I’m getting real sick of seeing #RooftopAsian2020 hashtag. So, to all my Asian brothers and sisters, this is for you.
First off, it wasn’t Rooftop Asians ’92, it was Rooftop KOREANS ’92. Why is this distinction important? Because it’s a giant shameful bloodstain in the history of Korean Americans. Here’s where we have a fun history lesson: Koreatown became a thing because the neighborhood was considered undesirable due to its close proximity to Black neighborhoods. This gave it an opportunity to make a living for Korean immigrants who were able to establish a little slice of home starting in the 1960’s. They were able to open stores in Black neighborhoods where white grocery stores refused to open locations.
Fast-forward a few decades, we see tension between the Korean and Black communities and our anti-Blackness had a lot to do with it. Koreans made a LOT of money off of the Black community and, to this day, show them little respect. In 1991, anti-Black sentiment and stereotypes led to the death of a young Black girl named Latasha Harlins at the hands of Soon Ja Du, a Korean store owner. Latasha was in Soon’s store, picked up an orange juice, put it in her bag and had money in hand to pay for it. Before she could, however, Soon accused her of theft. A scuffle ensued and the orange juice was recovered. As Latasha was leaving the store though, Soon shot her in the back of the head. Soon Ja Du would later claim self-defense and stated that it was because she was fearing for her life.
Latasha Harlins was a child. She was fifteen years old, killed from behind. Soon Ja Du was convicted of manslaughter and got probation, community service and a fine. Fast forward a year, the Rodney King verdict finds the police officers involved in King’s horrific beating acquitted by a jury of not his peers. The riots begin, K-Town starts being looted, Korean shop owners take up arms on their stores’ rooftops to defend their livelihoods. Do you know why they had to do that? Because LAPD blocked off the streets leading to the white neighborhoods. LAPD defense lines were centered around Beverly Hills and WeHo. LAPD refused to come help other areas and watched P.O.C. neighborhoods fucking burn. There’s a reason why the current protests are centered in predominantly affluent white areas.
If you’re not seeing the pattern, let’s move on to the second point: You are part of the problem. Full fucking got-damn stop.
The fact that you’re romanticizing horrific choices that were made, lives that were taken, and want to take this darkest moment in Black-Korean relations and wear it like a fucking badge of pride. You’re a fucking embarrassment. The riots are a moment in time that the Black and Korean-American community have to live with as a trauma ingrained into our DNA. You do not want this. Do not glorify this. Recognize the patterns in the way our communities are policed. We’ve fallen so hard, hook, line, and sinker for the Myth of the Model Minority. You think you have a seat at the table, but you don’t. Because if push comes to shove, we’re still in the yellow peril.
Oh, you’re not familiar with The Yellow Peril?
Well then, it’s story time, because this one isn’t just about Koreans, this is about all the East Asians. The Yellow Peril, a.k.a. The Yellow Terror, a.k.a. The Yellow Spectre, was the belief that Eastern cultures and people were “core imagery of apes, lesser men, primitives, children, madmen and beings who possessed special powers.” White women were warned that Asian men would seduce and corrupt them. White men were warned that Asian women were seductresses, dangerous and exotic. The Yellow Peril was an invention to show that Asians were a threat to white society and to all that was decent, good and righteous. Hmm…I’m seeing a lot of parallel rhetoric.
Over time, the Asian community has assimilated to the point where we have been weaponized against Black and Brown bodies as what is now called the “Model Minority.” You know, for white people to point out “if these minorities can be good and be successful, why can’t those others minorities?” This Model Minority stereotype may seem like a compliment at first glance, but it’s not. It’s a stereotype used to induce complacency so as to not recognize our status as second-class citizens. It’s also harmful because it perpetuates the idea that Asians do not suffer from poverty and mental health issues. Newsflash: We do. We need to recognize this current uprising, this movement, for what it is: An effort to dismantle a system that favors one life over another. We need to recognize that All Cops Are Bad because they perpetuate a system in which black and brown bodies are targeted and undervalued — lives they take with impunity.
Cops are here to maintain the status quo in a hierarchy that prioritizes rich white lives and neighborhoods. Cops do not serve and protect us all equally. Black Lives Matter. Period. Full Stop. We need to recognize that this statement of fact doesn’t mean that our lives do not matter, but that in our current society, Black lives do not seem to matter, that Black lives are, and have been, unfairly treated, traumatized and endangered by a system that does not provide liberty and justice for all. We need to stop being a part of the problem with our internalized anti-Blackness formed from our proximity to whiteness. We may be white adjacent, but we’re always an “other.”
We need to stand with Black Lives Matter, because unless we start recognizing that they do, we can never truly have justice and equality. My grandmothers came to this country so that I could succeed in life. They didn’t live through the trauma of being imperialized, live through the trauma of a fucking war puppeteered by the West, move to a country where they didn’t speak the language, work their fingers to the bone and endure racism, to watch me succeed at being the oppressor. Black lives matter. Get your shit right and come correct.