April 29th, 1992 by Andrew Esmundo

Let it burn, wanna let it burn, Wanna let it burn, wanna wanna let it burn

On April 29, 1992, there was a riot in the streets. The verdict of the Rodney King case had been delivered and all four officers were acquitted of assault and three out of the four were acquitted of excessive force. Within two hours, the streets of L.A. became a warzone. Nobody and nothing was safe. People were attacked, businesses looted, and buildings were burning. In the end, over fifty people lost their lives, thousands were hospitalized, and many parts of L.A. were in ruins. It was one of the deadliest and most destructive race-riots in U.S. history.

I myself was only a little more than a month old at the time but I had always wondered what it would have been like to have witnessed or even taken place in the riots. For this post, I have decided to discuss what I believe are the actions I would have taken at the time of the riots with the beliefs I carry today. Of course, because more than just one group was affected by the riots, I have to take that in consideration when deciding what I would have done at the time. The three races I chose to write about are Blacks, Whites, and Koreans. As for Koreans, it is the shop owners in particular I am referring to because their businesses became targets by rioters and many feel that the police left Korean shops to fend for themselves.

It is difficult to be able to truly say what I would have done during the riots if I were a black man, but I think I’m close. Due to my personal beliefs, I know I would have been outraged by the verdict delivered by the predominantly white jury with no black members. Not to mention the case was being heard in Simi Valley, a heavily white populated area. You can bet I would be out in the streets running and looting. I don’t know if I would necessarily go as far as burning buildings or attacking people but once again, it is impossible to know for certain. When chaos breaks out, it is hard to not get caught up in it and unleash a little chaos of your own.

As for being a white man during the riots, I already know exactly what I would be doing. I would be staying home and sitting on the couch watching the news with a loaded gun next to me. To go outside, depending on where I lived could be extremely dangerous and possibly cost me my life. White men, like Reginald Denny, an innocent white trucker who was almost beaten to death, became targets of Black anger. Another incident involved a white male named Haines, and his friend on their motorcycle. After coming to a stop, seven black males jumped the two and shot Haines, killing him. Ironically, Haines had been on his way to help his black friend move.

Last, but certainly not least, there were the Korean shop owners. Tensions had been rising over the years between the Black and Korean communities and it was during the riots that the two finally clashed. As a shop owner, I definitely would have armed myself to protect from looters. I have every right to own a store wherever I please as long as I am paying for it. Anyone who tried to take that away from me will have to do so with force. If the police were not going to help me, then I would take matters into my own hands. I believe the Koreans did the right thing during the riots and handled themselves well.

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5 thoughts on “April 29th, 1992 by Andrew Esmundo

  1. This was a really interesting post in the way you put yourself in their shoes during the race riots. I know if I was at a cognitive age, I would probably be home ridden all of the time. I would be scared out of my mind to leave the house, which is what my parents did probably. However I do agree with what all of the expected actions and reactions of each race that you had analyzed. These riots reminded me when I lived in Indonesia as a kid. There was a sudden change in government that led to riots for weeks. My parents were fearful of what could happen and they decided to move to the United States for a better and safer opportunity. Good blog.

    -Isaiah Liu

  2. I liked your article as it shows the complex social issues that Los Angeles was experiencing during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The media first painted a black and white race issue as a bunch of white cops were beating a black man half to death. Looking at the video for the first time, I was shocked and awed as I was witnessing police brutality on film. I believe that a lot of people had that same shocking reaction, as I did, without really asking ourselves: why are the police beating this man half to death? The issue became greyer as the facts show that Rodney King provoked the incident by engaging in a high speed chase while being high on PCP. The media, however, edited the 20 minute tape, only showing 2 minutes of the initial beating. This played a huge role in the riots as it spark outrage within the Black communities of Los Angeles such as the Koreans store owners. This was a very balanced and informative article, to say the least.

    -Kirk Mao

  3. I’m very familiar with the LA riot you wrote about in this post. My family had lived in the heart of Koreatown when the riot of April 29, 1992 broke out, so I’ve had my dad, who has personally witnessed this significant portion of racial history, tell me about it in the past. I believe that what has led to destruction of property and deaths of many lives was the hatred among people of different races formed by their mistaken perceptions and stereotypes of one another. Looking back at this tragic part of our history, we can learn from it, and realize that segregation, discrimination, and stereotypes among races need to be set aside, as it is essential to preventing history from repeating itself; it is an important factor in maintaining a peaceful world.
    -Catherine Kahng

  4. A very interesting post. I really like how you focused on all three races instead of just focusing on the blacks. I feel like when people think of the LA riots they think mostly about how the blacks destroyed LA but they don’t think about how the LA Riots affected Korean shop owners had to arm themselves with guns to protect themselves from oncoming looters. Also focusing on the whites and how they had to deal with their fear of leaving their homes because they were the targets of violent attacks. I was not very familiar as to what the LA Riots were until this class but you gave a great view into every aspect of it. Well done.

    -Britni Thomas

  5. I’m doing a powerpoint presentation for a school project about the Freedom Writers. This article was very helpful to me and gave a persective on what it would have been like to live back then. (for i am a year 9 and was no-where near born yet). Just expressing thanks… 🙂

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