The Asian-Owned Store and the Incommensurable Histories of War in Narratives of the City

The Asian-Owned Store and the Incommensurable Histories of War in Narratives of the City Abstract This essay reads the Asian-owned store as an analytical category along with the recurring motif of war in narratives of the inner city. Eschewing the common trope of the “black-Korean conflict” or a liberal yearning for cross-racial coalition, I show that the Asian-owned store in predominantly black neighborhoods is a multivalent site that reveals incommensurable histories of various wars waged by the US empire-state that deliberately creates unequal spaces that are racialized as either “ghetto” or “war zone.” Through a discussion of a boycott of a Korean-owned store in Dallas in 2012 along with a close reading of Nina Revoyr’s Southland (2003), which provides a genealogy of the anti-Japanese racism in Los Angeles during World War II and the anti-black racism and police brutality during the Cold War that erupted in the Watts rebellion in 1965, I ultimately argue that the “domestic” space of the store provides a critical lens through which we can chart the flexible strategies of US imperialism at home and abroad. In a turn that is both shocking and anticlimactic in the “Clarifications” episode in season 5 of the HBO series The Wire, Omar Little, a principled outlaw who has eluded multiple hits on his life by the drug dealers he robs, is gunned down by a small boy in a convenience store in a Baltimore beset by the War on Drugs. Two scenes earlier, surrounded by boarded-up houses and sounds of sirens and barking dogs, Omar is seen standing at a street corner, openly declaring war on his rival. When he returns to the screen, he is entering the store, still wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying his customary shotgun. The door chime signals the entrance into a space of marked difference, as street noises are replaced by distinctly “Asian” music, which turns out to be a Korean tu-ro-tu song.1 The Asian woman on the other side of a plexiglass barricade further marks the space as foreign but, as Omar’s casual and relaxed demeanor suggests, also familiar. The spatial, sonic, and bodily juxtapositions suggest the store as a space apart from the war zone of the poor black Baltimore neighborhoods the show depicts. Then, abruptly, with Omar’s shooting, it is not. Rather than exploring the complexities posed by the store in a neighborhood that is portrayed as a war zone and the question of why it might be considered a befitting place for the death of one of its central characters, The Wire relies on a reductive depiction of the store as the embodiment of the so-called “black-Korean conflict.” By the time the show aired in the 2000s, the Korean-owned store in poor black urban neighborhoods was already a widely recognized sight/site of conflict and violence between Korean storeowners and black residents. This mode of representation became common in the 1990s through films, television shows, popular music, news coverage, political commentary, and academic writing that reflected and were fueled by numerous incidents of tension, including the shooting death of Latasha Harlins by the Korean storeowner Soon-Ja Du and the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.2 In these narratives, the store was depicted as a place of inevitable conflict and violence where Korean merchants and black customers were always already at odds with each other, not only economically but also racially. Omar’s death scene pivots on this familiarity, as we initially see only Omar and the Korean storekeeper in a physical space that is recognizable from previous representations of conflict, and again, after the fatal gunshot, as we see a black boy momentarily pointing his gun toward a shrieking Korean woman before running out of the store. The show employs the absent presence of the black-Korean conflict trope in order to render Omar’s death scene as both mundane and shocking. The scene implies that what is out of the ordinary is that the conflict is not between the Korean storeowner and the black customers. The ostensibly anomalous nature of this plot point is highlighted later in the episode, as one of the onlookers outside the crime scene of the store relays the circulating rumor that Omar was trying to “rob them Koreans and got killed.” Although obviously false, the rumor is not completely out of line with the show’s characterization of the store. The show itself reproduces and repeats the popular understanding of the store as a site of inevitable black-Korean conflict even as it tries to move away from it. In its clichéd representation of the Korean-owned store—and the indelibly foreign store owner—The Wire misses an opportunity to tease out a connection between the ideological function of the Asian-owned store and the metaphorical use of war in narratives about mostly black neighborhoods. In this way, the show exemplifies a common approach in mainstream narratives that employs the metaphor of war to describe life in the “inner city” while reducing the Asian-owned store to a shorthand for the black-Korean conflict, thereby disengaging it from the larger narrative of this type of war. In contrast to this mode of representation, we might think of the store as an analytic category with which to question the recurring motif of war that describes the location of the store. Building on Helen Jun’s argument that “the figure of the Korean immigrant merchant needs to be read as both an empirical fact and a representational image” (108) or a “narrative mechanism” (109), we might similarly read the Asian-owned store by paying careful attention to how it figures into different narratives that liken racialized conditions of urban poverty to those of war. That is, rather than assume that the Asian-owned store is an inevitable site of conflict, we might think about how it is used to justify equating urban neighborhoods to war zones as a foregone conclusion. Doing this requires that we think about how space is racialized and broaden our scope to see the workings of the United States as an empire-state. In particular, if, as sociologist Moon-Kie Jung argues, the “hierarchical differentiation of space and the hierarchical differentiation of people [are] both immanent and foundational to empire-state formation” (67), the Asian-owned store—run by immigrants and frequented by those who do not have the option or the means to go elsewhere—and the surrounding neighborhood stand as a testament to the organization and operation of the US empire-state. Seen this way, the Asian-owned store becomes a potential site of critique of empire. Situated in a racialized and abjected space out of the bounds of civil society, the Asian-owned store mediates what Lisa Lowe articulates as a “racial contradiction by which the state claims to be a democratic body in which all subjects are granted membership, while racial, ethnic, and immigrant subjects continue to be disenfranchised and excluded from political participation in that state” (164).3 Moreover, the store can engender a critique of American exceptionalism that does not see conditions of inequality and injustice at home as connected to imperialism and American wars abroad. Informed by Amy Kaplan’s argument that “boundaries between the domestic and the foreign, between ‘at home’ and ‘abroad’” are “ever-shifting,” we might think of domestic spaces described as war zones as part of the sprawling “anarchy of empire,” not limited to battlefields “over there” (1). Nina Revoyr’s novel Southland (2003) charts such shifting workings of empire both at home and abroad by narrating the history of an Asian-owned store in South Los Angeles from World War II to 1994. Through its focus on history, the novel shows the incommensurability of the histories of different imperial subjects, highlighting in particular the specificities of state-sanctioned, anti-black racism. The lesson to be gained, the novel insists, is not to make incommensurable histories commensurable or coalitional but to question our historical understanding of places that are deemed war zones, particularly in the context of the ongoing and deadly anti-black state violence in the United States and the state’s endless wars abroad. In this manner, the novel’s representation of the store can be read as not only complicating the notion that the store is an inevitable site of conflict but also intervening in the desire to renarrate it as a possible site of reconciliation.4 The latter mode of representing the store—the less vocal and visible but nonetheless insistent twin of the black-Korean conflict—emblematizes the liberal yearning for resolution through cross-racial coalition and also takes the focus away from empire. Seen in calls for solidarity as a means of damage control after protests, such as the 2012 boycott of a Korean-owned store in South Dallas discussed below, the attempt to renarrate the store as a site of coalition underscores what is at stake in Southland’s contrasting narrative of the store and its neighborhood. The Store as Warfare / War Zone Although a common phenomenon in US popular culture in the 1980s and 1990s, boycotts of Asian-owned stores in predominantly black neighborhoods seldom made national news in the 2000s and 2010s. An exception occurred in South Dallas in 2012, possibly the most recent boycott of its kind to receive national attention. On 9 December 2011, Jeffery Muhammad, a local minister of the Nation of Islam, and Thomas Pak, the Korean American owner of the Diamond Shamrock gas station and convenience store in South Dallas, got into a heated argument over the use of a debit card as a method of payment. Racial epithets were exchanged, and Muhammad left the store in a fury. Shortly after the incident, Muhammad reached out to the black leaders in the community, many of whom were Christian, to form the United South Dallas Coalition that would become the public face of an ensuing boycott. At a rally outside the store in late December, Muhammad told the gathered crowd: “This is about economic warfare. And they [the Koreans] have declared war on our community” (Howard, “How”). With that pronouncement, which arguably relied on the ubiquity of the Korean-owned store in black neighborhoods and popular representations of it, the boycott commenced and lasted for almost half a year, demanding nothing less than a permanent closure of the store. In the meantime, with the twentieth anniversary of the 1992 LA uprising looming, several key leaders in the Dallas Korean American community acted expeditiously to mitigate the boycott once it began. They counseled Pak to apologize publicly, told him to keep the store open, and downplayed his use of the racial epithet as an “individual misunderstanding” that should not be blown up as a racial incident (Kim, “Dallas”). Most crucially, they formed their own coalition with the black community, reaching out, in some cases, to the same people that Muhammad sought out. As the culmination of these efforts, the coalitional Global Unified Educational Scholarship Society (GUESS) was formed to sponsor a joint annual scholarship for African American high school students. Responding to the boycott outside the store, GUESS sought to redefine the space of the store by staging the scholarship award ceremony there. This was commemorated by a photograph in various local newspapers.5 Notably excluded from the picture were the black protesters outside. In their place were Thomas Pak and black and Korean leaders holding up oversized checks next to a smiling Bria Bradshaw, an African American high school senior who was the first—and to date the only—recipient of the GUESS scholarship. This photograph taken inside the cramped space of the store, with banners advertising beer and cigarettes in the background, redefined the store from being an inevitable site of interracial conflict to a space that enabled and fostered coalitional politics by occluding what was happening outside. The South Dallas boycott and the damage control done afterward emphasize the ways in which a particular historical understanding of the store is critical to how one defines coalition. Even though what inspired both the intraracial and the interracial coalitional groups was the familiarity of the store as a site of conflict, that familiarity did not mean similarity. Korean storeowners and African American customers who live in the neighborhoods where these stores exist are inextricably linked together in the historical moment of US empire in late capitalism. In the wake of the global restructuring of the US economy in the 1970s and 1980s, black neighborhoods in big cities such as Los Angeles and Dallas suffered the most from deindustrialization and the outsourcing of jobs and resources.6 As the levels of joblessness, poverty, and crime rose, big corporate chains, such as supermarkets, refused to invest in low-income areas with predominantly black—and increasingly Latina/o—residents.7 Small businesses, such as liquor and convenience stores, often owned by Korean immigrants, found a niche and profit in the deliberately created spaces that are described by scholars as “negative space” (Song 27) and “media and data black hole[s]” (Davis, Ecology 392) and racialized in popular parlance as the “ghetto.”8 Korean merchants’ and black and brown customers’ histories actually intersect at the site of the store. However, as we see in charges of “economic warfare” by Muhammad (Howard, “How”), and as Southland demonstrates, this intersection does not mean that the histories of each group are commensurable. Nowhere is their incommensurability made clearer than when the metaphor of war is used to describe the material condition of places such as South Dallas, which in 2008 was almost 85 percent black and Latina/o, with a per capita income of $13, 558.9 Like Muhammad, Pak also took up the war metaphor to describe his store. In the conservative-leaning Dallas Morning News, the leading newspaper in the city, Pak declared, “Every day is like a war zone. I see all kinds of people. Drug addicts, homeless people” (Thompson, “Racial”). For him, however, the “war zone” was geographically and temporally circumscribed; at the end of “every day,” he went home to Coppell, a semi-affluent suburb. Furthermore, as the mainstream media swung to his side, Pak’s biography as a hard-working immigrant who came to the United States with his family as a teenager, joined the National Guard, and became a naturalized citizen was highlighted, casting a heroic sheen on his decision to operate a store in such a dangerous location. By contrast, Muhammad’s discourse about and boycott of that same store using the analogy of war only registered as a “racist screed” and a “Nation of Islam operation” (Howard, “How”). Muhammad’s and Pak’s uses of the metaphor of war reveal the fundamental difference between the two opposing groups of the boycott—those who wanted the store gone and those who wanted to keep it open. The metaphor of war, so common in reference to the black poor, illuminates what the scholarship and the photograph attempt to hide—namely, the fundamental and irreconcilable difference between the black and Korean experiences in the same space and in the same historical moment. As a site integral to the space marked as a “war zone,” the Korean-owned store makes possible and sustains the state-sanctioned capitalist narrative of immigrant success promoted in the mainstream media, which has been historically used to justify anti-black racism. In other words, assimilationist stories such as Pak’s, punctuated with his claim, “I’m not a racist. I’m just trying to follow the American dream” (Thompson, “Racial”), promote exceptionalist Asian American immigration narratives of hard work and success. When coupled with the metaphor of war, in which “drug addicts” and “homeless people,” rather than poverty and uneven distribution of wealth and resources, are the culpable agents of that war, the stories also act to erase black suffering. That is, the staged photograph and the scholarship posit the store as a space of equanimity and opportunity even in the midst of a war zone, which proves that all could have access to the American Dream. Those who are excluded are silenced, made irrelevant, or, worse, vilified for their own exclusion. Furthermore, their disagreements notwithstanding, Pak’s and Muhammad’s characterizations of the store as warfare or located in a war zone reveal their shared insular understanding of the metaphor of war that does not factor in the role of the US empire-state. Their characterizations not only perpetuate the notion of “home” and “abroad” as fixed binaries but also, more importantly, maintain a notion of the domestic that is separate from empire and its warfare. Rather than acquiescing to the dominant definition of war zones that criminalizes mostly black and brown residents or heeding the myopic claim of economic warfare that views Korean immigrants as agents of exploitation, then, we must question the role of the US empire-state in the formation of domestic war zones. Unlike most dominant representations, Southland emphasizes the need for a historical understanding of the store and of the metaphor of war. This approach enables the novel to delineate the store as a complex site that reveals incommensurable histories and unequal relationships that are produced in and around it. In particular, the novel presents interracial conflicts and possible cross-racial coalitions within the store as products of various forms of war waged by the US empire. Southland thus imagines the space of the store as a multivalent site haunted by not just the 1992 Los Angeles uprising but also other violent and exclusionary past practices of US imperialism, such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the police violence that culminated in the 1965 Watts rebellion. This allows us to see urban civil unrests such as the LA uprising and the Watts rebellion as both a part of imperial warfare and as resistance to it. Through a close reading of the space of the Asian-owned store in Revoyr’s novel, we can see that the “domestic” space of the store provides a critical lens through which we can chart the workings of US imperialism both at home and abroad. The Store as a Gift in Southland Given that the ten-year anniversary of the 1992 LA uprising would have just preceded its publication year in 2003, it is significant that Southland begins with the death of its protagonist, Frank Sakai, in the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake in Southern California in 1994. As Nancy Abelmann and John Lie state, “Only the 1994 Southern California Earthquake seemed to shake the public amnesia regarding the 1992 Los Angeles riots” (75). Just as this natural disaster and its destruction reminded the residents of Los Angeles about the “most destructive urban riot that has ever occurred in the United States” (Kim and Kim, “Multiracial” 25), Frank’s granddaughter Jackie is jolted out of her inherited apathy as she is charged with the task of recollecting the past after Frank’s death. Standing in for the Angelinos who “watched the ’92 riots unfold on TV. . . . horrified and scared” as reporters raised the alarm that “‘it’ was coming closer to ‘us’” (Revoyr 84), Jackie is introduced in the novel as belonging to the group of “us” who needed a natural disaster to remember what had happened two years prior, who believed that their lives had no connection to the uprising. What forces Jackie to see that connection is a corner store in the Crenshaw neighborhood in South Los Angeles that, in the novel’s present, is charred and boarded up from the 1992 uprising. As a third-year law student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) who had “grown up on the quiet, tree-lined streets of Torrance” (15), Jackie’s knowledge of the store, which Frank owned and operated from World War II until the Watts rebellion in 1965, is limited by her family’s disavowal of it and her casually racist dismissal of Frank’s old neighborhood as a “black ghetto”: It was one of the many parts of her family’s past that Jackie’s mother had never discussed. Before . . . medical school, Rose [Jackie’s mother and Frank’s daughter] and the rest of the family had lived in the Crenshaw district, where Frank owned and managed a little corner market. Jackie didn’t know very much about that era—just that they left sometime in the sixties, after the riots down in Watts. As for Crenshaw itself, Frank’s boyhood home, she’d only driven through it—by mistake mostly, and once or twice on purpose, when she was trying to avoid the traffic on the freeway. It was pretty much a black ghetto, as far as she could tell. (20) Fighting her aversion, Jackie is compelled to visit the Crenshaw neighborhood when she finds Frank’s unofficial will, dated in 1964, leaving the store to someone unknown to the Sakai family named Curtis Martindale. As Frank had sold the store after the rebellion in 1965, Jackie also finds a box marked “store” with $38,000 in cash inside. In trying to find and give the money to Curtis Martindale, Jackie comes across James Lanier, Curtis’s cousin by marriage, who has lived in the Crenshaw district all his life. Lanier tells Jackie that Curtis, who was African American like Lanier, died mysteriously in Frank’s store during the Watts rebellion along with three other black youths. Through Jackie and Lanier’s joint effort to figure out the answers behind Curtis’s death, the novel provides a genealogy of Frank’s store both as a gift and a site of death, anticipating its demise in the 1992 uprising. Employing the genre of mystery and the narrative device of a naïve progeny who does not know her past, the novel takes on the task of excavating the forgotten history of the store. Specifically, the novel seems interested in wresting the store from the black-Korean conflict trope as it shifts the focus from the most current owners, who are Korean, to Nisei Frank. Contrary to the criticism of many Korean immigrant storeowners that only did business in neighborhoods that were predominantly black but did not live there, Frank is said to have grown up in the Angeles Mesa area of the Crenshaw district where the store is situated. Furthermore, the original owner of the store in the novel is not Frank but a black character named Old Man Larabie, who “practically gave [the store] to him, almost as a gift” (26). By thus setting up the store as a gift, Southland emphasizes that the story of Frank’s store is not an Asian American immigrant history but rather the history of an interracial neighborhood and its coalitional past. Unlike the coalitional politics of the African American and Korean American leaders during the Dallas boycott, Southland’s vision of a coalitional past is motivated by anti-racism and resistance to the US empire-state, which structures the store and the people’s choices around it. For instance, that Frank’s family lives in the Angeles Mesa area in the interwar period can be attributed to the historical fact of racial segregation of nonwhite populations and the production of hierarchized, unequal spaces in Los Angeles in the early 1900s. As Scott Kurashige shows, “Los Angeles was one of the first cities to adopt zoning ordinances to define the character of neighborhoods” in the interwar era (26), which was initially a class-based effort but allowed for racial covenants with exclusionary language such as “any portion of said premises [cannot be sold] to any person of African, Chinese or Japanese descent” (27). The history of nonwhite populations such as Japanese Americans and African Americans living in close proximity to one another in Los Angeles prior to World War II speaks to the concerted effort to maintain the so-called racial purity of certain parts of the city and to justify preferential development of and investment in them. It also proves the Crenshaw district and the surrounding South Los Angeles to be imperial and differentiated spaces. If the proximity and interactions between African Americans and Japanese Americans in Southland—and in history—are the results of racist spatial organization in empire, they are also a testament to choices that were deliberately made. Mirroring this, Frank’s closest friend is African American, and most of his neighborhood friends are African American or Nisei. Additionally, by the time Frank is fifteen in 1939, he is said to be “working for Larabie” (Revoyr 92), the aforementioned African American storeowner. Rather than a place of simple market exchange, the store is deemed to be interchangeable with Larabie, as working for Larabie is equated with working at the store. That Frank grows up to have an affability similar to the avuncular Larabie maintains the store as a site of cross-racial congenial relationship. In this way, Frank’s employment at the store prior to World War II prefigures the metaphor of the store as a gift and a place of debt, apart from the praxis of US empire. As many scholars argue, the forced internment during World War II was not an anomaly but a part of entrenched racism against Japanese Americans in the early twentieth century, all of which might be best understood not as domestic but as interimperial actions on the part of the United States.10 It is not a coincidence that Frank is born in the United States in 1924, for example, as the Immigration Act of 1924, which drastically proscribed immigration from Asia, aimed to curb Japanese immigration in particular. Preceded by Alien Land Laws in California that prohibited the Issei from owning land and the Supreme Court decision in Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922), which solidified the status of Japanese immigrants as aliens ineligible for citizenship, the Immigration Act of 1924 was considered by Japan to be a culminating “cause for national humiliation” (Ngai 49). However, even as the Immigration Act reduced the number of Japanese immigrants, anti-Japanese racism did not abate, especially in California. In fact, Scott Kurashige argues that Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron was instrumental in fomenting the frenzied argument for the forcible removal of Japanese Americans during World War II and that his main target was the American-born Nisei, such as Frank, not the “alien” Issei, whom Bowron claimed were “far less dangerous than any of the American born Japanese” (120). Given this history, Larabie’s choice to hire Frank distinguishes him from the majority of Americans living on the West Coast, who harbored anti-Nisei racism and overwhelmingly supported the internment. More importantly, it establishes the store as a place apart from empire. As a result of his relationship to the store, Frank sees it as an exception, a salve to the anti-Japanese racism of the World War II period that justified the existence of concentration camps in places such as Manzanar. When Frank returns to the neighborhood after the war, Old Man Larabie hires him again and eventually sells him the store at a drastically reduced price. This opportunity contrasts with not only the open hostility and discrimination by mostly white Americans against Japanese Americans after the war that preclude Frank from working elsewhere but also the state-sanctioned brutality against Japanese Americans during the war that afflicts each member of Frank’s family. Frank’s Issei father, Kazuo, for example, dies at the hands of the US army officials who accuse him of disloyalty, and Frank’s sister becomes pregnant while in the concentration camps and dies in childbirth. Frank, like many Nisei men, joins the segregated 442nd battalion, “the most decorated unit in American history” (Revoyr 120), but his enlistment does not afford him much protection from state-sanctioned racism, as the Nisei men are considered “expendable” and sent on suicidal missions (116). This devaluation of Japanese American lives, combined with the racist society to which Frank returns, causes Frank to tell the six-year-old Jackie later in his life that his war experience “didn’t make any difference” (207). The lack of comfort that Frank derives from his identification with the state as a solider is in direct contrast to the opportunity he is given through the store after being barred from equal participation in the dominant white society. Consequently, he thrives in the store, and the store equally thrives thanks to Frank’s effort and the postwar economic boom. In contrast to its boarded-up façade in 1994, the store acts as a “gathering place” in the neighborhood, encouraged by the sitting places outside that Frank has provided (121). He rewards the neighborhood children for good grades and, along with the store, becomes an integral part of the neighborhood that is still mostly black and Japanese American. Through all this, we are told that “Frank never forgot that his store had a reason; that his good fortune had been someone else’s gift” (121). Thus, what started “his gangrened heart . . . beginning to heal” (122) from the trauma of war was “the store, the children, the company of people” (121). Even more significantly, the store plays a key role in Frank’s romance with Alma Sam, a young black woman, who further enables Frank’s healing process from the war: “For four years, since the start of the war, he’d seen nothing but carnage, blood, and sorrow. And now [with Alma] he . . . discovered in himself, something fresh and untouched, still capable of wonder” (333-34). The only place that fosters Frank and Alma’s union, unknown to anyone else, is the space of the “closed, quiet store” (332). For Frank, in particular, the inside of the store functions as a private space separate from “outside,” which he automatically links with war. When explaining why the two lovers never met anywhere outside of the store, the novel remarks that even though they fantasized about taking trips together, Frank “didn’t really want this—every place outside of the city, whether country, marsh, desert, or mountain was, in his mind, the landscape of war. . . . So they contented themselves with their time in the store” (334). That is, for Frank, the store exists as a sanctuary from war, both abroad and at home—an idealistic place of possibility of his and Alma’s interracial union and an extension of Larabie’s generosity and now Alma’s love—wholly separate from the workings of the empire-state. Extending the metaphor of the store as a gift, Frank thinks of Alma’s nightly visit to the store as “like a generous gift” (333). However, if the store has such a sheltering function for Frank, it does not for Alma nor, as will be shown in the next section, for Curtis Martindale, who is Alma and Frank’s son. Frank’s view of the store as separate from the political, legal, and economic reaches of empire proves to be not just illusive but also injurious for Alma. When Alma feels as though “[s]he’d finally found a home in the world” (333), she is not thinking about the store as “home” in the same way that Frank sees it as a “gift.” As an aspiring teacher who works as a domestic worker and has to bear “the indignation of having to be polite to a [white] woman she hated; of washing her husband’s stinking clothes; of being searched every night for stolen goods before she left for home” (277), Alma does not have the luxury of feeling protected from the dominant anti-black racism in her place of employment as Frank does. Alma’s notion of “home” is tied to her relationship with Frank and the potential of their love, particularly in carving out a home of their own through marriage. In contrast, Frank’s insular understanding of the store as a haven from all the complexities of the “outside” causes him to hesitate momentarily when Alma brings up marriage: “If it was true that he wanted to bring their love into the daylight, to be with her forever, it was also true that, at least for a moment, the thought of it had scared him” (335). For Frank, Alma’s proposal of marriage signals something antithetical to the comforts of the store, to his notion of “home.” He does not realize that this home is inextricable from the war of anti-black racism and sexism that structures Alma’s life, with which he is momentarily “scared” to be burdened. Frank and Alma are thus separated in the end by Frank’s inability to understand their intersecting differences of race, class, and gender, which are highlighted by their differing relationships to the store. Frank—and the store—is unable to do for Alma what Old Man Larabie did for Frank by acting in opposition to the reigning anti-Japanese racism during World War II. After their argument about marriage, Frank waits two weeks before going to see Alma at her house for the first time. By that point, Alma, pregnant with Curtis, has already left for Oakland to live with her sister. When Alma comes back to the Angeles Mesa neighborhood, she does so with a husband, whom a young Curtis believes is his father. Just as the store was a secret between Alma and Frank, no one else—including Alma’s husband, who is African American—knows Curtis is biracial.11 Frank hires Curtis as a favor to Alma and eventually decides to leave the store to him, but the store symbolizes a debt that Frank cannot repay. Just as the store could not be sustained as a home for Alma, Curtis cannot be its owner. What permanently prevents Frank from gifting the store to Curtis is also that which finally destroys the fantasy that the inside of the store can be separated from the “landscape of war” that haunts Frank (334). Curtis’s death in the Watts rebellion of 1965 seals the store as a site structured by wars of the racist empire-state that cannot be reclaimed through a feel-good narrative of black-Japanese solidarity or interracial romance. The Watts Rebellion and the Store as a Site of Death Just as Southland likens the destruction from the 1992 LA uprising with that of the natural disaster of an earthquake (57), the novel uses the metaphor of a storm to describe the Watts rebellion in 1965 (218, 302, 345). If, as Lynn Itakagi writes, “Protest disrupts the violence of the status quo” (xi), the novel’s comparison of the two protests to natural disasters that shake up business as usual is quite fitting. In line with the novel’s shared use of the metaphor of natural disasters, several of its characters make a connection between “The Watts uprising—’65” (64) and “[t]he ’92 uprising” (86). Significantly, all such characters are African American. No one in Frank’s family or any of the Japanese American—or other Asian American—characters make such a connection. Moreover, aside from a minor character named Kenji Hirano who moves in and out of sanity, none of the Japanese American characters living in Los Angeles in 1994 knows about the deaths of the four youths in Frank’s store during the Watts rebellion. As such, the history of the store during the rebellion becomes an important critique of who remembers the protests that challenge the “violence of the status quo” and how. The novel thus guides us to consider the lessons of Watts when we think about not only the 1992 uprising—to which the novel does not devote much actual narrative space—but also other subsequent events of protest and war. Through the excavation of the forgotten and unresolved deaths of the youths at the hands of the police, in particular, Southland argues for how and why incommensurable histories of wars, as unequal and irreconcilable as they are, must be remembered. To understand the lessons of the Watts rebellion, we first need to recognize the contradictions that abounded in post-World War II Los Angeles. As Mike Davis explains, during this period, Los Angeles had “seven large tire and auto plants, ranked second only to Detroit and Akron in the assembly of cars and tires. Three major steel and aluminum mills evoked fiery images of Pittsburgh, while Southeast L.A. surpassed Houston in the production of oil drilling machinery.” However, he continues, “this blue-collar version of the Southern California dream was reserved strictly for whites,” as the city’s “cotton curtain” separated the segregated neighborhoods in South Los Angeles, where people of color lived, from mostly white neighborhoods and the “white-controlled job base” (“L.A.” 61). In other words, post-World War II Los Angeles was a place of industrial boom and economic opportunities and glaring racism that spatially organized the city. Nonetheless, drawn by the climate and fleeing racial violence, African Americans, mostly from the South, migrated to Los Angeles in large numbers in the first half of the twentieth century. The African American population doubled during World War II and, as David Widener shows, rose from “133,082 in 1946 (up from 63,774 in 1940) to 171,209 by 1950. . . . [and] to 334,916 by 1960.” This means that African Americans made up only 3 percent of the city’s population in 1940, but by “1960, more than one out of every eight residents of the city would be an African American” (57). This population was largely segregated in South Los Angeles, and while the rest of the city thrived in a “full-employment economy,” many African Americans there were disproportionately unemployed (Davis, “L.A.” 61). Southland’s narrator alludes to this issue by noting that, by 1961, when Curtis is thirteen years old, Crenshaw, which “hadn’t even been city when [Alma] first arrived, years before[,] . . . was city now, or getting there, crowded and teeming with tension” (Revoyr 124), and “[i]ncreasingly, the parents of Curtis’s friends were unemployed, or barely making it, or vanishing altogether” (125). If the adults in South Los Angeles were thus affected by the racist economy, the situation for young people was even more precarious. As Robert M. Fogelson wrote in 1967, “approximately one Negro in four who graduates from high school in southcentral Los Angeles cannot find employment . . . and many others must settle for menial jobs” (355). Correspondingly, Davis, echoing many others, argues that the burgeoning of the “counter-economy of drug dealing and youth crime” must be understood in the context of the historical “deterioration in the labor-market position of young Black men” (City 306). Thus, in Southland, Alma, who is a teacher by the 1960s, worries that Curtis will meet the same fate as “[s]everal of her former students [who] were in prison now, a couple of [whom] were dead” (Revoyr 124). Alma is particularly worried when, as an eighth-grader in 1961, Curtis is caught with some friends who vandalized school property. The novel characterizes what the boys did as “childish fare” (122): they broke into the school after hours and spray-painted walls and lockers with puerile descriptions of some teachers. In response, the school calls in the police, who interrogate “a hundred students” to find out who was responsible (123). Although the school decides not to press charges, the quick assumption that this was a crime that must involve the police and that whoever did this were criminals is telling. This criminalization of an entire school in a predominantly black neighborhood, beginning before junior high, concerns Alma. Evincing the close connection between the institutions of the police and the school, the police remain outside even after the school decides not to press charges, so that when Curtis leaves the school after Alma picks him up, “the cops stared at Curtis from the window of their car, angry at being denied the quarry they’d been summoned to flush” (123). This introductory exposure to the police fatally marks Curtis as a criminal, as one of the two police officers in this scene later kills the four youths during the Watts rebellion. The novel sets up the introduction of the police into Curtis’s life alongside the increased jobless rate in South Los Angeles and the subsequent deprivation and criminalization of young black men there as a telling prelude to what happens to Curtis during the Watts rebellion. In so doing, it highlights an important distinction between Frank’s experience with unemployment due to state-sanctioned anti-Japanese racism after World War II and the anti-black racism in the 1950s and 1960s. This distinction is the role that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) played in conjunction with economic racism, both of which might be understood as strategies of empire in active warfare against the black community in the second half of the twentieth century. Specifically, the year 1950, when William H. Parker became the LAPD’s chief of police, marks an important turning point in the history of warfare against African Americans in South Los Angeles. Parker became the chief at a time when the LAPD was mired in scandals and charges of corruption. By the time he died of a heart attack in 1966, the officers in the LAPD were deemed to be among the best trained and highest paid in the country, and the structure and tactics of the department that Parker implemented as part of his “reform” were widely emulated by other police departments. A far-reaching part of this “reform” was Parker’s criminalization of and warfare in African American neighborhoods that he considered unlawful. As Mina Yang persuasively argues about Central Avenue, a vibrant mecca of jazz music and night life in South Los Angeles during the 1940s, “Increased police presence on the avenue transformed street life from a festive to nightmarish scene in only a few short years” (218). Yang credits the LAPD under Parker for the demise of Central Avenue and adds that “Its combative and despotic rule over street life in South Central and elsewhere in Los Angeles incurred costs and benefits that went far beyond the fate of a dozen nightclubs” (218). Although not explicitly underscored in Southland, the leadership of Parker that produced such results is important to our understanding of the role of the police in the novel before, during, and after the Watts rebellion. Responsible for coining the term “thin blue line,” Parker considered the role of the police “as a ‘containing element’—a thin line of blue which stands between the law-abiding members of society and the criminals who prey upon them” (Yang 220). As he saw “Los Angeles [as a] ‘white spot’ in a black national picture of corruption” (Wilson 37), Parker was not subtle about advocating his opinion that the “criminals” were most likely black—and sometimes Mexican—men. He once told an audience at a community relations conference: It’s estimated by 1970 that . . . 45% of the metropolitan area of Los Angeles will be Negro. . . . Now how are you going to live with that without law enforcement? This is the lesson that we refuse to recognize, that you can’t convert every person into a law abiding citizen. If you want any protection in your home and family in the future, you’re going to have to stop this abuse, but you’re going to have to get in and support a strong police department. If you don’t do that, come 1970 God help you! (qtd. in Yang 221) Parker’s blatant equating of Blackness and criminality permeated the LAPD’s treatment of the black community. The term “police brutality” was routinely used by African Americans during Parker’s tenure to refer to the discriminatory and violent tactics of the police that targeted black and Mexican men. However, because he saw African Americans in particular as inherent criminals, and because he was overzealous about containing the “enemy,” Parker justified his officers’ use of violence and force as he pushed them to fight crime “by all means at their disposal” (Wilson 17). Revealing his deep investment in the US imperialist strategy of containment during the Cold War both at home and abroad, Parker, a former Marine, fully embraced and instituted militarized methods of policing. One such example, which we see depicted in Southland when Curtis gets in trouble at school, was the physical differentiation and distance between the police and the residents. Before Parker, the police patrolled their assigned neighborhoods on foot. However, as Anthony Oberschall writes, “Parker took the police off the beat and put them into police cars” (332). It became common for the police to routinely cruise black neighborhoods in their armed vehicles actively looking for criminals—not crime. Not surprisingly, by the 1960s, the police car and uniform would come to symbolize a repressive armed force in the black community, as “the police in their uniforms seem[ed] like the troops of an occupying country to [African Americans]” (Raine, “Perception” 407). The LAPD under Parker was also the first to employ the military technology of using helicopters for aerial surveillance, and, as Davis states, “After the Watts Rebellion of 1965 this airborne effort became the cornerstone of a policing strategy for the entire inner city” (City 251-52). Evidencing the work of imperialist “police action” both at home and abroad, Parker was also made an honorary captain by South Korea’s national police shortly after the Korean War, even though he did not actually serve there (Moser 32; Wilson ix). Perhaps Parker’s most formidable legacy is his advocacy and defense for what he called “scientific policing”—what would come to be known as racial profiling (Widener 59). In 1955, he stated: “The demand that the police cease to consider race, color, and creed is an unrealistic demand. Identification is a police tool, not a police attitude” (qtd. in Wilson 162). As a part of this “tool,” Parker also maintained a thorough record of “criminals,” creating a knowledge base of “their past habits and methods” that he believed to be vital, as “[o]ur entire system of criminal justice rests upon the existence of this information” (Wilson 44). As Michelle Alexander and many other scholars have shown, racial profiling is not a practice of the past, nor has the LAPD stopped its record-keeping of what is now a sophisticated database of the majority of African American men and boys in South Los Angeles. The American Civil Liberties Union calls this database a “Black List,” and it is defended by the LAPD as a “tool for tracking gangs or ‘gang-related’ activity” (Alexander 136-37). Given this targeting and criminalization of young black men codified as “scientific policing” during Parker’s tenure, Curtis’s introduction to the police as a thirteen-year-old acts as an important omen and catalyst. For example, it prompts Alma to ask Frank, when Curtis is fifteen—the same age Frank was when he began working for Old Man Larabie—if Curtis can work at Frank’s store to keep him off the streets. It also inaugurates repeated harassment by the two police who were at Curtis’s junior high, as they are eager to catch Curtis in crime, even when he does nothing wrong. These encounters with the police confirm their preexisting perception of Curtis as a criminal and only a criminal. Their perception is antithetical to how Curtis is seen by Frank in the space of the store. Frank, who “loved the boy,” sees Curtis as “considerate, a listener, a well-reared boy,” possessing a “gift for people” (Revoyr 153-54). He finds Curtis “smart and responsible” (345) and, as shown by his will dated in 1964, planned to give the store to Curtis when he turned eighteen in the following year. The store and the police represent opposing forces in Curtis’s life, but this is a reality that Frank cannot fully fathom. We see this when Curtis is brutally beaten by one of the police in 1963, and he decides to “go see Mr. Sakai” and the store for refuge (215). Curtis does not tell Frank who beat him, so Frank assumes that it was “some other boys” and never suspects the police (155). In fact, seeking justice, Frank leaves the store to report the crime to a police officer, who happens to be the very same one who brutalized Curtis and laughs at Frank for caring about “just a little nigger punk” and states, “So? What do you want from me? Worker’s comp?” (155). This causes Frank to think of “Europe again. . . . And he wondered, not for the first time since he’d come back to the States, if he’d defeated or even recognized the enemy” (155). Even though the cop’s anti-black racism reminds Frank of his position as one who has been subjected to a war abroad and at home that has racialized him as an “enemy,” Frank still does not see that a war is being waged against Curtis and their neighborhood by the law enforcement officials who are charged to “protect and serve.”12 The fact that Curtis’s death is caused later by the police inside the store emphasizes the point that the store cannot provide Curtis the same protection that it did for Frank. Moreover, that Frank dies without ever knowing that it was the police who killed Curtis attests to his continued misrecognition of the “enemy.” It is not a trivial plot point, therefore, that Curtis and three other black youths die at the hands of the police during the 1965 Watts rebellion, which the novel refers to as “the war turned inward” (55). On top of the increased population, lack of resources, and enforced segregation, harassment and violence, such as that which Curtis experiences, were becoming so routine during Parker’s reign that many saw the Watts rebellion as a revolt against the police that had been a long time coming.13 When asked the open-ended question of what caused the rebellion, African Americans in South Los Angeles overwhelmingly cited the LAPD, with “42% nam[ing] police brutality, [and] 24% nam[ing] police methods or bad police treatment” (Ransford 193). Charlie Douglas, a fifteen-year-old resident of Watts, named Parker specifically as the reason: “Parker is no good at all. His cops take the Negro down to the station and work him over. This time they did it in the open and that’s why it started right here and didn’t stop” (qtd. in Moser 33). The incident to which Douglas refers was the stopping of Matthew Frye, an African American man, by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) on suspicion of drunk driving on the evening of 11 August 1965. The police alleged that a crowd of two hundred gathered not long after Frye was pulled over at 7:00 p.m. By the time the LAPD arrived at 7:23 p.m., it was reported that the crowd had grown to fifteen hundred to witness the interaction between Frye and the police, which now included Frye’s mother and brother. As tensions escalated, the CHP started riding on their motorcycles on sidewalks to break apart the crowd. In defense, those gathered began to throw things. One man who was there, Ralph Reese, told an interviewer afterward that it “became a real battle with the community defending themselves against an armed attack” (qtd. in Horne 56). If, as Gerald Horne sums up succinctly, “August 1965 marked the point when LA blacks decided no longer to tolerate misery” (40), the police—and the state—did everything in their power to suppress the revolt. Horne writes that on hand to oppose those who participated in the domestic insurrection in 1965 were “16,000 National Guard, Los Angeles Police Department, highway patrol, and other law enforcement officers; fewer personnel were used by the United States that same year to subdue Santo Domingo” (3). The actions by the police and the military personnel against those on the streets of Watts and nearby neighborhoods amounted to nothing short of an open war against African Americans, as Parker likened the protesters to the “Viet Cong,” and “the cops . . . [allegedly] found it desperately hard to tell friends from enemies” (Moser 33). Suggesting that the LAPD indeed declared a war on the streets of Watts in 1965, Southland affirms that “The police were like an army, and acted that way” (Revoyr 218). When Lyndon Johnson sent a federal team to assess the rebellion, one of its members, Roger Wilkins, reported that the “members [of the LAPD] had killed about thirty looters and many of them called their nightsticks ‘nigger sticks’” (qtd. in O’Reilly 99). Southland alludes to this sanctioned killing of black lives by the police during the rebellion and shows that the police action in Watts in 1965 was a climactic point in a war against Blackness. That is, the novel suggests that Watts was not a police action trying to maintain control of a population; it was part of a larger and ongoing war against blacks in a segregated, racialized, and criminalized community, a battle against black lives that were believed not to matter. The novel shows this not by focusing on protesters and participants in the rebellion but by depicting an unequal scenario of power wherein black youths are punished for the simple fact that they are black. On the last night of the rebellion, the two black youths who work at Frank’s store—Curtis and David—along with David’s younger brother and his friend, decide to protect the store. When Nick Lawson—the racist white cop responsible for beating up Curtis earlier and one of the two officers who was called by Curtis’s junior high—sees them outside, he suspects them of looting and orders them inside, presumably to beat them as he did Curtis before. Robert Thomas, who was also at Curtis’s junior high and had also been harassing Curtis, sees Lawson’s car parked outside the store and goes inside to check on Lawson. Lawson gets called away, and Thomas forces the boys inside the freezer in the store, locks it, leaves, and does not return, causing the youths to freeze to death. Worth noting here is that Thomas, unlike Lawson, is black, but his anti-black racism is just as trenchant as Lawson’s, if not more so. Embodying Parker’s mentality of us-versus-them, Thomas distinguishes himself from other African Americans in the neighborhood, even though he also grew up in South Los Angeles, as he “thought he was escaping them, blacks like them, by joining the [police] department” (Revoyr 136). Although he is not treated as an equal by his white LAPD colleagues, Thomas fully identifies with the white supremacist tactics of the department, especially ones that criminalize young African American men. He does not recognize the brutality against African Americans as racism but rather as a necessary containment of a criminal element that he sees as antithetical to himself. Thomas’s anti-black racism reaches its deadly pinnacle during the rebellion, as he permanently disavows his perceived notion of criminalized Blackness by locking up the black youths in the freezer. Significantly, Thomas’s anti-black racism reaches its murderous pitch inside the store when Frank is not there. Despite Frank’s warning for him to go home, Curtis decides to return and protect the store. Initially, he is joined by four youths: three black and one Japanese American, Akira Matsumoto. Akira is most likely modeled after the late controversial Japanese American activist Richard Aoki, whose middle name was Matsumoto. Emblematizing the small number of Japanese Americans in the 1960s who joined the sit-ins and organizations such as the Black Panther party, Akira is a strong activist character who, like Frank, feels a deep connection to the neighborhood.14 He had also worked at Frank’s store but quit to attend UCLA. Akira’s connection to and intimate knowledge of the store allow him to escape using the backdoor, so that all those who die in it are legibly black. Southland insists on the incommensurable condition of Blackness in the United States and the store as a proof of that incommensurability. Simply put, the store is a site of death only for the black characters. Although Thomas is ultimately responsible for locking up the youths, the store is the weapon that kills them. Because Curtis is Frank’s biological son, he is also Japanese American. However, his biracial identity is known only to Alma and Frank; he is seen as nothing but black by everyone in the novel, including himself. As such, it is his Blackness, and not his Japanese Americanness, that is the condition for Curtis’s suffering and death at the hands of the police in the space of the store. His Blackness also precludes him from inheriting the store from his biological nonblack father, even though he was “the best worker that Frank had ever had” (153) and “loved” (177) the store and thought that it was “the only place where either of them felt at peace” (348). Like the other youths, Curtis dies in the freezer, dehumanized and “almost cold to the touch as the slabs of meat” (315), after “huddl[ing] together like sheep” (306). Similar to Frank Wilderson’s claim that blacks “were never meant to be workers” in the political economy of white supremacy and are instead “meant to be warehoused and die. . . . like the cows” (238), Curtis is never meant to be the owner of a store in the neighborhood where he grew up. Even in a fictive realm, Curtis is unable to survive, and he is unable to exist as the inheritor of the interracial romance conceived inside the store. By thus highlighting this specific incomparability of Curtis’s Blackness, Southland ultimately concedes to the limits of solidarity in and through the store. The store in Southland during the Watts rebellion, therefore, signals the endpoint of a particular brand of Afro-Asian unity, as the murder of the boys causes Frank Sakai to leave the neighborhood altogether. For the Asian Americans in the novel’s present, including the Korean immigrants who now own the store, the year 1965 will be significant not because of the Watts rebellion but for the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, which overturned the racist 1924 Immigration Act and dramatically increased immigration from Asia, making Asian Americans the fastest growing minority in the country. Presaging this historical divergence and the 1992 uprising, the novel intimates that the possibility of the store as a coalitional space had already ended in the novel by 1965. Furthermore, for the black characters in the novel for whom the store is not a gift but a site of death, 1965 signals a turning point for the worse. Derek Broadnax, Curtis’s friend and a brother of Curtis’s girlfriend Angela, who had decided to go home instead of going with Curtis to protect the store, dies of a drug overdose in the early 1990s. Angela tells Lanier later that he started using “[i]n the sixties. After Watts. That messed him up in ways he never recovered from” (Revoyr 175). Cory, Curtis’s younger half-brother who worshipped him, tries to escape the memory of Watts by joining the army and is “killed in Vietnam” (66). Just as the Watts Rebellion was often likened to the war in Vietnam—both by the police and the protesters—the two Martindale brothers are connected in death by US imperialism at home and abroad.15 Given the persistent condition of violence, poverty, and neglect in South Los Angeles in the novel’s post-1992 present, the gifting of the $38,000 from Frank’s store to James Lanier’s after-school program at the Marcus Garvey Community Center in Crenshaw at the end of Southland is both fitting and grossly inadequate, much like the scholarship money during the Dallas boycott mentioned earlier in this essay.16 Lanier—and not Akira, who has been living in Japan since late 1965—is represented in the novel as being the closest to a survivor of what happened in the store during the Watts rebellion. He remembers the police violence during the 1960s, as “he’d sliced his face on the broken fence” while he was trying to see what was happening to Curtis as Lawson was brutally beating Curtis in 1963 (215). This violence is memorialized on his body as a scar on his face and is a burden that Jackie does not share. However, remembering the history behind that scar is not something that is restricted to its bearer. In the end, Lanier’s scar as a testimony to police brutality and empire, which the money from Frank’s store cannot make disappear, should be the starting point for our overdue critique of imperial spaces designated as war zones. This essay has gone through many iterations, and many smart readers have made this final version possible. They include Iyko Day, Isabela Seong Leong Quintana, Jane Hwang Degenhardt, Asha Nadkarni, Wesley Yu, Claudia Castañeda, and Ramón Solórzano, Jr. For reading and commenting on every single version of the paper and more, I thank Moon-Kie Jung. I would also like to thank MELUS’s anonymous reviewers and Gary Totten for their helpful feedback. Footnotes 1. The tu-ro-tu style exemplifies the afterlife of Japanese and US imperial wars in Korea. For a study of the political aspect of tu-ro-tu, which is both beloved and lampooned in South Korea, see Min Jung Son. 2. These incidents include boycotts in major US cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, and the shooting deaths of many Korean merchants. For a study of the boycotts in New York City, see Claire Kim. For a detailed study of the 1992 LA uprising, see Edward T. Chang and Jeannette Diaz-Veizades. For an illuminating study on the significance of Latasha Harlins’s murder to the 1992 LA uprising, see Brenda E. Stevenson. 3. In talking about racial contradiction, Lisa Lowe stresses the importance of thinking of contradictions in the plural, such as racial and gender contradictions. 4. For a critique of coalitional politics that do not address the structural inequalities in capitalism and imperialism, see Jared Sexton. 5. See Greg Howard (“Black”) and Gordon Jackson for the photographs from the scholarship ceremony. Notably, the Dallas Morning News, which has the largest circulation in Dallas, did not report on the scholarship event even though it had been covering the boycott. 6. See Mike Davis (City 304-06) and Helen Heran Jun (101-08) for an explanation on the link between the global restricting of the US economy and its effects on black communities. 7. On the systemic and deliberate deinvestment in the black communities by the state, see João H. Costa Vargas (36) and Melvin L. Oliver et al. (122-25). On the correlation between high poverty rates in predominantly black neighborhoods and the lack of supermarkets there, see Shannon N. Zenk et al. 8. See Tamara K. Nopper on the US governmental support for Korean businesses. For the specific example of the lucrative profit of corporations from Asian-immigrant-owned gas stations in urban areas, see Ivan Hubert Light and Edna Bonacich, who report that the Shell corporation claims that “The inner-city gas stations are the most profitable ones Shell owns” (381). 9. The neighborhood known as Area #9, where Diamond Shamrock is located, was 74.9 percent black and 20.4 percent Latina/o in 2008, and its per capita income was $10,446. See “Area.” 10. Scholars who argue against the notion that the Japanese American internment during World War II was an isolated event restricted to the war include Roger Daniels, Gary Okihiro and David Drummond, and Colleen Lye. On the Japanese American experience during World War II in the context of a struggle between two empires, see Eiichiro Azuma. 11. Alma eventually tells Frank that Curtis is his son, although the novel does not specify when. 12. Frank’s reliance on the police mirrors, to a small degree, the attitude of the storeowners in and around Watts, who were pro-police and pro-Parker. See Walter J. Raine (Los Angeles). 13. An important factor leading up to the Watts rebellion is that Los Angeles passed Proposition 14 in the election of 1964, which repealed the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Seen as a measure to promote racial segregation, the white population of Los Angeles voted in favor of it in the 80-90 percent range. The African American population voted against it in the 90 percent range. See Anthony Oberschall (329) and Gerald Horne (37). 14. See Diane C. Fujino regarding the influence of the black liberation movement on Japanese American radicalism. For ties between the Asian American movement and Black Power and anti-war movements, see Daryl J. Maeda. 15. For analyses that draw a connection between Watts and Vietnam, see Horne (64) and Huey P. Newton (125). 16. 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Catching Hell in the City of Angels: Life and Meanings of Blackness in South Central Los Angeles . U of Minnesota P , 2006 . Widener Daniel. Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles . Duke UP , 2010 . Wilderson Frank III . “ Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society? ” Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture , vol. 9 , no. 2 , 2003 , pp. 225 – 40 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Wilson O. W. Parker on Police . Charles C. Thomas Publishers , 1957 . Yang Mina. “ A Thin Blue Line Down Central Avenue: The LAPD and the Demise of a Musical Hub .” Black Music Research Journal , vol. 22 , no. 2 , 2002 , pp. 217 – 39 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Zenk Shannon N. , et al. “ Neighborhood Racial Composition, Neighborhood Poverty, and the Spatial Accessibility of Supermarkets in Metropolitan Detroit .” American Journal of Public Health , vol. 95 , no. 4 , 2005 , pp. 660 – 67 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed © MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States Oxford University Press

The Asian-Owned Store and the Incommensurable Histories of War in Narratives of the City

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© MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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Abstract

Abstract This essay reads the Asian-owned store as an analytical category along with the recurring motif of war in narratives of the inner city. Eschewing the common trope of the “black-Korean conflict” or a liberal yearning for cross-racial coalition, I show that the Asian-owned store in predominantly black neighborhoods is a multivalent site that reveals incommensurable histories of various wars waged by the US empire-state that deliberately creates unequal spaces that are racialized as either “ghetto” or “war zone.” Through a discussion of a boycott of a Korean-owned store in Dallas in 2012 along with a close reading of Nina Revoyr’s Southland (2003), which provides a genealogy of the anti-Japanese racism in Los Angeles during World War II and the anti-black racism and police brutality during the Cold War that erupted in the Watts rebellion in 1965, I ultimately argue that the “domestic” space of the store provides a critical lens through which we can chart the flexible strategies of US imperialism at home and abroad. In a turn that is both shocking and anticlimactic in the “Clarifications” episode in season 5 of the HBO series The Wire, Omar Little, a principled outlaw who has eluded multiple hits on his life by the drug dealers he robs, is gunned down by a small boy in a convenience store in a Baltimore beset by the War on Drugs. Two scenes earlier, surrounded by boarded-up houses and sounds of sirens and barking dogs, Omar is seen standing at a street corner, openly declaring war on his rival. When he returns to the screen, he is entering the store, still wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying his customary shotgun. The door chime signals the entrance into a space of marked difference, as street noises are replaced by distinctly “Asian” music, which turns out to be a Korean tu-ro-tu song.1 The Asian woman on the other side of a plexiglass barricade further marks the space as foreign but, as Omar’s casual and relaxed demeanor suggests, also familiar. The spatial, sonic, and bodily juxtapositions suggest the store as a space apart from the war zone of the poor black Baltimore neighborhoods the show depicts. Then, abruptly, with Omar’s shooting, it is not. Rather than exploring the complexities posed by the store in a neighborhood that is portrayed as a war zone and the question of why it might be considered a befitting place for the death of one of its central characters, The Wire relies on a reductive depiction of the store as the embodiment of the so-called “black-Korean conflict.” By the time the show aired in the 2000s, the Korean-owned store in poor black urban neighborhoods was already a widely recognized sight/site of conflict and violence between Korean storeowners and black residents. This mode of representation became common in the 1990s through films, television shows, popular music, news coverage, political commentary, and academic writing that reflected and were fueled by numerous incidents of tension, including the shooting death of Latasha Harlins by the Korean storeowner Soon-Ja Du and the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.2 In these narratives, the store was depicted as a place of inevitable conflict and violence where Korean merchants and black customers were always already at odds with each other, not only economically but also racially. Omar’s death scene pivots on this familiarity, as we initially see only Omar and the Korean storekeeper in a physical space that is recognizable from previous representations of conflict, and again, after the fatal gunshot, as we see a black boy momentarily pointing his gun toward a shrieking Korean woman before running out of the store. The show employs the absent presence of the black-Korean conflict trope in order to render Omar’s death scene as both mundane and shocking. The scene implies that what is out of the ordinary is that the conflict is not between the Korean storeowner and the black customers. The ostensibly anomalous nature of this plot point is highlighted later in the episode, as one of the onlookers outside the crime scene of the store relays the circulating rumor that Omar was trying to “rob them Koreans and got killed.” Although obviously false, the rumor is not completely out of line with the show’s characterization of the store. The show itself reproduces and repeats the popular understanding of the store as a site of inevitable black-Korean conflict even as it tries to move away from it. In its clichéd representation of the Korean-owned store—and the indelibly foreign store owner—The Wire misses an opportunity to tease out a connection between the ideological function of the Asian-owned store and the metaphorical use of war in narratives about mostly black neighborhoods. In this way, the show exemplifies a common approach in mainstream narratives that employs the metaphor of war to describe life in the “inner city” while reducing the Asian-owned store to a shorthand for the black-Korean conflict, thereby disengaging it from the larger narrative of this type of war. In contrast to this mode of representation, we might think of the store as an analytic category with which to question the recurring motif of war that describes the location of the store. Building on Helen Jun’s argument that “the figure of the Korean immigrant merchant needs to be read as both an empirical fact and a representational image” (108) or a “narrative mechanism” (109), we might similarly read the Asian-owned store by paying careful attention to how it figures into different narratives that liken racialized conditions of urban poverty to those of war. That is, rather than assume that the Asian-owned store is an inevitable site of conflict, we might think about how it is used to justify equating urban neighborhoods to war zones as a foregone conclusion. Doing this requires that we think about how space is racialized and broaden our scope to see the workings of the United States as an empire-state. In particular, if, as sociologist Moon-Kie Jung argues, the “hierarchical differentiation of space and the hierarchical differentiation of people [are] both immanent and foundational to empire-state formation” (67), the Asian-owned store—run by immigrants and frequented by those who do not have the option or the means to go elsewhere—and the surrounding neighborhood stand as a testament to the organization and operation of the US empire-state. Seen this way, the Asian-owned store becomes a potential site of critique of empire. Situated in a racialized and abjected space out of the bounds of civil society, the Asian-owned store mediates what Lisa Lowe articulates as a “racial contradiction by which the state claims to be a democratic body in which all subjects are granted membership, while racial, ethnic, and immigrant subjects continue to be disenfranchised and excluded from political participation in that state” (164).3 Moreover, the store can engender a critique of American exceptionalism that does not see conditions of inequality and injustice at home as connected to imperialism and American wars abroad. Informed by Amy Kaplan’s argument that “boundaries between the domestic and the foreign, between ‘at home’ and ‘abroad’” are “ever-shifting,” we might think of domestic spaces described as war zones as part of the sprawling “anarchy of empire,” not limited to battlefields “over there” (1). Nina Revoyr’s novel Southland (2003) charts such shifting workings of empire both at home and abroad by narrating the history of an Asian-owned store in South Los Angeles from World War II to 1994. Through its focus on history, the novel shows the incommensurability of the histories of different imperial subjects, highlighting in particular the specificities of state-sanctioned, anti-black racism. The lesson to be gained, the novel insists, is not to make incommensurable histories commensurable or coalitional but to question our historical understanding of places that are deemed war zones, particularly in the context of the ongoing and deadly anti-black state violence in the United States and the state’s endless wars abroad. In this manner, the novel’s representation of the store can be read as not only complicating the notion that the store is an inevitable site of conflict but also intervening in the desire to renarrate it as a possible site of reconciliation.4 The latter mode of representing the store—the less vocal and visible but nonetheless insistent twin of the black-Korean conflict—emblematizes the liberal yearning for resolution through cross-racial coalition and also takes the focus away from empire. Seen in calls for solidarity as a means of damage control after protests, such as the 2012 boycott of a Korean-owned store in South Dallas discussed below, the attempt to renarrate the store as a site of coalition underscores what is at stake in Southland’s contrasting narrative of the store and its neighborhood. The Store as Warfare / War Zone Although a common phenomenon in US popular culture in the 1980s and 1990s, boycotts of Asian-owned stores in predominantly black neighborhoods seldom made national news in the 2000s and 2010s. An exception occurred in South Dallas in 2012, possibly the most recent boycott of its kind to receive national attention. On 9 December 2011, Jeffery Muhammad, a local minister of the Nation of Islam, and Thomas Pak, the Korean American owner of the Diamond Shamrock gas station and convenience store in South Dallas, got into a heated argument over the use of a debit card as a method of payment. Racial epithets were exchanged, and Muhammad left the store in a fury. Shortly after the incident, Muhammad reached out to the black leaders in the community, many of whom were Christian, to form the United South Dallas Coalition that would become the public face of an ensuing boycott. At a rally outside the store in late December, Muhammad told the gathered crowd: “This is about economic warfare. And they [the Koreans] have declared war on our community” (Howard, “How”). With that pronouncement, which arguably relied on the ubiquity of the Korean-owned store in black neighborhoods and popular representations of it, the boycott commenced and lasted for almost half a year, demanding nothing less than a permanent closure of the store. In the meantime, with the twentieth anniversary of the 1992 LA uprising looming, several key leaders in the Dallas Korean American community acted expeditiously to mitigate the boycott once it began. They counseled Pak to apologize publicly, told him to keep the store open, and downplayed his use of the racial epithet as an “individual misunderstanding” that should not be blown up as a racial incident (Kim, “Dallas”). Most crucially, they formed their own coalition with the black community, reaching out, in some cases, to the same people that Muhammad sought out. As the culmination of these efforts, the coalitional Global Unified Educational Scholarship Society (GUESS) was formed to sponsor a joint annual scholarship for African American high school students. Responding to the boycott outside the store, GUESS sought to redefine the space of the store by staging the scholarship award ceremony there. This was commemorated by a photograph in various local newspapers.5 Notably excluded from the picture were the black protesters outside. In their place were Thomas Pak and black and Korean leaders holding up oversized checks next to a smiling Bria Bradshaw, an African American high school senior who was the first—and to date the only—recipient of the GUESS scholarship. This photograph taken inside the cramped space of the store, with banners advertising beer and cigarettes in the background, redefined the store from being an inevitable site of interracial conflict to a space that enabled and fostered coalitional politics by occluding what was happening outside. The South Dallas boycott and the damage control done afterward emphasize the ways in which a particular historical understanding of the store is critical to how one defines coalition. Even though what inspired both the intraracial and the interracial coalitional groups was the familiarity of the store as a site of conflict, that familiarity did not mean similarity. Korean storeowners and African American customers who live in the neighborhoods where these stores exist are inextricably linked together in the historical moment of US empire in late capitalism. In the wake of the global restructuring of the US economy in the 1970s and 1980s, black neighborhoods in big cities such as Los Angeles and Dallas suffered the most from deindustrialization and the outsourcing of jobs and resources.6 As the levels of joblessness, poverty, and crime rose, big corporate chains, such as supermarkets, refused to invest in low-income areas with predominantly black—and increasingly Latina/o—residents.7 Small businesses, such as liquor and convenience stores, often owned by Korean immigrants, found a niche and profit in the deliberately created spaces that are described by scholars as “negative space” (Song 27) and “media and data black hole[s]” (Davis, Ecology 392) and racialized in popular parlance as the “ghetto.”8 Korean merchants’ and black and brown customers’ histories actually intersect at the site of the store. However, as we see in charges of “economic warfare” by Muhammad (Howard, “How”), and as Southland demonstrates, this intersection does not mean that the histories of each group are commensurable. Nowhere is their incommensurability made clearer than when the metaphor of war is used to describe the material condition of places such as South Dallas, which in 2008 was almost 85 percent black and Latina/o, with a per capita income of $13, 558.9 Like Muhammad, Pak also took up the war metaphor to describe his store. In the conservative-leaning Dallas Morning News, the leading newspaper in the city, Pak declared, “Every day is like a war zone. I see all kinds of people. Drug addicts, homeless people” (Thompson, “Racial”). For him, however, the “war zone” was geographically and temporally circumscribed; at the end of “every day,” he went home to Coppell, a semi-affluent suburb. Furthermore, as the mainstream media swung to his side, Pak’s biography as a hard-working immigrant who came to the United States with his family as a teenager, joined the National Guard, and became a naturalized citizen was highlighted, casting a heroic sheen on his decision to operate a store in such a dangerous location. By contrast, Muhammad’s discourse about and boycott of that same store using the analogy of war only registered as a “racist screed” and a “Nation of Islam operation” (Howard, “How”). Muhammad’s and Pak’s uses of the metaphor of war reveal the fundamental difference between the two opposing groups of the boycott—those who wanted the store gone and those who wanted to keep it open. The metaphor of war, so common in reference to the black poor, illuminates what the scholarship and the photograph attempt to hide—namely, the fundamental and irreconcilable difference between the black and Korean experiences in the same space and in the same historical moment. As a site integral to the space marked as a “war zone,” the Korean-owned store makes possible and sustains the state-sanctioned capitalist narrative of immigrant success promoted in the mainstream media, which has been historically used to justify anti-black racism. In other words, assimilationist stories such as Pak’s, punctuated with his claim, “I’m not a racist. I’m just trying to follow the American dream” (Thompson, “Racial”), promote exceptionalist Asian American immigration narratives of hard work and success. When coupled with the metaphor of war, in which “drug addicts” and “homeless people,” rather than poverty and uneven distribution of wealth and resources, are the culpable agents of that war, the stories also act to erase black suffering. That is, the staged photograph and the scholarship posit the store as a space of equanimity and opportunity even in the midst of a war zone, which proves that all could have access to the American Dream. Those who are excluded are silenced, made irrelevant, or, worse, vilified for their own exclusion. Furthermore, their disagreements notwithstanding, Pak’s and Muhammad’s characterizations of the store as warfare or located in a war zone reveal their shared insular understanding of the metaphor of war that does not factor in the role of the US empire-state. Their characterizations not only perpetuate the notion of “home” and “abroad” as fixed binaries but also, more importantly, maintain a notion of the domestic that is separate from empire and its warfare. Rather than acquiescing to the dominant definition of war zones that criminalizes mostly black and brown residents or heeding the myopic claim of economic warfare that views Korean immigrants as agents of exploitation, then, we must question the role of the US empire-state in the formation of domestic war zones. Unlike most dominant representations, Southland emphasizes the need for a historical understanding of the store and of the metaphor of war. This approach enables the novel to delineate the store as a complex site that reveals incommensurable histories and unequal relationships that are produced in and around it. In particular, the novel presents interracial conflicts and possible cross-racial coalitions within the store as products of various forms of war waged by the US empire. Southland thus imagines the space of the store as a multivalent site haunted by not just the 1992 Los Angeles uprising but also other violent and exclusionary past practices of US imperialism, such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the police violence that culminated in the 1965 Watts rebellion. This allows us to see urban civil unrests such as the LA uprising and the Watts rebellion as both a part of imperial warfare and as resistance to it. Through a close reading of the space of the Asian-owned store in Revoyr’s novel, we can see that the “domestic” space of the store provides a critical lens through which we can chart the workings of US imperialism both at home and abroad. The Store as a Gift in Southland Given that the ten-year anniversary of the 1992 LA uprising would have just preceded its publication year in 2003, it is significant that Southland begins with the death of its protagonist, Frank Sakai, in the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake in Southern California in 1994. As Nancy Abelmann and John Lie state, “Only the 1994 Southern California Earthquake seemed to shake the public amnesia regarding the 1992 Los Angeles riots” (75). Just as this natural disaster and its destruction reminded the residents of Los Angeles about the “most destructive urban riot that has ever occurred in the United States” (Kim and Kim, “Multiracial” 25), Frank’s granddaughter Jackie is jolted out of her inherited apathy as she is charged with the task of recollecting the past after Frank’s death. Standing in for the Angelinos who “watched the ’92 riots unfold on TV. . . . horrified and scared” as reporters raised the alarm that “‘it’ was coming closer to ‘us’” (Revoyr 84), Jackie is introduced in the novel as belonging to the group of “us” who needed a natural disaster to remember what had happened two years prior, who believed that their lives had no connection to the uprising. What forces Jackie to see that connection is a corner store in the Crenshaw neighborhood in South Los Angeles that, in the novel’s present, is charred and boarded up from the 1992 uprising. As a third-year law student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) who had “grown up on the quiet, tree-lined streets of Torrance” (15), Jackie’s knowledge of the store, which Frank owned and operated from World War II until the Watts rebellion in 1965, is limited by her family’s disavowal of it and her casually racist dismissal of Frank’s old neighborhood as a “black ghetto”: It was one of the many parts of her family’s past that Jackie’s mother had never discussed. Before . . . medical school, Rose [Jackie’s mother and Frank’s daughter] and the rest of the family had lived in the Crenshaw district, where Frank owned and managed a little corner market. Jackie didn’t know very much about that era—just that they left sometime in the sixties, after the riots down in Watts. As for Crenshaw itself, Frank’s boyhood home, she’d only driven through it—by mistake mostly, and once or twice on purpose, when she was trying to avoid the traffic on the freeway. It was pretty much a black ghetto, as far as she could tell. (20) Fighting her aversion, Jackie is compelled to visit the Crenshaw neighborhood when she finds Frank’s unofficial will, dated in 1964, leaving the store to someone unknown to the Sakai family named Curtis Martindale. As Frank had sold the store after the rebellion in 1965, Jackie also finds a box marked “store” with $38,000 in cash inside. In trying to find and give the money to Curtis Martindale, Jackie comes across James Lanier, Curtis’s cousin by marriage, who has lived in the Crenshaw district all his life. Lanier tells Jackie that Curtis, who was African American like Lanier, died mysteriously in Frank’s store during the Watts rebellion along with three other black youths. Through Jackie and Lanier’s joint effort to figure out the answers behind Curtis’s death, the novel provides a genealogy of Frank’s store both as a gift and a site of death, anticipating its demise in the 1992 uprising. Employing the genre of mystery and the narrative device of a naïve progeny who does not know her past, the novel takes on the task of excavating the forgotten history of the store. Specifically, the novel seems interested in wresting the store from the black-Korean conflict trope as it shifts the focus from the most current owners, who are Korean, to Nisei Frank. Contrary to the criticism of many Korean immigrant storeowners that only did business in neighborhoods that were predominantly black but did not live there, Frank is said to have grown up in the Angeles Mesa area of the Crenshaw district where the store is situated. Furthermore, the original owner of the store in the novel is not Frank but a black character named Old Man Larabie, who “practically gave [the store] to him, almost as a gift” (26). By thus setting up the store as a gift, Southland emphasizes that the story of Frank’s store is not an Asian American immigrant history but rather the history of an interracial neighborhood and its coalitional past. Unlike the coalitional politics of the African American and Korean American leaders during the Dallas boycott, Southland’s vision of a coalitional past is motivated by anti-racism and resistance to the US empire-state, which structures the store and the people’s choices around it. For instance, that Frank’s family lives in the Angeles Mesa area in the interwar period can be attributed to the historical fact of racial segregation of nonwhite populations and the production of hierarchized, unequal spaces in Los Angeles in the early 1900s. As Scott Kurashige shows, “Los Angeles was one of the first cities to adopt zoning ordinances to define the character of neighborhoods” in the interwar era (26), which was initially a class-based effort but allowed for racial covenants with exclusionary language such as “any portion of said premises [cannot be sold] to any person of African, Chinese or Japanese descent” (27). The history of nonwhite populations such as Japanese Americans and African Americans living in close proximity to one another in Los Angeles prior to World War II speaks to the concerted effort to maintain the so-called racial purity of certain parts of the city and to justify preferential development of and investment in them. It also proves the Crenshaw district and the surrounding South Los Angeles to be imperial and differentiated spaces. If the proximity and interactions between African Americans and Japanese Americans in Southland—and in history—are the results of racist spatial organization in empire, they are also a testament to choices that were deliberately made. Mirroring this, Frank’s closest friend is African American, and most of his neighborhood friends are African American or Nisei. Additionally, by the time Frank is fifteen in 1939, he is said to be “working for Larabie” (Revoyr 92), the aforementioned African American storeowner. Rather than a place of simple market exchange, the store is deemed to be interchangeable with Larabie, as working for Larabie is equated with working at the store. That Frank grows up to have an affability similar to the avuncular Larabie maintains the store as a site of cross-racial congenial relationship. In this way, Frank’s employment at the store prior to World War II prefigures the metaphor of the store as a gift and a place of debt, apart from the praxis of US empire. As many scholars argue, the forced internment during World War II was not an anomaly but a part of entrenched racism against Japanese Americans in the early twentieth century, all of which might be best understood not as domestic but as interimperial actions on the part of the United States.10 It is not a coincidence that Frank is born in the United States in 1924, for example, as the Immigration Act of 1924, which drastically proscribed immigration from Asia, aimed to curb Japanese immigration in particular. Preceded by Alien Land Laws in California that prohibited the Issei from owning land and the Supreme Court decision in Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922), which solidified the status of Japanese immigrants as aliens ineligible for citizenship, the Immigration Act of 1924 was considered by Japan to be a culminating “cause for national humiliation” (Ngai 49). However, even as the Immigration Act reduced the number of Japanese immigrants, anti-Japanese racism did not abate, especially in California. In fact, Scott Kurashige argues that Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron was instrumental in fomenting the frenzied argument for the forcible removal of Japanese Americans during World War II and that his main target was the American-born Nisei, such as Frank, not the “alien” Issei, whom Bowron claimed were “far less dangerous than any of the American born Japanese” (120). Given this history, Larabie’s choice to hire Frank distinguishes him from the majority of Americans living on the West Coast, who harbored anti-Nisei racism and overwhelmingly supported the internment. More importantly, it establishes the store as a place apart from empire. As a result of his relationship to the store, Frank sees it as an exception, a salve to the anti-Japanese racism of the World War II period that justified the existence of concentration camps in places such as Manzanar. When Frank returns to the neighborhood after the war, Old Man Larabie hires him again and eventually sells him the store at a drastically reduced price. This opportunity contrasts with not only the open hostility and discrimination by mostly white Americans against Japanese Americans after the war that preclude Frank from working elsewhere but also the state-sanctioned brutality against Japanese Americans during the war that afflicts each member of Frank’s family. Frank’s Issei father, Kazuo, for example, dies at the hands of the US army officials who accuse him of disloyalty, and Frank’s sister becomes pregnant while in the concentration camps and dies in childbirth. Frank, like many Nisei men, joins the segregated 442nd battalion, “the most decorated unit in American history” (Revoyr 120), but his enlistment does not afford him much protection from state-sanctioned racism, as the Nisei men are considered “expendable” and sent on suicidal missions (116). This devaluation of Japanese American lives, combined with the racist society to which Frank returns, causes Frank to tell the six-year-old Jackie later in his life that his war experience “didn’t make any difference” (207). The lack of comfort that Frank derives from his identification with the state as a solider is in direct contrast to the opportunity he is given through the store after being barred from equal participation in the dominant white society. Consequently, he thrives in the store, and the store equally thrives thanks to Frank’s effort and the postwar economic boom. In contrast to its boarded-up façade in 1994, the store acts as a “gathering place” in the neighborhood, encouraged by the sitting places outside that Frank has provided (121). He rewards the neighborhood children for good grades and, along with the store, becomes an integral part of the neighborhood that is still mostly black and Japanese American. Through all this, we are told that “Frank never forgot that his store had a reason; that his good fortune had been someone else’s gift” (121). Thus, what started “his gangrened heart . . . beginning to heal” (122) from the trauma of war was “the store, the children, the company of people” (121). Even more significantly, the store plays a key role in Frank’s romance with Alma Sam, a young black woman, who further enables Frank’s healing process from the war: “For four years, since the start of the war, he’d seen nothing but carnage, blood, and sorrow. And now [with Alma] he . . . discovered in himself, something fresh and untouched, still capable of wonder” (333-34). The only place that fosters Frank and Alma’s union, unknown to anyone else, is the space of the “closed, quiet store” (332). For Frank, in particular, the inside of the store functions as a private space separate from “outside,” which he automatically links with war. When explaining why the two lovers never met anywhere outside of the store, the novel remarks that even though they fantasized about taking trips together, Frank “didn’t really want this—every place outside of the city, whether country, marsh, desert, or mountain was, in his mind, the landscape of war. . . . So they contented themselves with their time in the store” (334). That is, for Frank, the store exists as a sanctuary from war, both abroad and at home—an idealistic place of possibility of his and Alma’s interracial union and an extension of Larabie’s generosity and now Alma’s love—wholly separate from the workings of the empire-state. Extending the metaphor of the store as a gift, Frank thinks of Alma’s nightly visit to the store as “like a generous gift” (333). However, if the store has such a sheltering function for Frank, it does not for Alma nor, as will be shown in the next section, for Curtis Martindale, who is Alma and Frank’s son. Frank’s view of the store as separate from the political, legal, and economic reaches of empire proves to be not just illusive but also injurious for Alma. When Alma feels as though “[s]he’d finally found a home in the world” (333), she is not thinking about the store as “home” in the same way that Frank sees it as a “gift.” As an aspiring teacher who works as a domestic worker and has to bear “the indignation of having to be polite to a [white] woman she hated; of washing her husband’s stinking clothes; of being searched every night for stolen goods before she left for home” (277), Alma does not have the luxury of feeling protected from the dominant anti-black racism in her place of employment as Frank does. Alma’s notion of “home” is tied to her relationship with Frank and the potential of their love, particularly in carving out a home of their own through marriage. In contrast, Frank’s insular understanding of the store as a haven from all the complexities of the “outside” causes him to hesitate momentarily when Alma brings up marriage: “If it was true that he wanted to bring their love into the daylight, to be with her forever, it was also true that, at least for a moment, the thought of it had scared him” (335). For Frank, Alma’s proposal of marriage signals something antithetical to the comforts of the store, to his notion of “home.” He does not realize that this home is inextricable from the war of anti-black racism and sexism that structures Alma’s life, with which he is momentarily “scared” to be burdened. Frank and Alma are thus separated in the end by Frank’s inability to understand their intersecting differences of race, class, and gender, which are highlighted by their differing relationships to the store. Frank—and the store—is unable to do for Alma what Old Man Larabie did for Frank by acting in opposition to the reigning anti-Japanese racism during World War II. After their argument about marriage, Frank waits two weeks before going to see Alma at her house for the first time. By that point, Alma, pregnant with Curtis, has already left for Oakland to live with her sister. When Alma comes back to the Angeles Mesa neighborhood, she does so with a husband, whom a young Curtis believes is his father. Just as the store was a secret between Alma and Frank, no one else—including Alma’s husband, who is African American—knows Curtis is biracial.11 Frank hires Curtis as a favor to Alma and eventually decides to leave the store to him, but the store symbolizes a debt that Frank cannot repay. Just as the store could not be sustained as a home for Alma, Curtis cannot be its owner. What permanently prevents Frank from gifting the store to Curtis is also that which finally destroys the fantasy that the inside of the store can be separated from the “landscape of war” that haunts Frank (334). Curtis’s death in the Watts rebellion of 1965 seals the store as a site structured by wars of the racist empire-state that cannot be reclaimed through a feel-good narrative of black-Japanese solidarity or interracial romance. The Watts Rebellion and the Store as a Site of Death Just as Southland likens the destruction from the 1992 LA uprising with that of the natural disaster of an earthquake (57), the novel uses the metaphor of a storm to describe the Watts rebellion in 1965 (218, 302, 345). If, as Lynn Itakagi writes, “Protest disrupts the violence of the status quo” (xi), the novel’s comparison of the two protests to natural disasters that shake up business as usual is quite fitting. In line with the novel’s shared use of the metaphor of natural disasters, several of its characters make a connection between “The Watts uprising—’65” (64) and “[t]he ’92 uprising” (86). Significantly, all such characters are African American. No one in Frank’s family or any of the Japanese American—or other Asian American—characters make such a connection. Moreover, aside from a minor character named Kenji Hirano who moves in and out of sanity, none of the Japanese American characters living in Los Angeles in 1994 knows about the deaths of the four youths in Frank’s store during the Watts rebellion. As such, the history of the store during the rebellion becomes an important critique of who remembers the protests that challenge the “violence of the status quo” and how. The novel thus guides us to consider the lessons of Watts when we think about not only the 1992 uprising—to which the novel does not devote much actual narrative space—but also other subsequent events of protest and war. Through the excavation of the forgotten and unresolved deaths of the youths at the hands of the police, in particular, Southland argues for how and why incommensurable histories of wars, as unequal and irreconcilable as they are, must be remembered. To understand the lessons of the Watts rebellion, we first need to recognize the contradictions that abounded in post-World War II Los Angeles. As Mike Davis explains, during this period, Los Angeles had “seven large tire and auto plants, ranked second only to Detroit and Akron in the assembly of cars and tires. Three major steel and aluminum mills evoked fiery images of Pittsburgh, while Southeast L.A. surpassed Houston in the production of oil drilling machinery.” However, he continues, “this blue-collar version of the Southern California dream was reserved strictly for whites,” as the city’s “cotton curtain” separated the segregated neighborhoods in South Los Angeles, where people of color lived, from mostly white neighborhoods and the “white-controlled job base” (“L.A.” 61). In other words, post-World War II Los Angeles was a place of industrial boom and economic opportunities and glaring racism that spatially organized the city. Nonetheless, drawn by the climate and fleeing racial violence, African Americans, mostly from the South, migrated to Los Angeles in large numbers in the first half of the twentieth century. The African American population doubled during World War II and, as David Widener shows, rose from “133,082 in 1946 (up from 63,774 in 1940) to 171,209 by 1950. . . . [and] to 334,916 by 1960.” This means that African Americans made up only 3 percent of the city’s population in 1940, but by “1960, more than one out of every eight residents of the city would be an African American” (57). This population was largely segregated in South Los Angeles, and while the rest of the city thrived in a “full-employment economy,” many African Americans there were disproportionately unemployed (Davis, “L.A.” 61). Southland’s narrator alludes to this issue by noting that, by 1961, when Curtis is thirteen years old, Crenshaw, which “hadn’t even been city when [Alma] first arrived, years before[,] . . . was city now, or getting there, crowded and teeming with tension” (Revoyr 124), and “[i]ncreasingly, the parents of Curtis’s friends were unemployed, or barely making it, or vanishing altogether” (125). If the adults in South Los Angeles were thus affected by the racist economy, the situation for young people was even more precarious. As Robert M. Fogelson wrote in 1967, “approximately one Negro in four who graduates from high school in southcentral Los Angeles cannot find employment . . . and many others must settle for menial jobs” (355). Correspondingly, Davis, echoing many others, argues that the burgeoning of the “counter-economy of drug dealing and youth crime” must be understood in the context of the historical “deterioration in the labor-market position of young Black men” (City 306). Thus, in Southland, Alma, who is a teacher by the 1960s, worries that Curtis will meet the same fate as “[s]everal of her former students [who] were in prison now, a couple of [whom] were dead” (Revoyr 124). Alma is particularly worried when, as an eighth-grader in 1961, Curtis is caught with some friends who vandalized school property. The novel characterizes what the boys did as “childish fare” (122): they broke into the school after hours and spray-painted walls and lockers with puerile descriptions of some teachers. In response, the school calls in the police, who interrogate “a hundred students” to find out who was responsible (123). Although the school decides not to press charges, the quick assumption that this was a crime that must involve the police and that whoever did this were criminals is telling. This criminalization of an entire school in a predominantly black neighborhood, beginning before junior high, concerns Alma. Evincing the close connection between the institutions of the police and the school, the police remain outside even after the school decides not to press charges, so that when Curtis leaves the school after Alma picks him up, “the cops stared at Curtis from the window of their car, angry at being denied the quarry they’d been summoned to flush” (123). This introductory exposure to the police fatally marks Curtis as a criminal, as one of the two police officers in this scene later kills the four youths during the Watts rebellion. The novel sets up the introduction of the police into Curtis’s life alongside the increased jobless rate in South Los Angeles and the subsequent deprivation and criminalization of young black men there as a telling prelude to what happens to Curtis during the Watts rebellion. In so doing, it highlights an important distinction between Frank’s experience with unemployment due to state-sanctioned anti-Japanese racism after World War II and the anti-black racism in the 1950s and 1960s. This distinction is the role that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) played in conjunction with economic racism, both of which might be understood as strategies of empire in active warfare against the black community in the second half of the twentieth century. Specifically, the year 1950, when William H. Parker became the LAPD’s chief of police, marks an important turning point in the history of warfare against African Americans in South Los Angeles. Parker became the chief at a time when the LAPD was mired in scandals and charges of corruption. By the time he died of a heart attack in 1966, the officers in the LAPD were deemed to be among the best trained and highest paid in the country, and the structure and tactics of the department that Parker implemented as part of his “reform” were widely emulated by other police departments. A far-reaching part of this “reform” was Parker’s criminalization of and warfare in African American neighborhoods that he considered unlawful. As Mina Yang persuasively argues about Central Avenue, a vibrant mecca of jazz music and night life in South Los Angeles during the 1940s, “Increased police presence on the avenue transformed street life from a festive to nightmarish scene in only a few short years” (218). Yang credits the LAPD under Parker for the demise of Central Avenue and adds that “Its combative and despotic rule over street life in South Central and elsewhere in Los Angeles incurred costs and benefits that went far beyond the fate of a dozen nightclubs” (218). Although not explicitly underscored in Southland, the leadership of Parker that produced such results is important to our understanding of the role of the police in the novel before, during, and after the Watts rebellion. Responsible for coining the term “thin blue line,” Parker considered the role of the police “as a ‘containing element’—a thin line of blue which stands between the law-abiding members of society and the criminals who prey upon them” (Yang 220). As he saw “Los Angeles [as a] ‘white spot’ in a black national picture of corruption” (Wilson 37), Parker was not subtle about advocating his opinion that the “criminals” were most likely black—and sometimes Mexican—men. He once told an audience at a community relations conference: It’s estimated by 1970 that . . . 45% of the metropolitan area of Los Angeles will be Negro. . . . Now how are you going to live with that without law enforcement? This is the lesson that we refuse to recognize, that you can’t convert every person into a law abiding citizen. If you want any protection in your home and family in the future, you’re going to have to stop this abuse, but you’re going to have to get in and support a strong police department. If you don’t do that, come 1970 God help you! (qtd. in Yang 221) Parker’s blatant equating of Blackness and criminality permeated the LAPD’s treatment of the black community. The term “police brutality” was routinely used by African Americans during Parker’s tenure to refer to the discriminatory and violent tactics of the police that targeted black and Mexican men. However, because he saw African Americans in particular as inherent criminals, and because he was overzealous about containing the “enemy,” Parker justified his officers’ use of violence and force as he pushed them to fight crime “by all means at their disposal” (Wilson 17). Revealing his deep investment in the US imperialist strategy of containment during the Cold War both at home and abroad, Parker, a former Marine, fully embraced and instituted militarized methods of policing. One such example, which we see depicted in Southland when Curtis gets in trouble at school, was the physical differentiation and distance between the police and the residents. Before Parker, the police patrolled their assigned neighborhoods on foot. However, as Anthony Oberschall writes, “Parker took the police off the beat and put them into police cars” (332). It became common for the police to routinely cruise black neighborhoods in their armed vehicles actively looking for criminals—not crime. Not surprisingly, by the 1960s, the police car and uniform would come to symbolize a repressive armed force in the black community, as “the police in their uniforms seem[ed] like the troops of an occupying country to [African Americans]” (Raine, “Perception” 407). The LAPD under Parker was also the first to employ the military technology of using helicopters for aerial surveillance, and, as Davis states, “After the Watts Rebellion of 1965 this airborne effort became the cornerstone of a policing strategy for the entire inner city” (City 251-52). Evidencing the work of imperialist “police action” both at home and abroad, Parker was also made an honorary captain by South Korea’s national police shortly after the Korean War, even though he did not actually serve there (Moser 32; Wilson ix). Perhaps Parker’s most formidable legacy is his advocacy and defense for what he called “scientific policing”—what would come to be known as racial profiling (Widener 59). In 1955, he stated: “The demand that the police cease to consider race, color, and creed is an unrealistic demand. Identification is a police tool, not a police attitude” (qtd. in Wilson 162). As a part of this “tool,” Parker also maintained a thorough record of “criminals,” creating a knowledge base of “their past habits and methods” that he believed to be vital, as “[o]ur entire system of criminal justice rests upon the existence of this information” (Wilson 44). As Michelle Alexander and many other scholars have shown, racial profiling is not a practice of the past, nor has the LAPD stopped its record-keeping of what is now a sophisticated database of the majority of African American men and boys in South Los Angeles. The American Civil Liberties Union calls this database a “Black List,” and it is defended by the LAPD as a “tool for tracking gangs or ‘gang-related’ activity” (Alexander 136-37). Given this targeting and criminalization of young black men codified as “scientific policing” during Parker’s tenure, Curtis’s introduction to the police as a thirteen-year-old acts as an important omen and catalyst. For example, it prompts Alma to ask Frank, when Curtis is fifteen—the same age Frank was when he began working for Old Man Larabie—if Curtis can work at Frank’s store to keep him off the streets. It also inaugurates repeated harassment by the two police who were at Curtis’s junior high, as they are eager to catch Curtis in crime, even when he does nothing wrong. These encounters with the police confirm their preexisting perception of Curtis as a criminal and only a criminal. Their perception is antithetical to how Curtis is seen by Frank in the space of the store. Frank, who “loved the boy,” sees Curtis as “considerate, a listener, a well-reared boy,” possessing a “gift for people” (Revoyr 153-54). He finds Curtis “smart and responsible” (345) and, as shown by his will dated in 1964, planned to give the store to Curtis when he turned eighteen in the following year. The store and the police represent opposing forces in Curtis’s life, but this is a reality that Frank cannot fully fathom. We see this when Curtis is brutally beaten by one of the police in 1963, and he decides to “go see Mr. Sakai” and the store for refuge (215). Curtis does not tell Frank who beat him, so Frank assumes that it was “some other boys” and never suspects the police (155). In fact, seeking justice, Frank leaves the store to report the crime to a police officer, who happens to be the very same one who brutalized Curtis and laughs at Frank for caring about “just a little nigger punk” and states, “So? What do you want from me? Worker’s comp?” (155). This causes Frank to think of “Europe again. . . . And he wondered, not for the first time since he’d come back to the States, if he’d defeated or even recognized the enemy” (155). Even though the cop’s anti-black racism reminds Frank of his position as one who has been subjected to a war abroad and at home that has racialized him as an “enemy,” Frank still does not see that a war is being waged against Curtis and their neighborhood by the law enforcement officials who are charged to “protect and serve.”12 The fact that Curtis’s death is caused later by the police inside the store emphasizes the point that the store cannot provide Curtis the same protection that it did for Frank. Moreover, that Frank dies without ever knowing that it was the police who killed Curtis attests to his continued misrecognition of the “enemy.” It is not a trivial plot point, therefore, that Curtis and three other black youths die at the hands of the police during the 1965 Watts rebellion, which the novel refers to as “the war turned inward” (55). On top of the increased population, lack of resources, and enforced segregation, harassment and violence, such as that which Curtis experiences, were becoming so routine during Parker’s reign that many saw the Watts rebellion as a revolt against the police that had been a long time coming.13 When asked the open-ended question of what caused the rebellion, African Americans in South Los Angeles overwhelmingly cited the LAPD, with “42% nam[ing] police brutality, [and] 24% nam[ing] police methods or bad police treatment” (Ransford 193). Charlie Douglas, a fifteen-year-old resident of Watts, named Parker specifically as the reason: “Parker is no good at all. His cops take the Negro down to the station and work him over. This time they did it in the open and that’s why it started right here and didn’t stop” (qtd. in Moser 33). The incident to which Douglas refers was the stopping of Matthew Frye, an African American man, by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) on suspicion of drunk driving on the evening of 11 August 1965. The police alleged that a crowd of two hundred gathered not long after Frye was pulled over at 7:00 p.m. By the time the LAPD arrived at 7:23 p.m., it was reported that the crowd had grown to fifteen hundred to witness the interaction between Frye and the police, which now included Frye’s mother and brother. As tensions escalated, the CHP started riding on their motorcycles on sidewalks to break apart the crowd. In defense, those gathered began to throw things. One man who was there, Ralph Reese, told an interviewer afterward that it “became a real battle with the community defending themselves against an armed attack” (qtd. in Horne 56). If, as Gerald Horne sums up succinctly, “August 1965 marked the point when LA blacks decided no longer to tolerate misery” (40), the police—and the state—did everything in their power to suppress the revolt. Horne writes that on hand to oppose those who participated in the domestic insurrection in 1965 were “16,000 National Guard, Los Angeles Police Department, highway patrol, and other law enforcement officers; fewer personnel were used by the United States that same year to subdue Santo Domingo” (3). The actions by the police and the military personnel against those on the streets of Watts and nearby neighborhoods amounted to nothing short of an open war against African Americans, as Parker likened the protesters to the “Viet Cong,” and “the cops . . . [allegedly] found it desperately hard to tell friends from enemies” (Moser 33). Suggesting that the LAPD indeed declared a war on the streets of Watts in 1965, Southland affirms that “The police were like an army, and acted that way” (Revoyr 218). When Lyndon Johnson sent a federal team to assess the rebellion, one of its members, Roger Wilkins, reported that the “members [of the LAPD] had killed about thirty looters and many of them called their nightsticks ‘nigger sticks’” (qtd. in O’Reilly 99). Southland alludes to this sanctioned killing of black lives by the police during the rebellion and shows that the police action in Watts in 1965 was a climactic point in a war against Blackness. That is, the novel suggests that Watts was not a police action trying to maintain control of a population; it was part of a larger and ongoing war against blacks in a segregated, racialized, and criminalized community, a battle against black lives that were believed not to matter. The novel shows this not by focusing on protesters and participants in the rebellion but by depicting an unequal scenario of power wherein black youths are punished for the simple fact that they are black. On the last night of the rebellion, the two black youths who work at Frank’s store—Curtis and David—along with David’s younger brother and his friend, decide to protect the store. When Nick Lawson—the racist white cop responsible for beating up Curtis earlier and one of the two officers who was called by Curtis’s junior high—sees them outside, he suspects them of looting and orders them inside, presumably to beat them as he did Curtis before. Robert Thomas, who was also at Curtis’s junior high and had also been harassing Curtis, sees Lawson’s car parked outside the store and goes inside to check on Lawson. Lawson gets called away, and Thomas forces the boys inside the freezer in the store, locks it, leaves, and does not return, causing the youths to freeze to death. Worth noting here is that Thomas, unlike Lawson, is black, but his anti-black racism is just as trenchant as Lawson’s, if not more so. Embodying Parker’s mentality of us-versus-them, Thomas distinguishes himself from other African Americans in the neighborhood, even though he also grew up in South Los Angeles, as he “thought he was escaping them, blacks like them, by joining the [police] department” (Revoyr 136). Although he is not treated as an equal by his white LAPD colleagues, Thomas fully identifies with the white supremacist tactics of the department, especially ones that criminalize young African American men. He does not recognize the brutality against African Americans as racism but rather as a necessary containment of a criminal element that he sees as antithetical to himself. Thomas’s anti-black racism reaches its deadly pinnacle during the rebellion, as he permanently disavows his perceived notion of criminalized Blackness by locking up the black youths in the freezer. Significantly, Thomas’s anti-black racism reaches its murderous pitch inside the store when Frank is not there. Despite Frank’s warning for him to go home, Curtis decides to return and protect the store. Initially, he is joined by four youths: three black and one Japanese American, Akira Matsumoto. Akira is most likely modeled after the late controversial Japanese American activist Richard Aoki, whose middle name was Matsumoto. Emblematizing the small number of Japanese Americans in the 1960s who joined the sit-ins and organizations such as the Black Panther party, Akira is a strong activist character who, like Frank, feels a deep connection to the neighborhood.14 He had also worked at Frank’s store but quit to attend UCLA. Akira’s connection to and intimate knowledge of the store allow him to escape using the backdoor, so that all those who die in it are legibly black. Southland insists on the incommensurable condition of Blackness in the United States and the store as a proof of that incommensurability. Simply put, the store is a site of death only for the black characters. Although Thomas is ultimately responsible for locking up the youths, the store is the weapon that kills them. Because Curtis is Frank’s biological son, he is also Japanese American. However, his biracial identity is known only to Alma and Frank; he is seen as nothing but black by everyone in the novel, including himself. As such, it is his Blackness, and not his Japanese Americanness, that is the condition for Curtis’s suffering and death at the hands of the police in the space of the store. His Blackness also precludes him from inheriting the store from his biological nonblack father, even though he was “the best worker that Frank had ever had” (153) and “loved” (177) the store and thought that it was “the only place where either of them felt at peace” (348). Like the other youths, Curtis dies in the freezer, dehumanized and “almost cold to the touch as the slabs of meat” (315), after “huddl[ing] together like sheep” (306). Similar to Frank Wilderson’s claim that blacks “were never meant to be workers” in the political economy of white supremacy and are instead “meant to be warehoused and die. . . . like the cows” (238), Curtis is never meant to be the owner of a store in the neighborhood where he grew up. Even in a fictive realm, Curtis is unable to survive, and he is unable to exist as the inheritor of the interracial romance conceived inside the store. By thus highlighting this specific incomparability of Curtis’s Blackness, Southland ultimately concedes to the limits of solidarity in and through the store. The store in Southland during the Watts rebellion, therefore, signals the endpoint of a particular brand of Afro-Asian unity, as the murder of the boys causes Frank Sakai to leave the neighborhood altogether. For the Asian Americans in the novel’s present, including the Korean immigrants who now own the store, the year 1965 will be significant not because of the Watts rebellion but for the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, which overturned the racist 1924 Immigration Act and dramatically increased immigration from Asia, making Asian Americans the fastest growing minority in the country. Presaging this historical divergence and the 1992 uprising, the novel intimates that the possibility of the store as a coalitional space had already ended in the novel by 1965. Furthermore, for the black characters in the novel for whom the store is not a gift but a site of death, 1965 signals a turning point for the worse. Derek Broadnax, Curtis’s friend and a brother of Curtis’s girlfriend Angela, who had decided to go home instead of going with Curtis to protect the store, dies of a drug overdose in the early 1990s. Angela tells Lanier later that he started using “[i]n the sixties. After Watts. That messed him up in ways he never recovered from” (Revoyr 175). Cory, Curtis’s younger half-brother who worshipped him, tries to escape the memory of Watts by joining the army and is “killed in Vietnam” (66). Just as the Watts Rebellion was often likened to the war in Vietnam—both by the police and the protesters—the two Martindale brothers are connected in death by US imperialism at home and abroad.15 Given the persistent condition of violence, poverty, and neglect in South Los Angeles in the novel’s post-1992 present, the gifting of the $38,000 from Frank’s store to James Lanier’s after-school program at the Marcus Garvey Community Center in Crenshaw at the end of Southland is both fitting and grossly inadequate, much like the scholarship money during the Dallas boycott mentioned earlier in this essay.16 Lanier—and not Akira, who has been living in Japan since late 1965—is represented in the novel as being the closest to a survivor of what happened in the store during the Watts rebellion. He remembers the police violence during the 1960s, as “he’d sliced his face on the broken fence” while he was trying to see what was happening to Curtis as Lawson was brutally beating Curtis in 1963 (215). This violence is memorialized on his body as a scar on his face and is a burden that Jackie does not share. However, remembering the history behind that scar is not something that is restricted to its bearer. In the end, Lanier’s scar as a testimony to police brutality and empire, which the money from Frank’s store cannot make disappear, should be the starting point for our overdue critique of imperial spaces designated as war zones. This essay has gone through many iterations, and many smart readers have made this final version possible. They include Iyko Day, Isabela Seong Leong Quintana, Jane Hwang Degenhardt, Asha Nadkarni, Wesley Yu, Claudia Castañeda, and Ramón Solórzano, Jr. For reading and commenting on every single version of the paper and more, I thank Moon-Kie Jung. I would also like to thank MELUS’s anonymous reviewers and Gary Totten for their helpful feedback. Footnotes 1. The tu-ro-tu style exemplifies the afterlife of Japanese and US imperial wars in Korea. For a study of the political aspect of tu-ro-tu, which is both beloved and lampooned in South Korea, see Min Jung Son. 2. These incidents include boycotts in major US cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, and the shooting deaths of many Korean merchants. For a study of the boycotts in New York City, see Claire Kim. For a detailed study of the 1992 LA uprising, see Edward T. Chang and Jeannette Diaz-Veizades. For an illuminating study on the significance of Latasha Harlins’s murder to the 1992 LA uprising, see Brenda E. Stevenson. 3. In talking about racial contradiction, Lisa Lowe stresses the importance of thinking of contradictions in the plural, such as racial and gender contradictions. 4. For a critique of coalitional politics that do not address the structural inequalities in capitalism and imperialism, see Jared Sexton. 5. See Greg Howard (“Black”) and Gordon Jackson for the photographs from the scholarship ceremony. Notably, the Dallas Morning News, which has the largest circulation in Dallas, did not report on the scholarship event even though it had been covering the boycott. 6. See Mike Davis (City 304-06) and Helen Heran Jun (101-08) for an explanation on the link between the global restricting of the US economy and its effects on black communities. 7. On the systemic and deliberate deinvestment in the black communities by the state, see João H. Costa Vargas (36) and Melvin L. Oliver et al. (122-25). On the correlation between high poverty rates in predominantly black neighborhoods and the lack of supermarkets there, see Shannon N. Zenk et al. 8. See Tamara K. Nopper on the US governmental support for Korean businesses. For the specific example of the lucrative profit of corporations from Asian-immigrant-owned gas stations in urban areas, see Ivan Hubert Light and Edna Bonacich, who report that the Shell corporation claims that “The inner-city gas stations are the most profitable ones Shell owns” (381). 9. The neighborhood known as Area #9, where Diamond Shamrock is located, was 74.9 percent black and 20.4 percent Latina/o in 2008, and its per capita income was $10,446. See “Area.” 10. Scholars who argue against the notion that the Japanese American internment during World War II was an isolated event restricted to the war include Roger Daniels, Gary Okihiro and David Drummond, and Colleen Lye. On the Japanese American experience during World War II in the context of a struggle between two empires, see Eiichiro Azuma. 11. Alma eventually tells Frank that Curtis is his son, although the novel does not specify when. 12. Frank’s reliance on the police mirrors, to a small degree, the attitude of the storeowners in and around Watts, who were pro-police and pro-Parker. See Walter J. Raine (Los Angeles). 13. An important factor leading up to the Watts rebellion is that Los Angeles passed Proposition 14 in the election of 1964, which repealed the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Seen as a measure to promote racial segregation, the white population of Los Angeles voted in favor of it in the 80-90 percent range. The African American population voted against it in the 90 percent range. See Anthony Oberschall (329) and Gerald Horne (37). 14. See Diane C. Fujino regarding the influence of the black liberation movement on Japanese American radicalism. For ties between the Asian American movement and Black Power and anti-war movements, see Daryl J. Maeda. 15. For analyses that draw a connection between Watts and Vietnam, see Horne (64) and Huey P. Newton (125). 16. 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Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed © MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United StatesOxford University Press

Published: Apr 26, 2018

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