Lynn Itagaki

Thurs, September 15, 2016 | 3:00-4:30 pm | KUYKENDALL 410

Lynn Mie Itagakispeaking on “Lives that Matter: The 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion, Civil Racism, and the Vengeance of a Divided Country” (English Department Colloquium Series)

2016 marks 25 years since the beating of Black motorist Rodney King and the murder of Black teenager Latasha Harlins in Los Angeles in March 1991. King’s beating was caught on tape just days after the official end of the Persian Gulf War and during the breakup of the Soviet Union—the putative end of the Cold War. More than two decades later, alongside the endless US War on Terror, police and self-appointed law enforcers’ murders of Black men, women, and children have ignited a new culture war that challenges the assertion of the post-racial era that the US has not experienced since the “balkanization” debates over multiculturalism and colorblindness in the 1980s and 1990s.

The 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, also known as the Rodney King riots, followed the acquittal of four police officers who had been charged with assault and the use of excessive force against a Black motorist. Civil Racism examines a range of reactions to the “riots” that were anchored by calls for a multicultural civility, a central component of the aesthetics and politics of the post–civil rights era. Using intersectional and women of color feminist frameworks, I argue that the rebellion interrupted the rhetoric of “civil racism,” defined as the preservation of civility at the expense of racial equality. As an expression of structural racism, civil racism exhibits the active—though often unintentional—perpetuation of discrimination through one’s everyday engagement with the state and society. Civility manifests itself in societal institutions such as the family, the school, and the neighborhood, and Civil Racism investigates dramatic, filmic, and literary texts by African American, Asian American, and Latina/o artists and writers that contest these demands for a racist civility. Providing re-evaluations of the cross-racial possibilities of intersectionality and coalition-building, these artists and writers of color collectively develop counter-discourses of civility. Given the recent prominence of the #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName movements in publicizing continuing state violence against Black communities and galvanizing social justice activism shaped by feminist and queer practices, Civil Racism insists that the 1992 “riots” continue to matter, its artistic responses matter, and more than twenty years later, debates about issues of race, ethnicity, class, and gender are more urgent than ever.

Lynn Mie Itagaki is associate professor in the departments of English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and she is the faculty coordinator for the Program in Asian American Studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus. She received her doctorate in English and master’s degree in Asian American Studies from The University of California, Los Angeles. The past recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council on Germany, she has recently published Civil Racism: The 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion and the Crisis of Racial Burnout (U of Minnesota P; March 2016) and has articles and reviews in Prose Studies, Feminist Formations, Biography, Kalfou, African American ReviewAmerasia Journal, and MELUS. Her research has been cited in media such as Time Magazine and Pacifica Radio. She is currently working on co-authored articles for philoSOPHIA: A Journal of Continental Feminism and a book project on West Asian migration into Europe. Her next book projects examine economic citizenship after the global recession of 2008 and the aesthetics and politics of the media bystander in the post-9/11 era in international human rights discourses. She has taught courses on interracial ethics, comparative racialization, women of color feminism, transnationalism, and 20th/21st century U.S. literature by writers of color.