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Harlins, King and the Quest for Equal Justice

February 07, 1993|Denise Harlins and Angela King, the aunts of Latasha Harlins, the 15-year-old who was fatally shot in 1991 by Korean grocer Soon Ja Du at a South Los Angeles market, and Rodney G. King, the motorist whose beating by L.A. police that same year was captured on videotape, were guests Jan. 28 on "The Barbara Whitesides Show" on KFI-AM (640). Here are some excerpts from the call-in program:

Caller No. 1: I'm so sick and tired of hearing we're (Korean-Americans) rude to black customers. A lot of it has to do with culture.

Harlins: I do not blame the entire Korean community for the death of Latasha. One person and one person only killed Latasha, which was Soon Ja Du. Now, where the Korean community comes in for play, in my eyes, is that when they raised (money) for Du's legal defense fund in protecting a murderer that heinously killed a child, then that's where I come in at.

Caller No. 1: A lot of Asian-Americans--especially Korean-Americans--do own liquor stores, cleaners and all these businesses, and there are hundreds (of owners) that have been killed. And my father was one of them. . . . Our community, I say doesn't have a strong voice, and I think that is one of our problems.

Harlins: The only way to have a strong voice is to do what you are doing now. The Korean community is not being blamed. The liquor stores in our community--yes, there are too many in our community that hurt our people. My position is that Korean people were forewarned before all these things transpired to come and to join forces with us in fighting for justice, like they are right now. . . . You need to point the finger at the judiciary, the people who are responsible.

Whitesides: What happens if the four officers who go on trial (in the King beating) are acquitted again?

King: I don't expect anything good out of it if they are acquitted. First of all, I doubt it seriously.

Whitesides: What do you think will be different this time?

King: Let's hope the evidence. . . . The system of men being treated equal in the justice department. They're trying to tie in the four, the L.A. 4 (who are accused of assaulting trucker Reginald Denny) the same as the four officers that beat Rodney.

Whitesides: Do you see a connection?

King: I don't see no connection at all because Rodney was pulled over by the law enforcement and should have been taken straight to jail instead of being out there with metal batons, flashlights and electrical currents going through his body like some dog. Reggie Denny--at this particular time I won't reveal all this information--but I understand that these guys were angry about the verdict for Rodney and he happened to pull up in his big old truck and was yelling racial slurs in asking them to get out of the way. . . . (Editor's note: Denny has denied making any racial comments.)

Whitesides: Do you think the L.A. 4 will be acquitted?

King: No, I don't think they'll be acquitted. They're talking about giving those young guys 25 years.

Whitesides: If these four kids are sent to jail, what do you think the reaction is going to be?

Harlins: I really think the people in the courts and the police and the political officials should be the ones to answer that question, because, where I come from, from history, it's known that the judiciary system is not equal amongst the color lines. There's no equal justice. I really fear that these young brothers . . . are facing a life sentence to where, when I turn around and see what the cops did, who are in the heart of our community, governmental officials there to serve and protect the people and yet using the type of forces that they're using to contain the people and to mistreat people. . . . They make it a racial issue, not us.

Caller No. 2: Why is there no uproar over blacks being killed by blacks?

Harlins: We are trying to deal with problems with our youth . . . but that doesn't make it equitably justifiable to allow someone to come in and mistreat people because they are of a lesser kind, because of their color. . . . I am so tired of people mistreating other people. For instance, Du, quoted, that if Latasha had come from a better life, Latasha would not be dead. What do that mean? That's a "lesser kind." Du also stated that given the opportunity to kill again, she would. And (Superior Court Judge Joyce A.) Karlin turns around and says this woman will not kill again and releases this woman on five years' probation. They just explain to me how devalued a black life is.

Caller No. 3: I want to know how people can possibly have a different definition of justice for the youths involved in the Reginald Denny beating? How can people suggest that we repeat injustice and let them go free? . . . Just because two incidents have resulted in gross injustices, does this mean a third must follow suit?

Harlins: No, you're right. Two wrongs don't make a right. . . . I sympathize with what happened with Reginald Denny as well as Rodney King. And I really feel that if they are going to punish these young brothers for committing this alleged assault on Reginald Denny then they should also as well prosecute the cops--and even worse, because they are city, governed by the city.

Whitesides: But the justice system doesn't work that way, Denise.

Harlins: It doesn't work that way but then that's why we have the type of problems today.

Caller No. 3: So we let them go?

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