Panelists reflected Monday on the 1992 riots in Los Angeles and discussed their effect on the current state of race relations at Doheny Memorial Library.
The program was part of the Visions and Voices program, the university’s arts and humanities initiative.
The panel featured three professionals who studied the 1992 L.A. riots. Erin Aubry Kaplan, an award-winning journalist and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, focused on the effect of the riots on the city’s black community.
Kaplan emphasized that discourse around of black justice has been slowly disappearing since the time of the riots to now.
“We talk about Latinos, immigrants, gays, but we don’t talk nearly enough about black people as a whole,” Kaplan said. “African-Americans are becoming less and less visible.”
The panel discussed topics ranging from racial profiling and the Los Angeles Police Department to the geography of wealth versus poverty in Southern California. Panelists also discussed relations between black, Korean and Latino communities as well as the rebuilding efforts in post-riot South Los Angeles.
Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, noted that it is often difficult to hold honest conversations about racial conflict today.
“We have the facade of racial progress, but in reality it’s a different story,” Hunt said. “We can’t talk about it because we’ve supposedly moved past it. It’s difficult now.”
Another panelist, Dae Hoon Kim, a filmmaker and founder of the Korean American Film Festival New York who directed a new documentary concerning the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, emphasized the need for objectivity and for society to be more open-minded about racial issues.
“In reality, all of us, to a large degree, are ignorant,” Kim said. “Unless we start coming together and stop being political, we won’t have a full picture on the topic.”
Some students, many of whom have no memory of the riots, said the discussion provided a stimulating learning experience in terms of the history of Los Angeles.
“Before coming to this event, I didn’t know much about the [1992 riots],” said Katherine Lee, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering. “I learned how race played a huge role through this event, how the riots actually happened and what people hope for today.”
Other students believed the event helped them receive a more concrete understanding of race relations. Louige Oliver, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience, found the discussion to be rewarding.
“I thought it was really interesting in that it gave me a lot of perspectives about race, both current and past,” Oliver said.
Some students were worried about the current state of race relations in Los Angeles. Connie Ge, a junior majoring in history, emphasized that Los Angeles neighborhoods today are still suffering from the same conditions they were under in 1992.
“I learned that the same problems that caused the riots are still not being addressed,” Ge said. “There is still a lot of poverty, discrimination, police brutality and not enough business initiatives that make people feel that they have a stake in their neighborhoods.”
Kaplan’s father, Larry Aubry, a prominent scholar, who specializes in civil rights, also served on the panel.
Though the riots occurred more than 20 years ago, Aubry remained adamant that it still has significance to the current state of race relations as it did in the past.
“Race does matter. It’s a perpetual thing,” Aubry said. “Whatever exists then still exists now.”