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Civil Racism

The 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion and the Crisis of Racial Burnout

2016
Author:

Lynn Mie Itagaki

Civil Racism

Examines how the preservation of civility comes at the expense of racial reconciliation and justice

Civil Racism examines a range of cultural reactions to the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion (also known as the Rodney King riots) anchored by calls for a racist civility, a central component of the aesthetics and politics of the post-civil rights era. Lynn Mie Itagaki argues that the rebellion interrupted the rhetoric of “civil racism,” which she defines as the preservation of civility at the expense of racial equality.

Lynn Mie Itagaki’s book is an incisive critique of the civil racism that has become dominant in both liberal and conservative discourses of race in the post-Civil Rights era.

Daniel Kim, Brown University

The 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, also known as the Rodney King riots, followed the acquittal of four police officers who had been charged with assault and the use of excessive force against a Black motorist. The violence included widespread looting and destruction of stores, many of which were owned or operated by Korean Americans in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and Latina/o. Civil Racism examines a range of cultural reactions to the “riots” anchored by calls for a racist civility, a central component of the aesthetics and politics of the post–civil rights era.

Lynn Mie Itagaki argues that the rebellion interrupted the rhetoric of “civil racism,” which she defines as the preservation of civility at the expense of racial equality. As an expression of structural racism, Itagaki writes, civil racism exhibits the active—though often unintentional—perpetuation of discrimination through one’s everyday engagement with the state and society. She is particularly interested in how civility manifests in societal institutions such as the family, the school, and the neighborhood, and she investigates dramatic, filmic, and literary texts by African American, Asian American, and Latina/o artists and writers that contest these demands for a racist civility.

Itagaki specifically addresses what she sees as two “blind spots” in society and in scholarship. One is the invisibility of Asians and Latinas/os in media coverage and popular culture that, she posits, importantly shapes Black–White racial formations in dominant mainstream discourses about race. The second is the scholarly separation of two critical traditions that should be joined in analyses of racial injustice and the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion: comparative race studies and feminist theories.

Civil Racism insists that the 1992 “riots” continue to matter, that the artistic responses matter, and that—more than twenty years later—debates about issues of race, ethnicity, class, and gender are more urgent than ever.

Civil Racism

Lynn Mie Itagaki is associate professor in the departments of English and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and the Program Coordinator in Asian American Studies at The Ohio State University.

Civil Racism

Lynn Mie Itagaki’s book is an incisive critique of the civil racism that has become dominant in both liberal and conservative discourses of race in the post-Civil Rights era.

Daniel Kim, Brown University

Given recent urban unrest that lays bare tensions between state power, late capitalism, and race, this is a timely book.

CHOICE

Civil Racism

Contents
A Note on Terminology
Preface
Introduction: The 1992 Los Angeles Crisis
Part I: Racial Civility
1. Model Family Values and Sentimentalizing the Crisis
2. In/Civility, with Colorblindness and Equal Treatment for All
3. The Territorialization of Civility, the Spatialization of Revenge
Part II: Counterdiscourse of Civility
4. At the End of Tragedy
5. The Media Spectacle of Racial Disaster
Epilogue: Lives That Matter
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index