by Holly Fetter, ’13
My answer? It didn’t.
Twenty years ago today, cleanup efforts began throughout the ravaged cityscape of Los Angeles. For four days, masses of outraged people – primarily people of color – reacted to the unjust acquittal of the four LAPD police officers that beat Rodney King.
I was only two years old when the Riots broke out, a small girl with no memory of this tragedy. All I have is the complicated knowledge that it was the military and police officers that protected my White neighborhood from encountering the flames and violence that were engulfing other parts of the city. The L.A. Riots are a site at which I can begin to excavate my own history of privilege, begin to understand the ways that institutional privilege saved me from being one of the 53 people killed or the thousands injured. By re-visiting the living archive of this uprising, I can understand the world of racism that I inherited, a world hasn’t changed much in 20 years.
When reading about the Riots, one encounters tales of inter-ethnic struggle, of a city destroyed by its own low-income residents of color. But the assigned texts for this week’s Occupy Art lecture allowed me to reflect on the role of White folks during and after the Riots. Continue reading