APRIL 18, 2022, LOS ANGELES, CA—Black and Asian civil rights leaders involved in the aftermath of the unrest in 1992 gathered to discuss past news coverage, how it impacted racial tensions and what members of the press can do to change the divisive narrative.
The April 14th virtual panel was convened by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) and titled LA Uprising / Saigu Reflections: Race Relations Then and Now. Speakers included Civil Rights Attorney Connie Rice, Attorney Mediator Angela Oh, Founder of Advancing Justice – LA Stewart Kwoh, and USC Professor/President of the National Association of Black Journalists Jarrett Hill. The virtual panel was hosted by Connie Chung Joe (CEO, Advancing Justice – LA) and moderated by Monica Lozano (former CEO, La Opinion).
For the Korean American community, the word SAIGU commemorates April 29, 1992. In the five days of unrest, an estimated $1 billion of damage was done and more than 60 people lost their lives in what the dominant media labeled as race-related violence instead of injustice-related.
Leading up to the 30th anniversary of LA’s 1992 civil unrest, the panel urged the audience-comprised of members of the press, students, and advocates–to reframe future narratives by focusing on the real issues of bias and oppression instead of sensationalized stereotypes. With the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements underway, dominant media have the obligation to self-reflect on its role in reporting and focus on the political and economic history of race relations in Los Angeles and across the United States.
Civil Rights Leader Connie Rice, highlighted that the March 1991 Rodney King video was the kindling that lit the fire of social issues which had been affecting the African American community in LA for generations, with the dominant media only focused on branding the community as criminals rather than talk about the economic gaps;
“For the working class and poor African Americans, they had seen 80,000 jobs leave the South Central area. When your entire economic base leaves, you are going to have a gap there and people fall through the cracks, and then you have an emerging and gang culture and of course the dominant media covered most Blacks in LA as criminals and as being violent because that was what the elite communities feared,” she expressed.
Attorney Mediator Angela Oh, explained why the word SAIGU defined the consequences the Korean American community experienced in LA as a result of the dominant media only portraying the community implementing vigilante justice;
“The Korean American community which the dominant media did not see experienced many issues. There were issues around suicide and mental health which didn’t get covered in any media. Children had to give up their education futures because they had to help their parents rebuild. The entire situation was truly dis-spiriting,” she said.
Founder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA Stewart Kwoh, made the point that a multi-racial democracy really depends on dominant media which is fair, accurate and avoids pitting one group against another;
“We went to the LA Times and said a small percentage of Korean Americans were trying to protect their businesses with guns, but that was the only image shown by the LA Times.It was inaccurate, imbalanced and it took everything out of context on the injustices faced by both communities – whether Korean American or African American,” Kwoh strongly stated.
USC Professor/President of the National Association of Black Journalists, Jarrett Hill provided some observations on the how the dominant media has covered topics dealing with race, civil uprising and communities and how diversity in the newsrooms needs to be extended to decision makers;
“I think one of the things we have to recognize first is that the dominant media’s role has never been about upholding a multi-racial democracy. We are trying to change the system and bend it to the needs of what we need for it to reflect, so this is why we need to diversify our newsrooms and not just for interns or news reporters but also for editors, directors and the owners of these media companies,” he emphasized.
Connie Chung Joe concluded the panel by encouraging Angelenos to gather in-person on April 29, 2022 in solidarity. As previously announced, Asian and Black civil rights leaders will unite on Friday, April 29, 2022 from 4-7pm (PT) to present an outdoor, free public event in Koreatown to mark the 30th Anniversary of the LA Uprising. This commemorative event, LA UPRISING | SAIGU PEACE GATHERING will bring together Angelenos with Black and Asian recording artists, cultural performers and spiritual speakers for an afternoon of healing and reflection. The coalition of LA-based community and faith organizations hosting the event are Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA), Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL), Korean American Federation of Los Angeles (KAFLA) First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Koreatown Youth & Community Center (KYCC) and the Korean American Coalition (KAC). Details are at LAUprisingSaiguEvent.com