Sie sind auf Seite 1von 23

Critical Sociology

http://crs.sagepub.com Proprieties of Coalition: Blacks, Asians, and the Politics of Policing


Jared Sexton Crit Sociol 2010; 36; 87 DOI: 10.1177/0896920509347142 The online version of this article can be found at: http://crs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/36/1/87

Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com

Additional services and information for Critical Sociology can be found at: Email Alerts: http://crs.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://crs.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav Citations http://crs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/36/1/87

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Critical Sociology 36(1) 87-108


http://crs.sagepub.com

Proprieties of Coalition: Blacks, Asians, and the Politics of Policing


Jared Sexton
University of California Irvine, California, USA

Abstract Black populations in the post-civil rights era USA face forms of racial discipline generated not only by organizations and institutions representing the white mainstream and contributing to the preservation or restoration of white supremacy, but also increasingly by organizations and institutions representing non-black people of color and contributing to the deepening and rationalization of the new black/non-black divide. This article takes a critical look at the framing of urban multiracial coalition politics by professional intellectuals during the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, specifically academics in the field of Asian American Studies that attempted to explain the nature and sources of conflict between African Americans and Asian Americans. Keywords African Americans, Asian Americans, Los Angeles uprising, race and class, race relations

Introduction
The present argument was first adumbrated as a conference presentation on the tenth anniversary of the Los Angeles uprising and, although it has been revised for this special issue on race and the variations of discipline, it bears the mark of that earlier occasion.1 This article suggests that blacks in the post-civil rights era USA face forms of racial discipline generated not only by organizations and institutions representing the white mainstream and contributing to the preservation or restoration of white supremacy, but also increasingly by organizations and institutions representing non-black people of color and contributing to the deepening and rationalization of the new black/non-black divide (Lee 2004; Yancey 2003). The latter group includes those seeking liberal or progressive political coalition across racial lines. Our discussion focuses upon a particularly problematic and

Copyright The Author(s), 2010. Reprints and Permissions: http://www.sage.pub.co.uk/journals.permissions.nav

DOI: 10.1177/0896920509347142

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

88

Critical Sociology 36(1)

largely misrecognized instance of this racial discipline: the framing of urban multiracial coalition politics in the public discourse of professional intellectuals during the immediate aftermath of the largest civil disturbance in US history. Specifically, it examines a set of academics working broadly in the interdisciplinary field of Asian American Studies that have attempted to explain the nature and sources of conflict between African Americans and Asian Americans as it was rendered by events on and around 29 April 1992. Carried out on the pages of scholarly publications and the popular press, this discussion is of interest because the description of the problem the terms of debate and the guiding questions rhetorically delimit prescriptions for redress and shape the perceptions of actors involved in mobilization toward that end (Benford and Snow 2000).2 More to the point, the contest of meaning inherent in the discourse of the Black-Asian conflict is also an element of the conflict itself and not only the frame of its political elaboration.3 Therefore, the interpretation of political relations between blacks and Asians, regarding their respective political interests and relative structural positions, bears on the strategy of collective political action. The argument proceeds by way of an in-depth engagement with several representative texts rather than a broad literature review and aspires to neither a comprehensive treatment of this considerable body of work nor a definitive statement on a subject in need of further investigation. Nonetheless, the commentary offered below possesses a limited and perhaps symptomatic value insofar as it elucidates otherwise obscure discrepancies in political framing. At the least, it raises questions for future research on the topics at hand. In the cluster of published academic works on urban multiracial conflict and coalition that appeared in the wake of Americas first multiethnic riots (Chang 1994), the signal contribution to the debate was political philosopher Robert Gooding-Williams 1993 edited volume, Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising.4 To date, little has been said about the analytic differences that characterize this interdisciplinary collection of essays and interviews from expert commentators on racial politics in and beyond the USA. In particular, the clash between those featured scholars who operate within a radical critique of capitalism (Mike Davis, Robert Gooding-Williams, Melvin Oliver et al., Cornel West, Rhonda Williams) and those who, at best, waver about the ethics of capital accumulation (Sumi Cho, Henry Louis Gates, Elaine Kim, Michael Omi and Howard Winant). These unexplored frictions reveal not only a competition of intellectual orientation, but also an occlusion of political antagonism and conflict of interest. The variance in class analysis also entails a divergence in racial politics and this variance has been reproduced repeatedly in subsequent studies, as discussed at some length by scholars in the field of Asian American Studies since the collection was first released (Abelmann and Lie 1997; Han 2005; C.J. Kim 2000; K.C. Kim 1999; Matsuda 1996; Min 1996; Palumbo-Liu 1999; Prashad 2001; Takagi 1992; Wu 2001; Yamamoto 1999; Yoon 1997). The question for students of the uprising and the politics of conflict and coalition it raises is whether they will continue to rely on the sort of commentary which compromised the initial scholarly response and continues to shape the discourse to date or come to find the more critical literature persuasive and change the terms of debate and pose different guiding questions.5 On this score, consider arguments issued at the height of an earlier generation of urban uprising, when the issue of multiracial coalition sat at the heart of the historic transition

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

89

between the Civil Rights Movement and the emergence of Black Power. In their landmark study, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, Kwame Ture and Charles Hamilton (in 1967) wrote about the profound limitations of the coalition doctrine, a strongly held view in this society that the best indeed, the only way for black people to win their political and economic rights is by forming coalitions with sympathetic organizations and forces (Ture and Hamilton 1992: 58). While eager to debunk the caricature of Black Power as a separatist political tendency opposed on principle to multiracial alliance, the authors attempt to clarify the pitfalls of any coalition politics that operated upon an inadequate understanding of the relations of power that condition them. They note the inevitability of coalition, but not without insisting that certain questions be addressed and certain misconceptions be rectified before the effort can be considered politically intelligent. One of the most incisive challenges posed by Ture and Hamiltons historic intervention is determining whether potential allies of black political initiatives have as their central goal the necessarily total revamping of the society (Ture and Hamilton 1992: 60). In considering the legacy of Black Power for present purposes, the question we face is the following: is the political desire of non-blacks for coalition with blacks undermined to the extent that the former groups accept the American system and want only if at all to make peripheral, marginal reforms in it (1992: 60), a social formation for which the exclusion of the category of racial blackness is a sine qua non? In this light, the analysis of this ultimately conservative allegiance and the proprieties of coalition it demands are matters of importance for a critical intellectual and political practice that does not condone the pieties of the new black/non-black division: congratulating the will to US classpower as unmediated resistance (Spivak 1999: xii) and promoting the orthodoxy that a hostile posture toward resident blacks must be struck at the Americanizing door before it will open (Morrison 1993: 57).6

Beyond and Between / Black and White


In the post-civil rights era USA, the demand for paradigm shift with respect to racial theory is a defining characteristic of political culture.7 We are told in a variety of tones that race matters are no longer, if ever they were, simply black and white. At best, the focus of a black-white dualistic analysis is deemed inadequate to apprehending the complexity of racial formation in the wake of post-1965 immigration and the rise in rates of interracial dating and marriage since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia (1967). At worst, the Procrustean tendency is deemed politically stunting insofar as it precludes a discussion of the colors in the middle, now inexorable parts of the Black/white spectrum (Cho 1993: 205). There is already a considerable literature in the social sciences and humanities which details those vexed positions that are neither black nor white (Sollors 1997), encompassing not only the articulation of emergent multiracial or mixed race identity claims (Daniel 2002; J.M. Spencer 1997; R. Spencer 1999), but also critique and political mobilization among Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Chicano/as, Latino/as, and American Indians (Aguilar-San Juan 1994; Gracia and De Greiff 2000; Jaimes 1991).8

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

90

Critical Sociology 36(1)

However, the notion of an endemic black-white model of racial thought is something of a social fiction one might say a misreading that depends upon a reduction of the sophistication of the paradigm in question. Once that reduction is performed, the fiction can be deployed for a range of political and intellectual purposes (Kim 2006). In addressing the call to displace the black-white paradigm, we may recognize that its purported institutionalization indicates more about the enduring force of anti-blackness (Gordon 1995, 1998) than the insistence of black scholars, activists or communities more generally.9 When broaching the explanatory difficulty (Omi and Winant 1993: 111) of present-day racial politics, then, one wonders exactly who and what is addressed by the demand to go beyond black and white. One finds a litany of complicating factors and neglected subjects, but it is accompanied by a failure to account cogently for the implications of this newfound complexity. The recently appointed Dean of the Wayne State University Law School, Frank Wu, has written: beyond black and white is an oppositional slogan it names itself ironically against the prevailing tradition It is easy enough to argue that society needs a new paradigm, but it is much harder to explain how such an approach would work in actual practice. (Wu 2006: xi) It is harder still to explain why such an approach should be adopted. In fact, the implementation of the new paradigm of racial theory seems unfeasible because it does not and perhaps cannot develop a coherent ethical justification as an attempt to analyze and contest racism. Taken together, these ambiguities beg a key question: what economy of enunciation, what rhetorical distribution of sanctioned speaking positions and claims to legitimacy are produced by the injunction to end biracial theorizing (Omi and Winant 1994: 154)? In pursuing this question, consider the following provocation by another noted legal scholar, Mari Matsuda (2002), offered at a 1997 symposium on critical race theory at the Yale Law School:
When we say we need to move beyond Black and white, this is what a whole lot of people say or feel or think: Thank goodness we can get off that paradigm, because those Black people made me feel so uncomfortable. I know all about Blacks, but I really dont know anything about Asians, and while were deconstructing that Black-white paradigm, we also need to reconsider the category of race altogether, since race, as you know, is a constructed category, and thank god I dont have to take those angry black people seriously anymore (Matsuda 2002: 395).

It is important to note that this contention, like those of Ture and Hamilton and Wu above, is not issued against progressive political coalition, but rather is drawn from a sympathetic meditation on the need for more adequate models of racial analysis and strategies of multiracial alliance-building in and beyond the US context. What Matsuda polemically identifies are dangers attendant to the unexamined desire for new analyses and the anxious drive for alliance, namely, the tendency to gloss over discrepant histories, minimize inequalities born of divergent structural positions, and disavow the historical centrality and uniqueness of anti-blackness for the operations of global white supremacy (Mills 1998).

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

91

Matsuda urges the refusal of what historian David Hollinger (2003) has coined the one-hate rule or the presumption of the monolithic character of white racism. By calling to question the motive force of a nominally critical intervention on the black-white paradigm, Matsuda traces a fault line in the field formation of Asian American Studies that marks an opening for the present inquiry. It seems that the question of anti-black racism troubles contemporary efforts at mediation among the non-white between black and non-black communities of color and interpolates Asian American panethnicity (Espiritu 1992) in ways that exceed even the immanent critique of that conceptual touchstone and principle of organization (Lowe 1996; Ono 1995). If one of the benefits of a reconstructed racial theory addressing the increasing complexity of racial politics and racial identity today (Omi and Winant 1994: 152) is its capacity to grasp antagonisms and alliances among racially defined minority groups (1994: 154), that political-intellectual enterprise is not without hazard.10 As we will see below, this fraught dynamic is especially (though by no means exclusively) evident in the academic literature of black-Asian conflict in the urban USA. The public commentary dates back to at least the 1980s, but it reached a new level of production in the 1990s following the highly publicized black-led boycott of Korean grocers in Flatbush, New York in 1990 (Kim 2000) and, more sensationally, the Los Angeles uprising of 1992 (Okihiro 1994, 2001, 2006; Yamamoto 1999). In the second edition of their widely noted Racial Formation in the United States, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant state, for instance: The lessons of the Los Angeles riot are instructive as a starting point to criticize bipolar conceptions of race (Omi and Winant 1994: 152, emphasis added). Yet, rather than serving as a critical starting point, the 1992 multiracial conflagration has, for the most part, sowed a good deal of confusion regarding the aptness of inherited frameworks of racial theory for the production of knowledge and the ongoing challenges of political organizing and activism on the Left. On both counts, the flashpoint between African Americans and Asian Americans in general and the Black-Korean conflict in particular have been acute.11 In this sense, the following critical engagement is not simply a response to the observations of a select few scholars or even a rejoinder to academic trends. Rather, it is an invitation to radical rethinking that should be considered germane to those interested in forging a more ethical relation to black strivings in a twilight civilization (West 1996) and, more pointedly, to those that still feel the need to take those angry black people seriously (Matsuda 2002: 395). It is perhaps unnecessary to add that this reckoning would be a prerequisite to thinking more properly about social justice on a global scale.

The Innocence of (Asian/American) Capital12


In Ethnic Peace in the American City, Edward Chang and Jeannette Diaz-Veizades (1999) write that no consensus has emerged regarding the causes and meaning of the violence that erupted on April 29, 1992 (Chang and Diaz-Veizades 1999: 4). However, in the following chapter they gloss the context of the encounter in uncontested terms:

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

92

Critical Sociology 36(1) The seeds of tension between Korean Americans and African Americans were sown and nourished during the 1970s and 1980s. While the African American community was stagnating economically, the Korean American community was thriving. And while the African American community watched capital flow out of the central city, the Korean American community put to work its internally generated capital Korean immigrant entrepreneurs found business opportunities in black neighborhoods as early as the late 1960s and early 1970s [They] assumed that they could make a healthy profit from only a small investment of capital, and they did not intend to stay in African American neighborhoods for a long time. (1999: 31).

We will consider these passages in more detail momentarily, but what stands out immediately is the fact that this reference to the urban political economy elicits no critical discussion and is instead framed as an objective account of the material conditions of conflict. Even if we were to accept the terms of description, there is no explanation of why or by what means the African American community was stagnating economically and the Korean American community was thriving. Piecemeal speculation is offered, but it is put forth in lieu of rigorous examination. In fact, this marked inability or refusal to pursue a class analysis in the interpretation of racialized antagonism a failure dispersed across the literature suggests a blind spot that produces interference and distortion within the conceptual framework. However, before that discussion can be broached, we must ask what this ineffectual political economic commentary enables as a framing device. It does not help us to understand the situation any better, but it does illuminate the workings of the argument.13 After noting uncritically various dimensions of the material context, Chang and DiazVeizades (1999) state that with the proliferation of Korean-owned businesses in south central Los Angeles, several of the stores have become the target of resentment, hostility, bigotry, boycotts, and sometimes violence by African Americans (Chang and Diaz-Veizades 1999: 33). The targeting of Korean-owned businesses is thus naturalized as a tragic and undeserved side-effect of otherwise euphemized processes of economic expansion for Korean American entrepreneurs: the penetration of internally generated capital and the realization of value. The authors thereby cover over the question of analysis with biological metaphors of proliferation and natural cycles. Yet, whereas black peoples resentment, hostility, bigotry, boycotts, and violence are said to be the inevitable outgrowth of a natural process the seeds were sown the reader is not invited to make peace with the proverbial harvest. In order to avoid a causal explanation that might suggest apology for rioting and looting, the root causes of this societal discontent and conflict are displaced onto aggravating subsidiary factors framed as cultural difference.14 Both legal scholar Sumi Cho (1993) and cultural critic Elaine Kim (1993), to cite two additional examples, repeat this theoretical maneuver in their respective work on the uprising. Cho (1993) affirms that the ostensible root causes of the rioting were the King verdict and the racist police violence it exemplifies, combined with the failure of the US economy to provide jobs and a decent standard of living for all of its people (Cho 1993: 197). In another section, she notes that, because the ability [of Korean Americans] to open stores

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

93

[in black neighborhoods] largely depends upon a class variable (1993: 200),15 many of the tensions [between these groups] may be class-, rather than racially, based, actually reflecting differences between the store-owning Korean immigrants and the AfricanAmerican customers (1993: 206). Further, these class-based differences narrow the contact zone between blacks and Korean Americans such that the interaction between the two racial groups is structured strictly by market relationships: one is the consumer, the other is the owner (1993: 198). However, these claims regarding the import of class are attenuated in two ways. First, although it is noted that these particular Korean-owned businesses accumulate value (however great or small is beside the point) at the expense of these particular black communities as an effect of the essentially exploitative market relations between storeowners and consumers under capitalism, it is argued that, like the King verdict, the failure of the US economy ... [one of ] the ostensible root causes of the rioting, [was] not the fault of Korean shop owners (1993: 197, emphasis added). This is true in a limited sense, given that political economy is not reducible to simple judgments of culpability. Yet, the point not to be missed is that the moral extraction of small merchants despite their mobilizing in excess of half a billion dollars in the riot zone alone from analysis of the local reproduction of capitalist relations is a precondition for the image of Korean Americans as victims of the uprising per se.16 Second, although an essentially exploitative class relation is established, the mention of this class-based relation is intended to mitigate the resentment and hostility supposedly born of cultural differences and racial animosities. In addition to the above cited passage, Cho also writes: The ability to open stores largely depends upon a class variable, as opposed to a racial one. (1993: 200, emphasis added). Establishing a rivalry between race and class variables and situating them as opposing terms undermines the attempt to theorize their mutual implication. However, even if we accepted the counter-posing of race and class, nagging questions would remain. For instance, how are class-based tensions and conflicts any less violent, politically untenable or ethically liable than race-based tensions and conflicts from the point of view of the exploited and oppressed? Are we to think that class oppression is somehow easier to accept than racial oppression and that it is, for that reason, somehow less volatile or less explosive? Is not class difference, pace Marx, itself a euphemism for a permanent state of aggression, the fundamental systemic violence of capitalism (iek 1996: 566)? As indicated in the opening section, subordinating the significance of race while pacifying the notion of class rubs against the grain of a number of other scholars in the field of Asian American Studies. Here we see that it also contradicts Chos (1993) earlier insistence that the Black/white framing of race issues must give way to a fuller, more differentiated understanding of a multiracial, multiethnic society divided along the lines of race, class, gender, and other axes in order to explicate effectively the Los Angeles explosion (Cho 1993: 196). Indeed, what seems to give way is the explanatory power of racial antagonism altogether, rather than the Black/white framing. This is more than an unattended conceptual slip and I am arguing that a link exists between the demand to move beyond the uncritical acceptance of the dichotomous Black/white character of US race relations

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

94

Critical Sociology 36(1)

(1993: 206) and the inability to think race in a sustained way once such an uncritical acceptance is refused. I want to suggest that this shifting of the terms of debate about the black-Korean conflict (and US black-Asian relations more generally) from race to class (as opposed to race) is symptomatic of an affective difficulty shaping the engagement of Asian American intellectuals with the intersection of racial hierarchy and the hierarchy of class society. It registers the exertion required for genuinely taking on the involvement of Asian Americans, however varied and complex that involvement undoubtedly is, with the structures of anti-blackness and the advance of financialization (Foster 2007) on a global scale not only as victims of organized, state-sanctioned violence, but also as agents or, at the very least, as accomplices. Kims (1993) reflections are similarly telling. She writes that Korean shop owners in South Central and Koreatown were affluent compared with the impoverished residents whom they often exploited as laborers or looked down upon as fools with an aversion to hard work (Kim 1993: 218). Beyond recognizing a structure of material inequality and its accompanying condescension, she represents Korean shop owners as subscribed to a bourgeois immigrant ideology insofar as they regarded themselves as having arrived in a meritocratic land of opportunity where a persons chances for success are limited only by individual lack of ability or diligence (1993: 219). But rather than pursue this line of investigation in order to understand the racialized class conflict it suggests, the author evades its implications in a footnoted admission: I am not grappling directly with social class issues here, because, although I am cognizant of their crucial importance, I am simply not qualified to address them at the present time (1993: 233, fn. 14). This disclaimer is offered despite the earlier claim that class factors have been more important than race factors in shaping Korean American immigrants attitudes toward African American and Latino populations (1993: 233, fn. 14). By this account, the article fails to discuss what is most important about the issue it sets out to address.17 Kim (1993) does finally offer some comment on class, however. In the same footnote she writes: Because they are merchants, the class interests of Korean American shop owners in Los Angeles differ clearly from the interests of poor African Americans and Latino customers (1993: 233, fn. 14). Much like Cho (1993), Kim (1993) concedes that there are identifiable conflicts of interest grounded in a structural relation of exploitation, whether in the form of wages for labor or prices for commodities. Still, the otherwise welcome political struggle against inequality that this identifiable class conflict might warrant is obviated in this context. According to Kim (1993), working with simple dyads is impossible, since Korean American shop owners are also of color and mostly immigrants from a country colonized by the United States (1993: 233, fn. 14). However, it is unclear what about this qualification renders the simple dyad of class conflict impossible, even if it is conditioned by the fact that Korean American shop owners are postcolonial people of color.18 In claiming that Korean American shop owners in this context are both victims and victimizers (Omi and Winant 1994: 153), scholars misunderstand the central insight of the middleman minority thesis to which they allude, namely, that middleman minority merchants are both victims of the more powerful dominant host population (in this case,

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

95

whites of the political elite and economic ruling class) and victimizers of their less powerful laborers and clientele (in this case, the black poor and working class) (Bonacich 1973: 58990). In this way, they tend to conflate the structures of white supremacy and US imperialism (which can and do oppress Koreans and Korean Americans) with the violence or property destruction of the urban uprising of the un-propertied black poor (which cannot and do not oppress Koreans and Korean Americans). Rather than adding texture to a fuller, more differentiated understanding of the Los Angeles explosion, the postcolonial immigrant caveat appears instead as a non sequitur.19 The incessant displacement of race onto class and the subsequent abdication of class analysis together represent an aversion to considerations of the material conditions of hierarchy and exploitation in theoretical work. As noted, there are references to capital, relations of production, the market, relative affluence, economic stagnation, etc. But none of this is elaborated as the circumstances structuring antagonism between blacks and Asians in the throes of globalization. More to the point, it is not understood as a local and immediate relation of institutionalized violence.20 This waffling about the material stakes of class conflict is duplicated at the level of ideology. In Kims (1993) account, Korean Americans are at once associated with and excused from ideologies of political conservatism, class hatred, and anti-black racism.21 On the one hand, many Koreans exhibit intensely negative attitudes toward the poor and indeed desperately fear being associated with them. And, further, in the USA where blackness and brownness have historically been almost tantamount to a condemnation to poverty, prejudice against the poor brought from Korea is combined with home-grown US racism, and the results have been explosive (Kim 1993: 2334, fn. 14). On the other hand, she explains away these class and racial hatreds as the ignorance and naivety of postcolonial subjects paradoxically overexposed to American popular culture and history.22
[Korean shop owners] hadnt heard that there is no equal justice in the U.S. They had to learn about American racial hierarchies. They did not realize that, as immigrants of color, they would never attain political voice or visibility but would instead be used to uphold the inequality and the racial hierarchy they had no part in creating Thanks to Eurocentric American cultural practices, they knew little or nothing good about African Americans or Latinos Most Korean immigrants did not even know that they were among the many direct beneficiaries of the African American-led civil rights movement which helped pave the way for the 1965 immigration reforms that made their immigration possible They were unaware of the shameful history of oppression of nonwhite immigrants and other people of color in the U.S. (1993: 21819)

And so forth. Whereas the conventional framing of black-Korean conflict (whether by the coverage of white media outlets or the pronouncements of black nationalist community activists) supposedly centers race in simplistic ways to the detriment of a fuller, more differentiated understanding of a multiracial, multiethnic society divided along the lines of race, class, gender, and other axes (Cho 1993: 196), this new understanding generated beyond the black/white paradigm, as it were, actually displaces race with class, rather

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

96

Critical Sociology 36(1)

than enlarging it. When class is raised as an excluded variable of analysis, its salience is undercut by naturalizing capitalist exploitation or confounding, rather than specifying, the location of Korean Americans, merchant or otherwise, in the hierarchical class structure of US society and the circuits of global capital (1993: 234, fn. 17). The mystification of class is made possible, in circular fashion, by returning to the question of race as a matter of the racial oppression of Korean (and other Asian) Americans under white supremacy and US imperialism or the sublimation of race as cultural difference. In the process, race and class are disconnected and used against one another. What remains constant is the inability or refusal to identify race and/or class power on the side of Korean Americans.

International Racial Hierarchy


When the issue of race is admitted within the critical frame, its explosive results are contained by discussion of racism between blacks and Korean Americans figured as an equal exchange: quid pro quo. Cho (1993) indicates above that the conflict between Korean Americans and African Americans contains definite cultural differences and racial animosities (Cho 1993: 206); however, the nature of the differences and the vectors of the animosities remain vague. Cultural difference is invoked to explain the reputed misunderstanding between blacks and Korean Americans regarding retail etiquette,23 even if Cho, like her counterparts, notes the limitations of this account. Although Koreans wanted very badly to believe in this reductionism, one making an honest assessment must conclude that far too many Korean shop owners had accepted widespread stereotypes about African Americans as lazy, complaining criminals (Cho 1993: 199). Yet, this acceptance is described more accurately as a capitulation delivered by force: The dominant U.S. racial hierarchy and its concomitant stereotypes are transferred worldwide to every country that the USA has occupied militarily (1993: 199), a global imperial effect later referred to as the international racial hierarchy (Cho 1993: 209). Cho (1993: 199) raises the issue of Korean American anti-black racism only to temper such observations with references to a titular black anti-Asian racism. And just as Korean Americans are, in a sense, absolved of racism as an effect of their ideological submission before an imperial US mass media, so too are blacks, thanks to Eurocentric American cultural practices, inculcated for similar reasons with distorted ideas about Korean Americans (Kim 1993: 218). In this vein, Chang and Diaz-Veizades (1999) also argue that the mainstream media did indeed have a major role in creating the Korean-African American conflict constructing racial stereotypes, images, and perceptions to pit Korean merchants against African American residents (Chang and Diaz-Veizades 1999: 67). Thus, blacks and Korean Americans find themselves in thrall to the respective image of the other constructed by a white racist cultural apparatus and, pitted against one another, they remain collectively divided and conquered.24 Yet, the quid pro quo equivalence drawn between these various forms of racism and the anti-racist prescriptions they solicit where two subordinate groups, imagined on a horizontal plane, simply mistake one another for their true racial and class enemy quickly discloses a pretense. Racial hierarchy,

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

97

which historically positions Asians over blacks, much as class exploitation positions owners over customers and employers over workers, is strangely inverted in this instance. The respective racisms between blacks and Korean Americans are rendered politically equivalent once they are reduced to stereotype and disconnected from racial hierarchy. In a further conceptual maneuver, even this dubious equivalence is undone by the reassertion of a new and different hierarchy representing a reversal of power relations that, incongruously, privileges the black poor and working class over and against Korean American entrepreneurs. Though it is widely known that the historic disenfranchisement of the black population proceeds apace in the post-civil rights era25 and that, in any case, political power in the USA grossly favors the rich because it stems largely from economic power (Palast 2002), poor and working class blacks are nonetheless represented here as relatively empowered vis-a-vis Korean Americans in the political realm.26 Black political power is said to be both effectively constituted and determinately wielded over the latters collective fate and fortune. No clear criteria is offered for measuring relative political power save passing references to black elected officials, regardless of their actual influence27 and the supposed political power of blacks is generally conflated with the visibility of spokespersons in the mass media (again, regardless of actual influence or lines of accountability). How any of this properly constitutes political power and how the activities of either elected officials or media spokespeople benefit black people in general or the black poor and working class in particular is never demonstrated; it is simply asserted in lieu of argument. In contrast, blacks are understood to be economically less powerful relative to Korean Americans, both in the aggregate (the political economy of blacks or Korean Americans as groups) and in the more immediate context (the political economy of merchantcustomer relations). However, this asymmetry is hushed in its bearing on the discourse and the discrepancy of economic power is minimized or explained away as relative success. Class struggle is de-politicized and the scholars under review instead arrogate for Korean American merchants a dubious right to capitalist enterprise that is ethically rationalized in the rather misstated language of survival. To follow this account of events is to accept that the paramount political problem highlighted by the 1992 uprising is not the past and present of accumulation as evisceration (Williams 1993), but rather the fact that the US power elite, by way of their police forces, did not secure a more favorable business environment for entrepreneurial capital. On this score, I am offering a condensed summary of and lodging a profound disagreement with Jeff Changs (1993) early concept of differential disempowerment, a notion that continues to inform the discourse to date.28 The differential is said to manifest in various ways, including the exclusion of Korean Americans from official forums of public debate about racial conflict in the city in contrast to a supposed black media access.29 But the misconception of black political power is made most apparent in the ominous imagery of angry mobs bent upon destruction and violence descending on Koreatown (Cho 1993: 201). The ratio of black political power does not reside in the ability, or even in the attempt, to shape the policy environment or to affect or exploit political economic conditions to the detriment of Korean Americans. In fact, the power differential cannot be established as an institutional or structural reality. Instead, power is confused for brute force as it takes the form of black

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

98

Critical Sociology 36(1)

destruction and violence, the very same rioting that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously described on numerous occasions as the language of the unheard, the desperate recourse of the politically powerless. The rhetoric of foreshadowed onslaught links together black peoples resentment, hostility, bigotry, boycotts, and violence as a chain of equivalence, a teleology leading inexorably from resentment to burning and looting. Thus, Chang and Diaz-Veizades (1999) can read the seeds of conflict in the mood of the black poor and Cho (1993) can ascribe to black people in their view from below a politics of resentment wherein the scene was set for disaster and required simply a spark to ignite a highly flammable situation (Cho 1993: 201). What King once called blacks legitimate discontent is recoded somewhere between jealousy and envy, reduced to sour grapes or refined into a petroleum product hazardous material in any case. As an effect, this discontent is interpreted as the sign of an impending disaster for Korean Americans and not as the sign of a concrete disaster for blacks (Spillers 2003), an already oppressive state of affairs for which no business owners insurance policy or municipal redevelopment plan is readily available. However, the standard picture of unevenness between blacks and Korean Americans can be imagined, and its attendant emotional drama can become compelling, if and only if the preceding structures of power the evolving market relationship between Korean American owners and black consumers, linked as it is to transnational capital flows, Korean national development projects, the leveraging functions of the racial state and its immigration policy machinations, the dynamics of international racial hierarchy remain bracketed out or mystified.30 So long as we approach the black-Korean conflict through the matrix of the April 1992 Los Angeles uprising, taking property destruction and the reification of private holdings as our points of departure the opening scene we can only ever understand this political relation as a question of reparations for the latter and palliative or prison for the former.31 A more critical perspective would have to acknowledge the suffering endured by Korean American merchants in the wake of the Los Angeles uprising as a relatively privileged experience. The collective experience of loss, both materially and psychically, involves the mourning of conservative ideological commitments and the divestment of ill-gotten value (ill-gotten insofar as the realization of value under capitalism is premised on exploitation). It is, moreover, the resentment of frustrated bourgeois aspirations by the relative loss of status and working proximity to not membership in the most despised classes of the most despised racial group in the USA. It represents, finally, the interruption of a collective dream for those who disavow that Eurocentric economic migration (and eventually even political exile) persists in the hope of justice under capitalism (Spivak 1999: 395, emphasis added); those who, working against the tide of US capitalism at the mercy of banks, wholesalers, and retail outfits who [work] in concert with each other, nonetheless desire and often enough attain the quick fix of the American Dream to send children to the finest colleges, to own a house, to drive a car (Prashad 2001: 101, emphasis added). The argument I have developed thus far can accommodate the diversity of the Korean American population, including the mixed fortunes of small merchants, and it does not

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

99

rely on denial of either the genocidal history of US imperialism in Asia or the ongoing history of anti-Asian racism within the context of domestic white supremacy, including all the forms of continuing exploitation and discrimination.32 It does not, moreover, refute the participation of blacks (or Latinos or even Asian Americans) in the politics of exclusion and regulation that structure contemporary immigration in the USA. What this argument does, rather, is take the ensemble of scholars under consideration at its collective word and give due attention to specificity. What it reveals is that the indisputable complexity of the Korean American position, even in this circumscribed context, in no way mitigates the class and racial violence that subtends it nor the conservative ideological commitments that articulate it. In a phrase, the structural violence of racial capitalism constitutes the political unconscious of the present discourse on US black-Asian relations.33 To situate Korean American merchants as victims of the black poor, innocent and ignorant of a struggle that simply precedes them, that does not involve them, that is not of their making, that is beyond their comprehension, and, hence, not their fault is, quite plainly, to circumvent ethics and to excise a population from time and space and the power relations they unavoidably inhabit. It is to suggest that, because they are neither white nor ruling class, they bear no responsibility toward their current context. It is to suggest, more locally, that they bear no responsibility to resist and undermine an interaction structured strictly by market relations and to place first priority on the needs and well-being of the disenfranchised (Kim 1997: 206) rather than the needs and well-being of the racially privileged and upwardly mobile. Instead, the thrust of the discourse is an insistence on the uneven, if not exclusive, responsibility borne by blacks presumed to enjoy collectively all of the privileges and powers of native-born white citizens of the USA toward Korean Americans and, by extension, toward other Asian Americans and Latinos vis-a-vis the history and politics of immigration.

A Second-Hand Emotion
The explicit impetus of the literature surveyed in this article is the promotion of multiracial coalition politics in the urban USA. Much like Ture and Hamilton, I am far from foreclosing the question of coalition, but my concern nevertheless has been to suspend this question while working to understand how the desire for coalition is rhetorically structured. In concluding on this point, I return to a passage in the penultimate section of Kims (1993) earliest essay. There she recounts the trials and tribulations that followed upon the publication of a shorter version of the same essay in Newsweek magazine. The bulk of mail received in response was standard racist fare, replete with accusations of treason and calls for immediate repatriation. In spite of this, Kim (1993) finds encouragement in the many supportive and sympathetic letters arriving from both white allies and other people of color. After all is said and done, however, it is an unnamed black male prisoner (a non-violent offender)34 who writes the most touching letter. He is describing a process of political enlightenment in which he moves away from a presumably narrow black nationalism toward

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

100

Critical Sociology 36(1)

some broader conception of multiracial solidarity, at which point he is able to write the following: Our struggle(s) are truly one in the same, your peoples struggle [is] my peoples struggle (Kim 1993: 228). This gesture of newfound political solidarity from the underside of civil society is not offered in service of any stated self-interest on the part of the imprisoned black man and it does not appeal to a convergence of interests linked to specific and identifiable goals. It is not communicated across two independent bases of power, but across the distance of extreme inequality. It is predicated on a denunciation of property destruction and shaped by a curious appeal to shared distress. But Kims identification is not driven by her sympathy for a prisoner (much less the pain and suffering of his more than two million imprisoned counterparts and all their relations), but the pleasure taken in receiving the sympathy of a prisoner for the (largely insured and recoverable) loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in business property for a community of small merchants. What happened in LA during the riot really hurt me because [there] was no way that blacks [were] suppose[d] to do the things to your people that they did (Kim 1993: 228). For Kim (1993) the rationalization proves cathartic: This is the ground I need to claim now for Korean American resistance and recovery, so that we can become American without dying of han. (1993) The censure that grounds the captive black mans statement of common cause by depicting resident blacks as already discredited outlaws appears again to be the compulsory knock at the Americanizing door before it will open (Morrison 1993: 57). Like the African American man who wrote from prison, the African American man who had been brutally beaten by white police might have felt the desire to love everybody, but he had to amend or rectify that wish. He had to speak last about loving people of color. The impulse to love everybody was there, but the conditions were not right. For now, the most practical and progressive agenda may be people of color trying to work it out (Kim 1993: 228). Here, the ground of multiracial solidarity is driven by the image of a black mans desire to love interracially, a properly trained impulse that settles for the most practical and progressive agenda. Thus, in working out the relations between blacks and Asians, political or otherwise, we find an interracial love borne by the interdiction of black rage, whose eventual and eventful violence is, for all of our theorizing, ultimately without either explanation or justification. To claim there was no way blacks were supposed to do the things that they did is only to say there was no good reason. The profound damage could have been exacted only for the wrong reason, or, perhaps, for no reason whatsoever. In the final analysis, our intellectual efforts founder in case after disastrous case of those angry black people (Matsuda 2002: 395) giving vent to frustration and resentment, perennially on the verge of ignition. If we are coalition-minded, which is to say looking for love (in all the wrong places), we are enjoined to purge the elements of rage that make the specter of black violence such a hulking material force: wreaking devastation, destruction, erasure and, at the extreme, extermination. 35 In the imaginary of this interracial political romance, black rage converts magically into black affection.36 Considering the professed love of two black men from their respective locations behind bars, beneath the baton, staring down the barrel of a gun we must ask whether there is not a relation

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

101

between the terror of state-sponsored racist violence and black peoples seeming willingness to assure non-blacks (not least their comrades!) of their security by exorcizing the specter of their own violence and distinguishing themselves from the haunting image of their own inconsolable rage. We must ask whether blacks are not compelled to declare I love you by the proprieties of coalition that permeate the hope to come clean and continue the interaction [between blacks and Asians], freed from the burdening specter of disaster (Chang 1998). Assuming we can move beyond a solidarity of fear driven by the opportunistic protection of ones property in a riot (Prashad 2001: 125), we might ask, further: is the quest for black love so consuming that one will call on the police to secure it? Fortunately, there are some among those thinking seriously about this conflicted/collaborative interaction seeking a different common ground against property and propriety.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Robert Allen, Jeff Chang, Kenyon Farrow, Sora Han, Tamara Nopper, Dylan Rodrguez, Setsu Shigematsu, Oliver Wang, Frank Wilderson III, and the students of the Race Riots undergraduate course in the Program in African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine for their feedback at various stages of the development of this essay.

Notes
1 A shorter version of this essay was first presented as a conference paper in 2002 on the tenth anniversary of the Los Angeles uprising at Blacks and Asians: Encounters through Time and Space, Boston University, under the title, The Specter of Violence in US Black-Asian Relations. It has since undergone several revisions. 2 The academic literature on framing processes in the development or transformation of social movements is critically reviewed by Benford and Snow (2000). It has since entered the mainstream political vocabulary, albeit in less precise forms, largely through the popularization of the work of George Lakoff (Bai 2005). 3 I am following Spivaks (1999) reading of Foucault in my use of the term discourse: something that is among the conditions as well as the effect of a general system of the formation and transformation of statements (Spivak 1999: 3, fn. 5). 4 Other notable examples of the literature on multiracial conflict and coalition around that time include: Baldassare (1994), Hazen (1992), Los Angeles Times Staff (1992), Madhubuti (1993), Okihiro (1994), Omi and Winant (1994), Yu (1994), and volume 19, number 2 of the UCLA-based Amerasia Journal (1993). 5 The former cohort includes Chang and Diaz-Veizades (1999), Kim (1997), Oh (2002), and Zia (2000). 6 I want to register a partial criticism here of Kims (2000) treatment of the differentiation of blacks, whites, and Asians in the field of racial positions in the USA. Her concept of racial triangulation rightly situates Asians above blacks and below whites along the vertical axis of relative valuation, but mistakes the respective inside/outside positioning of blacks and Asians along the horizontal axis of civic ostracism. While noting the historic racialization of civic belonging, her implicit claim that

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

102

Critical Sociology 36(1)

10 11

12 13 14

15

16

17

blacks somehow enjoy civic belonging commensurate with whites does not escape recourse to legal formalism, i.e. that the formal extension of citizenship to blacks supersedes their substantive ostracism from the political community (Wacquant 2002). Racial dichotomizing focusing analysis and discussion of race solely on black-white relationships is endemic in the USA. As much as the politicians or mainstream media, academic analyses reproduce this distorted model of race as a largely black-white dichotomy Too often, today, as in the past, when scholars and journalists talk about race relations, they mean relations between African Americans and whites (Omi and Winant 1994: 153). The post-civil rights proliferation of mixed race identity politics and the emergence of non-black people of color in theory, research, and political organization should not be conflated in their respective historical significance. These various racial projects share a passion or preoccupation to challenge the so-called black-white binary, but they often do so in contradictory ways. For extended discussion of the politics of multiracialism, see DaCosta (2007), Dalmage (2004), Sexton (2008), and Williams (2006). The casting of racial politics in predominantly black/white terms is largely an effect of the postwar race relations industry as it developed around the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Black Power. The most well-known document in that vein remains the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (NACCD 1968), a.k.a. the Kerner Commission, in which was coined the phrase, two societies, one black, one white separate and unequal. This report provides the title for Hacker (1992), whose work serves as a frequent example of the paradigm in question. However, the black civil rights struggle dating back, at least, to 1787 has consistently understood itself in relation to the condition of oppressed peoples around the world (Birnbaum and Taylor 2000). The new paradigm creates the dangers of false affinities and superficial comparisons. The prescriptive and normative consequences of this new paradigm are ambiguous. (Wu 2006: xiii) Prashad (2001) writes: In our own time, and in the USA, there is the assumption that race riots occur because of Asian (mainly Korean) grocers in black (and Latino) neighbourhoods. (Prashad 2001: 102, emphasis added). This section heading is borrowed from the title of a talk delivered by Beller (2001), regarding the discursive production of innocent victims in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001. The failure to critically examine political economy in discussions of the Los Angeles uprising and of black-Korean conflict generally is discussed by Abelmann and Lie (1997), Min (1996) and Yoon (1997). It may be that the roots of any societal discontent and conflict are the perennial issues of resource scarcity and allocation and, ultimately, access to power and capital. At the grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor level, economic and political competition is heightened by differences in cultural orientation and practices. These range from the most obvious differences in language, dress, food, and music to differences in household living patterns and political orientation. (Chang and Diaz-Veizades 1999: 5) Of course, access to capital also depends largely upon a racial variable, both within the USA and the global economy. For a treatment of race and class variables in the establishment of small businesses among Asian immigrants to the USA see, for instance, Chin et al. (1996) and Nopper (2008). Despite an otherwise trenchant critique, Prashad (2001) makes a similar comment: The Koreans are part of the equation, but not even close to being the agents of bondage (Prashad 2001: 112). It is my sense that the attempt to locate Asian Americans in the equation of racial capitalism is bungled because it is too deeply bound up in the worried desire to mitigate the real or imagined violence of blacks. Kims next major attempt to think through black-Asian relations some four years later still broaches no real discussion of class issues and consigns to irrelevance Marx as a source of class analysis par excellence (E. Kim 1997: 211). There is also a displacement here between the notion of Asian Americans occupying an untenable position and an indefinite one such that the indefensibility of their position as gatekeeper in the bifurcated two-class social formation is buttressed by the inability to locate it.

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

103

18 Regarding new immigrants, Spivak writes: relatively speaking, our self-representation as marginal in the USA might involve a disavowed dominant status with respect to our countries of national origin (Spivak 1999: 396). At the very least, it involves the disavowal of shared interest in capital that unites the illegal alien and the aspiring academic (1999: 396). 19 Cho (1993) makes a comparable point when she writes, Korean Americans do not identify with European Americans and see themselves as very distinct. (Cho 1993: 206) Not identifying as white, however, in no way requires solidarity or common cause with blacks. 20 In a section entitled, The Economic Causes of Conflict (Chang and Diaz-Veizades 1999: 5052), the causes referenced show up not to be economic at all. Instead they speak of the source of [black] resentment of Korean American business success, namely, a lack of ethnic cohesiveness [based on blood and land] as the main cause of the lack of African American-owned businesses in America (though black people otherwise seem ultra-cohesive in their ability to boycott or loot); the extreme sensitivity of black people toward Korean merchants lack of respect; how the mass medias depiction of African Americans as uneducated, poor, or criminal influences Koreans perceptions; and Korean immigrants lack of sympathy and respect for poor blacks (as a result, it seems, of their simply being unaware of the history of oppression and exploitation of minority groups by white America). 21 Again Prashad (2001) reiterates: on the one hand he claims that, when the first significant numbers of Korean immigrants arrived in LA and began to concentrate their efforts in small, family-run grocery-liquor stores they were unaware of the political powder keg they were about to ignite (Prashad 2001: 115). Yet, later in the same essay he writes: The Koreans may have understood what was going on, but could not find a way to control the situation, except, as continues to happen, to leave the area (2001: 118). The very fact that merchants, despite limited economic opportunities, enjoy a relative degree of mobility in relation to the captive market of ghetto residents that serve as their customer base is a point lost on Prashad (2001), at least in this moment. 22 Korean Americans were used to deflect attention from the racism they inherited and the economic injustice and poverty that had been already well woven into the fabric of American life. (Kim 1993: 221) But as Matsuda (1996) argues, much like Kim (1997) in other moments, there is a forfeiture of agency involved in this singular claim to manipulation by the powers that be. 23 J. Lee (2002) demonstrates that the idea of widespread friction within the retail encounter is overstated, finding instead that, as a rule, Korean American merchants effectively construct an atmosphere of civility with respect to their black clientele and so locating the source of black-Korean conflict at this nexus seems less plausible. However, she does note that the negative symbolic value of non-black businesses in black neighborhoods under conditions of extreme inequality do help to explain how interpersonal disputes can contribute to a more generalized group conflict. H.C. Lee (1999), in turn, cautions against a too easy procession from the scale of interpersonal disputes to the scale of group conflicts, suggesting that the vector of escalation is misleading. 24 Abelmann and Lie (1997) give a more cogent account of the media construction of the Los Angeles uprising and the framing of black-Korean conflict more generally without attributing the same credulity to either blacks or Korean Americans. 25 For an excellent treatment of this process, see American Blackout (2006) directed by Ian Inaba [runtime 92 min]. See also Piven, Minnite, and Groarke (2008). 26 On this point, we can note, following Cho, that Korean Americans in and around Los Angeles often contributed handsomely to powerful politicians ... and local officials in attempts to garner political influence (Cho 1993: 202). What, for instance, might a comparative analysis of black and Korean American campaign contributions reveal about the lobbying power of the respective constituencies in the metropolitan area or even state-level policymaking?

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

104

Critical Sociology 36(1)

27 For a discussion of the structural ineffectuality of (black) elected officials at various levels of government, see Martinot (2004) and Sexton (2007). 28 In Race, Class, Conflict and Empowerment, Chang (1993) writes: The struggle for group power, the power to shape and influence given situations to maximal outcomes, was waged on two fronts: on the media front for social-political power and the market front for economic-political power (Chang 1993: 89). In his estimation, blacks enjoy greater access to and influence over major media outlets and hence are more able to shape public opinion while Korean Americans enjoy greater access to capital and influence over the market considerations of major industries. 29 One wonders to what extent this access is actually controlled by the invited black media commentators, individual or collective, especially given the medias demonstrated commitment to overexposing black rage and restricting black media commentary to crisis-response (Cohen 1999). 30 The implantation of Korean immigrants, particularly those involved in small-scale private enterprise in depressed areas of the urban USA, in the foreign policy designs of the US and Korean states (including negotiations of immigration policy) has yet to enter political discourse in any significant way. Such explorations would help to clarify not only the itinerary of Korean merchants internally generated capital the sources of which allow for capital investment despite whatever discriminatory practices are engaged by local banks in the USA but also the legal status afforded such immigrants in relation to others hailing from less capital rich sending countries. See Tamara K. Noppers article in this volume or, for another example, see Yoon (1997). 31 This liberal perspective was reiterated without modification by city officials and business leaders in the aftermath of the uprising and was translated into subsequent redevelopment plans in the Mid-City and Wilshire/Koreatown areas administered by the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. 32 Regarding the relation of US imperialism in Korea to Korean Americans: The postcolonial informant has rather little to say about the oppressed minorities in the decolonized nation as such, except, at best, as especially well-prepared investigator. Yet the aura of identification with those distant objects of oppression clings to these informants as, again at best, they identify with the other racial and ethnic minorities in metropolitan space. (Spivak 1999: 360) 33 A strong connection, indeed a complicity, between the bourgeoisie of the Third World and migrants in the First cannot be ignored. However important it is to acknowledge the affective sub-space in which migrants, especially the underclass, must endure racism, if we are talking globality, it is one of the painful imperatives of the impossible within the ethical situation that we have to admit that the interest of the migrant, however remote, is in dominant global capital. (Spivak 1999: 382) Racial capitalism is borrowed from Robinson (1999) and political unconscious from Jameson (1981). 34 Although our correspondent was serving time on the charge of a violent crime (armed robbery), Kim is sure to point out that it was an armed robbery during which no physical injuries occurred (Kim 1993: 227). This detail is noteworthy given that the essay is addressed to the discourse of black violence and criminality. 35 Kim (1993) reaffirms the import of Korean nationalism as a means of recovery and resistance after the uprising, despite her criticism of its relation to anti-black racism in earlier sections (Kim 1993: 229). None of the authors criticized above takes up the question of police repression that circumscribed the uprising and intensified in its wake, including the nearly 17,000 arrests and detentions, thousands of deportations, countless injuries and dozens of deaths (many from police violence), and the increased militarization of urban space (Davis 1998: 391). 36 See Marriotts (2003) incisive reading of the collaboration between director Stanley Kramer and actor Sidney Poitier, in which he traces the onscreen conversion of black rage to what he calls black therapeutics.

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

105

References
Abelmann, N. and Lie, J. (1997) Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA. Aguilar-San Juan, K. (ed.) (1994) The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s. South End Press: Boston, MA. Bai, M. (2005) The Framing Wars. The New York Times Magazine 17 July. URL (consulted 15 June 2009): http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/magazine/17DEMOCRATS.html Baldassare, M. (ed.) (1994) The Los Angeles Riots: Lessons for the Urban Future. Westview: Boulder, CO. Beller, J. (2001) The Innocence of Capital. Paper presented at Visual Rhetoric: Media War Teach-In, 14 November, University of California Santa Cruz. Benford, R.D. and Snow, D.A. (2000) Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 61139. Birnbaum, J. and Taylor, C. (eds) (2000) Civil Rights since 1787: A Reader on the Black Struggle. New York University Press: New York, NY. Bonacich, E. (1973) A Theory of Middleman Minorities. American Sociological Review 38(October): 58394. Chang, E. (1994) Americas First Multiethnic Riots. Karin Aguilar-San Juan (ed.) The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s. South End Press: Boston, MA. Chang, E. and Diaz-Veizades, J. (1999) Ethnic Peace in the American City: Building Community in Los Angeles and Beyond. New York University Press: New York, NY. Chang, J. (1993) Race, Class, Conflict and Empowerment: On Ice Cubes Black Korea. Amerasia Journal 19(2): 87107. Chang, J. (1998) Sitting on the Fence: Asian American Cultural Politics in a Black Nationalist Moment. Paper presented at Public Displays of Asian-ness, November, New York University. Chin, K.-S., Yoon, I.-J. and Smith, D. (1996) Immigrant Small Business and International Economic Linkage: A Case of the Korean Wig Business in Los Angeles, 19681977. International Migration Review 30(2): 485510. Cho, S. (1993) Korean Americans vs African Americans: Conflict and Construction. R. GoodingWilliams (ed.) Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising, pp. 196214. Routledge: New York, NY. Cohen, J. (1999) Racism and Mainstream Media. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 1 October. URL (consulted 15 June 2009): http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2527 DaCosta, K. (2007) Making Multiracials: State, Family and Market in the Redrawing of the Color Line. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA. Dalmage, H. (ed.) (2004) The Politics of Multiracialism: Challenging Racial Thinking. SUNY Press: Albany, NY. Daniel, G.R. (2002) More than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, PA. Davis, M. (1998) Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. Vintage: New York, NY. Espiritu, Y.L. (1992) Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, PA. Foster, J.B. (2007) The Financialization of Capitalism. Monthly Review 58(11). URL (consulted 15 June 209): http://www.monthlyreview.org/0407jbf.htm Gooding-Williams, R. (ed.) Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising. Routledge: New York, NY. Gordon, L. (1995) Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism. Humanities Books: New York, NY. Gordon, L. (1999) Her Majestys Other Children: Sketches of Racism from a Neocolonial Age. Rowman and Littlefield: New York, NY.

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

106

Critical Sociology 36(1)

Gracia, J. and De Greiff, P. (eds) (2000) Hispanics/Latinos in the United States: Ethnicity, Race, and Rights. Routledge: New York, NY. Hacker, A. (1992) Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal. Ballantine: New York, NY. Han, S.Y. (2005) The Politics of Race in Asian American Jurisprudence. Asian Pacific American Law Journal 11(1): 140. Hazen, D. (ed.) (1992) Inside the L.A. Riots: What Really Happened and Why It Will Happen Again. Institute for Alternative Journalism: New York, NY. Hollinger, D. (2003) Amalgamation and Hypodescent: The Ethnoracial Mixture in the History of the United States. The American Historical Review 108(5). URL (consulted 18 August 2009): http://www. historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/108.5/hollinger.html Jaimes, M.A. (ed.) (1991) The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance. South End Press: Boston, MA. Jameson, F. (1981) The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY. Kim, C.J. (2000) Bitter Fruit: The Politics of Black-Korean Conflict in New York City. Yale University Press: New Haven. Kim, E. (1993) Home Is Where the Han Is: A Korean-American Perspective on the Los Angeles Upheavals. R. Gooding-Williams (ed.) Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising, pp. 21536. New Routledge: New York, NY. Kim, E. (1997) Asian Americans: Decorative Gatekeepers? I. Reed (ed.) MultiAmerica: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace, pp. 20512. Viking: New York, NY. Kim, E. (2006) At Least Youre Not Black: Asian Americans in U.S. Race Relations. H.M. McFerson (ed.), Blacks and Asians: Crossings, Conflict and Commonality, pp. 20315. Carolina Academic Press: Durham, NC. Kim, K.C. (ed.) (1999) Koreans in the Hood: Conflict with African Americans. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD. Lee, H.C. (1999) Conflict Between Korean Merchants and Black Customers: A Structural Analysis. K.C. Kim, (ed.) Koreans in the Hood: Conflict with African Americans, pp. 11330. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD. Lee, J. (2002) From Civil Relations to Racial Conflict: Merchant-Customer Interactions in Urban America. American Sociological Review 67(1): 7798. Lee, J. (2004) Moving Beyond the Black-White Color Line? The Implications of Immigration, Intermarriage, and Multiracial Identification. Paper presented at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 15 April, Washington, DC. Los Angeles Times Staff (1992) Understanding the Riots: Los Angeles and the Aftermath of the Rodney King Verdict. Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles. Lowe, L. (1996) Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Duke University Press: Durham, NC. Madhubuti, H. (ed.) (1993) Why L.A. Happened: Implications of the 92 Los Angeles Rebellion. Third World Press: New York, NY. Marriott, D. (2003) The Love of Neither-Either: Racial Integration in Pressure Point. Qui Parle 13(2): 6390. Martinot, S. (2004) Deconstruction Electoral Politics for 2004. Synthesis/Regeneration 33(Winter). URL (consulted 15 June 2009): http://www.greens.org/s-r/33/3317.html Matsuda, M. (1996) Where is Your Body? And Other Essays on Race, Gender, and Law. Beacon Press: Boston, MA. Matsuda, M. (2002) Beyond, and Not Beyond, Black and White. Francisco Valdes et al. (eds) Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory, pp. 3938. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, PA.

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

Sexton: Proprieties of Coalition

107

Mills, C. (1998) Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY. Min, P.G. (1996) Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in New York and Los Angeles. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA. Morrison, T. (1993) On the Backs of Blacks. Time 2 December: 578. Nelson, D. (2008) Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Oh, A.E. (2002) Open: One Womans Journey. UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press: Los Angeles, CA. Okihiro, G. (1994) Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture. University of Washington Press: Seattle, WA. Okihiro, G. (2001) Common Ground: Reimagining American History. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ. Okihiro, G. (2006) Is Yellow Black or White? Revisited. Hazel M. McFerson (ed.) Blacks and Asians: Crossings, Conflict and Commonality, pp. 558. Carolina Academic Press: Durham, NC. Omi, M. and Winant, H. (1993) The Los Angeles Race Riot and Contemporary U.S. Politics. R. GoodingWilliams (ed.) Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising, pp. 97115. Routledge: New York, NY. Omi, M. and Winant, H. (1994) Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. Routledge: New York, NY. Ono, K. (1995) Re/Signing Asian American: Rhetorical Problematics of Nation. Amerasia 21(1/2): 6778. Palast, G. (2002) The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization and High-Finance Fraudsters. Pluto Press: London. Palumbo-Liu, D. (1999) Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA. Piven, F.F., Minnite, L., and Groarke, M. (2008) Keeping Down the Black Vote: Race and the Demobilization of American Votes. New York: The New Press. Prashad, V. (2001) Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity. Beacon: Boston, MA. NACCD (1968) Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Bantam: New York, NY. Nopper, T.K. (2008) Beyond the Bootstrap: How Korean Banks and US Government Institutions Contribute to Korean Immigrant Entrepreneurship in the United States. Department of Sociology, Temple University: PhD Dissertation. Robinson, C. (1999) Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC. Sexton, J. (2007) Racial Profiling and the Societies of Control. Joy James (ed.) Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy, pp. 197218. Duke University Press: Durham, NC. Sexton, J. (2008) Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN. Sollors, W. (1997) Neither White Nor Black Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA. Spencer, J.M. (1997) The New Colored People: The Mixed Race Movement in America. New York University Press: New York, NY. Spencer, R. (1999) Spurious Issues: Race and Multiracial Identity Politics in the United States. Westview: Boulder, CO. Spillers, H. (2003) Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL.

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010

108

Critical Sociology 36(1)

Spivak, G. (1999) A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA. Takagi, D. (1992) The Retreat from Race: Asian American Admissions and Racial Politics. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ. Ture, K. and Hamilton, C. (1992) Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. Vintage: New York, NY. Wacquant, L. (2002) From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: Rethinking the Race Question in the US. New Left Review 13(January-February): 4160. URL (consulted 15 June 2009): http://www. newleftreview.org/?view=2367 West, C. (1996) Black Strivings in a Twilight Civilization. H.L. Gates Jr and C. West (eds) The Future of the Race, pp. 87118. Basic Civitas Books: New York, NY. Williams, K. (2006) Mark One or More: Civil Rights in Multiracial America. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, MI. Williams, R.M. (1993) Accumulation as Evisceration: Urban Rebellion and the New Growth Dynamics. R. Gooding-Williams (ed.) Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising, pp. 8296. Routledge: New York, NY. Wu, F. (2001) Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. Basic Books: New York, NY. Wu, F. (2006) Foreword. Hazel M. McFerson (ed.) Blacks and Asians: Crossings, Conflict and Commonality. Carolina Academic Press: Durham, NC. Yamamoto, E. (1999) Interracial Justice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America. New York University Press: New York, NY. Yancey, G. (2003) Who is White? Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide. Lynne Rienner: Boulder, CO. Yoon, I-J (1997) On My Own: Korean Businesses and Race Relations in America. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL. Yu, E-Y. (ed.) (1994) Black-Korean Encounter: Toward Understanding and Alliance. Institute for Asian American and Pacific Asian Studies: Los Angeles, CA. Zia, H. (2000) Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, NY. iek, S. (1996) Against the Populist Temptation. Critical Inquiry 32(Spring): 55174.

For correspondence: Program in African American Studies, University of California, 3000 Humanities Gateway, Irvine, CA, 92697-6850, USA. Email: jcsexton@uci.edu

Downloaded from http://crs.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY on March 24, 2010