding-Williams, Robert, ed. Reading Rodney King/reading urban uprising. Routledge, 1993. Abstract: Like many “news events,” the Rodney King incidents – the beating, the trial, and the uprisings that followed – have so far played a superficial role in public dialogue. Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising deepens the public debate by exploring the connections between the incidents and the ordinary workings of cultural, political, and economic power in contemporary America. Its recurrent theme is the continuing though complicated significance of race in American society.
The Rodney King incidents raised a number of questions regarding the relationships between poverty, racial ideology, economic competition, and the exercise of political power. What is the relationship between the beating of Rodney King and the workings of racism in America? How was it possible for defense attorneys to convince a jury that the videotape it saw did not depict an excessive or unjustified use of violence? In the burning of Koreatown, what role did racial stereotypes of African Americans and Korean Americans play, and what role did various economic factors play? What, moreover, is the significance of the fact that the L.A. police department, when it responded to the uprising, sent its officers to Westwood but not Koreatown? And how, finally, are we to understand the fact that not all of Los Angeles’ various Latino communities took part in the uprising?
- Hunt, Darnell M. Screening the Los Angeles’ riots’: Race, seeing, and resistance. Cambridge University Press, 1997.Abstract: Screening the Los Angeles ‘Riots’ explores the meanings one news organization found in the landmark events of 1992, as well as those made by fifteen groups of viewers in the events’ aftermath. Combining ethnographic and experimental research, Darnell M. Hunt explores how race shapes both the construction of television news and viewers’ understandings of it. In the process, he engages with longstanding debates about the power of television to shape our thoughts versus our ability to resist.
- Abelmann, Nancy, and John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Harvard University Press, 2009.
Abstract: No one will soon forget the image, blazed across the airwaves, of armed Korean Americans taking to the rooftops as their businesses went up in flames during the Los Angeles riots. Why Korean Americans? What stoked the wrath the riots unleashed against them? Blue Dreams is the first book to make sense of these questions, to show how Korean Americans, variously depicted as immigrant seekers after the American dream or as racist merchants exploiting African Americans, emerged at the crossroads of conflicting social reflections in the aftermath of the 1992 riots. The situation of Los Angeles’s Korean Americans touches on some of the most vexing issues facing American society today: ethnic conflict, urban poverty, immigration, multiculturalism, and ideological polarization. Combining interviews and deft socio-historical analysis, Blue Dreams gives these problems a human face and at the same time clarifies the historical, political, and economic factors that render them so complex. In the lives and voices of Korean Americans, the authors locate a profound challenge to cherished assumptions about the United States and its minorities.