Reframing Sa-I-Gu, 20 Years Later

Sa-I-Gu is an amalgamation of the Korean words for 4, 2, and 9.  4/29 is the date of what has also been called the Los Angeles Uprising, the Los Angeles “Riots” and the “Rodney King Riots”.  This year is the 20th anniversary of the Uprisings, events that affected a broad array of people in a multi-ethnic urban setting but which remain difficult to teach.  Questions of police brutality, disinvestment in communities of color in favor of the 1-percenters, and racial politics in America all played out during these events much as they do today.

Darnell Hunt, the Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, writes about trying to make sense out of the events of 1992.  He notes that “we continue to confront a reality in which news stories . . . are routinely told ‘from the standpoint of a white man’s world.’ [This perspective has had little to offer more recently about the connections between racial politics in America and what happened in Los Angeles in 1992.”  This perspective is “invested in focusing on symptoms and overlooking underlying causes.”

Twenty years later, how do we frame Sa-I-Gu?  Hunt notes that the corporate news coverage of 1992 used tools of denial of race and inequality, included reversal, justification and mitigation.  He notes that the media might have done more to frame the issue as one where a largely ignored sector of the country rose up to assert itself, or to illuminate the issues of the haves vs. the have-nots (much like how media coverage of the Occupy Movement (pdf) might be seen).  Hunt is guest editing a special issue of Amerasia Journal, a publication of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center; the issue features new research on the effects of Sa-I-Gu as well as the experiences of journalists who covered the uprising.

As the Occupy Movement’s impact gets discussed and dissected, it should be interesting to see which frames prevail in 20 years.