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2 Is Yellow Black or White? Everytime I wanna go get a fucking brew I gotta go down to the store with a tool Oriental ones (can you count) mother-fuckers They make a nigger mad enough to cause a ruckus Thinking every brother in the world's on the take So they watch every damn move that I make They hope I don't pull out a gat and try to rob their funky little store, but bitch, I gotta job. So don't follow me up and down your market Or your little chop-suey ass will be a target Ofthe nationwide boycott Choose with the people That's what the boy got So pay respect to the Black fist Or we'll burn down your store, right down to a crisp And then we'll see you 'Cause you can't turn the ghetto into Black Korea.t BET WEE N 1985 and 1990 in New York City, there were three major protests against Korean storeowners in African comI "Black Korea," by Ice Cube, from the album Death Certificate, Priority Records. In a letter dated February 8, 1992, O'Shea Jackson (Ice Cube) explained that the album "was not intended to offend anyone or to incite violence of any kind" and promised that during his concerts he would "discourage violence against store owners or anyone else" (Korea Times, May 4,1992). 3 I IS YELLOW BLACK OR WHITE? munities, while in Los Angeles, as one boycott ended in the summer of I99I, another began, and within a six-month period, five Korean grocery stores were firebombed. In a Los Angeles courtroom , the television monitors showed fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins punch Soon Ja Du and turn to leave the store, when Du lifts a gun and fires pointblank at Harlins's head, killing her. On December I5, I99I, Yong Tae Park died of bullet wounds received during a robbery on his liquor store the previous day; Park was the seventh Korean storeowner killed in Los Angeles by African male suspects that year. "Black Power. No Justice, No Peace! Boycott Korean Stores! The Battle for Brooklyn," the poster read. "Crack, the 'housing crisis,' and Korean merchants is a conspiracy to destabilize our community. . . . The Korean merchants are agents of the u.S. government in their conspiracy to destabilize the economy of our community. They are rewarded by the government and financed by big business."2 In south central Los Angeles in April and May I992, following the acquittal of police officers in the beating of African American Rodney G. King, Koreatown was besieged, eighteen-year-old Edward Song Lee died in a hail of bullets, nearly fifty Korean merchants were injured, and damage to about 2,000 Korean stores topped $400 million. Parts of Japantown were also hit, and losses to Japanese businesses exceeded $3 million. Is yellow black or white? In laying the intellectual foundation for what we now call the model minority stereotype, social scientists William Caudill and George De Vos stated their hypothesis: "there seems to be a significant compatibility (but by no means identity) between the value systems found in the culture of Japan and the value systems found in American middle class culture." That compatibility, they cautioned, did not mean similarity but rather a sharing of certain values and adaptive mechanisms, such that "when they [Japanese and white middle-class Americans] meet under conditions favorable for acculturation ... Japanese Americans, acting in terms of 2 Poster of the December 12th Movement, Brooklyn Chapter, 1990. 33 their Japanese values and personality, will behave in ways that are favorably evaluated by middle class Americans."3 Although Caudill and De Vos tried to distinguish between identity and compatibility , similarity and sharing, subsequent variations on the theme depicted Asians as "just like whites." And so, is yellow black or white? The question is multilayered. Is yellow black or white? is a question of Asian American identity. Is yellow black or white? is a question of Third World identity, or the relationships among people of color. Is yellow black or white? is a question of American identity, or the nature of America's racial formation.4 Implicit within the question is a construct of American society that defines race relations as bipolar-between black and white-and that locates Asians (and American Indians and Latinos) somewhere along the divide between black and white. Asians, thus, are "nearwhites " or "just like blacks."5 The construct is historicized, within the progressive...


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