Slow Burn: The L.A. Riots

Season 6: Episode 2

No Justice

With the beating of Rodney King still on America’s TV screens, the killing of a teenager in South Central further inflamed the tension in Los Angeles’ Black neighborhoods.

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Episode Notes

In March 1991, the video of the Rodney King beating was national news. The LAPD was under intense scrutiny and many white Americans were seeing a side of policing they’d never seen before.

Just a few days after George Holliday’s tape aired, the residents of South Central, Los Angeles, were forced to confront yet another devastating act of violence.

How did a deadly altercation at a convenience store set off a battle between Los Angeles’ Black residents and its immigrant shopkeepers?  And how did the justice system respond?

Season 6 of Slow Burn is produced by Joel Anderson, Jayson De Leon, Ethan Brooks, Sophie Summergrad, and Jasmine Ellis.

Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

Books

Cannon, Lou. Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD, Random House, 1997.

Njeri, Itabari. The Last Plantation: Color, Conflict, and Identity : Reflections of a New World Black, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.

Stevenson, Brenda. The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots, Oxford University Press, 2013.

Articles

Bowman, Barbara. “The Koreans: Corner Store Revolution,” Washington Post, May 28, 1979.

Brown, Kailyn. “Latasha Harlins’ name sparked an L.A. movement. 30 years later, her first memorial is up,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 1, 2021.

Ford, Andrea. “Videotape Shows Teen Being Shot After Fight,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 1, 1991.

Ford, Andrea and John H. Lee. “Racial Tensions Blamed in Girl’s Death,” Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1991.

Ford, Andrea and John H. Lee. “Slain Girl Was Not Stealing Juice, Police Say,” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1991.

Ford, Andrea and Tracy Wilkinson. “Grocer Is Convicted in Teen Killing,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 12, 1991.

Hernandez, Marita. “Tale of Two Cultures: Murders Refocus Spotlight on Tensions Between Koreans, Blacks,” Los Angeles Times. May 18, 1986.

Katz, Jesse and John H. Lee. “Conflict Brings Tragic End to Similar Dreams of Life,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1991.

Korean Stores Firebombed; 2 of 3 Hit Have Seen Black Boycotts,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 18, 1991.

Lee, John H. “Mayor Voices Concern Over South L.a. Ethnic Tensions,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 14, 1991.

Protesters of killing blockade store — Rally targets Korean grocer in girl’s death,” Los Angeles Daily News, March 22, 1991.

Ramos, George and John H. Lee. “Demonstrators Demand That Korean Market Never Reopen,” Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1991.

Stolberg, Sheryl and Frank Clifford. “Black-Korean Truce Termed ‘Very Fragile’,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 5, 1991.

Wilkinson, Tracy and Frank Clifford. “Korean Grocer Who Killed Black Teen Gets Probation,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 15, 1991.

Audiovisual 
[Karlin, Joyce (Superior Court trial judge in People v. Du) – 1/6/94], Lou Cannon Rodney King papers, Mss 258. Department of Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

“The Fuse Was Already Burning”

More on the cultural tensions building in Los Angeles by the time Latasha Harlins was killed in 1991.

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About the Show

In 1992, a jury failed to convict the four Los Angeles police officers who’d been captured on videotape beating Rodney King. The city erupted into fire and chaos—the culmination of decades of unchecked police abuse and racial injustice.

For the sixth season of Slate’s Slow Burn, Joel Anderson returns to explore the people and events behind the biggest civil disturbance in American history—a story that’s still playing out today.

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Host

  • Joel Anderson is a staff writer at Slate and the host of Seasons 3 and 6 of Slow Burn. Previously, he worked as a reporter on sports, culture, and politics for ESPN and BuzzFeed News.