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Grace Yun: An outsider's perspective on the LA Riots

A demolished building taken during the LA Riots.
A demolished building taken during the LA Riots.
Atomic Hot Links/Flickr

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Grace Yun is a Korean American who teaches at a high school in Watts. Yun is originally from Virginia but she’s been a teacher in Watts for six years. She was only eight years old during the riots, and wanted to know more about the event when she moved to LA.

Yun went to several discussions and focus groups that dealt with the 20th anniversary of the event. She said going to the discussions were “a way to understand the significance of my identity as a Korean-American and working within this specific community of Watts.”

After attending these events, Yun realized that her perspective was different than any other Korean Americans who went to the discussions, and said they “all shared a specific perspective on the LA Riots.” Where “the Korean community does feel like they were victimized, and that they didn’t have the support that they should have received from the city or the LAPD or the Government.”

She made it clear that she does not disagree with their perspective; it’s just one she does not resonate with. Yun said she validates and values those experiences, “but it sounded sometimes that Koreans were saying, ‘we were the victims, we were the ones to lose the most.’ And that’s where I have to disconnect myself with that.”

Yun believes that Koreans didn’t know enough of the history of Los Angeles before they came to start their businesses, and said her “experience working as a teacher has helped shape my understanding of why that was a critical moment in time for Los Angeles.”

Yun wants her perspective on the LA Riots to be heard, and not to be clumped with the one perspective that was expressed during the discussion and focus groups. Yun said, “I am Korean American in every way, but that doesn’t mean that my perspective about an event has to be that of the majority of Korean Americans.”