Cracks in the salad bowl
The author is the Washington bureau chiefof the JoongAng Ilbo.
In the early morning of March 3, 1991, four white police officers chased a speeding car and stopped it. Then a black man in his 20s was pulled out of the car, beaten with batons, jolted with a stun gun and brutally kicked. The cruelty was filmed by a plumber nearby. But the cops were acquitted. It was the Rodney King case that led to the LA riot.
Exactly 30 years from the Rodney King incident, a bill restricting police’s immunity passed in the House. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 was drafted to root out unlawful acts of public authorities, such as chocking a suspect, excessive violence and racial prejudice. It is named after a Black man chocked to death by a white cop in May 2020.
The last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of Floyd taped with a smartphone by a 17-year-old girl revealed the lie of the cop that the crushed face was a medical accident. When the video was released, people came out to the streets. The Black Lives Matter movement helped end the Trump era.
The recent shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people including four people of Korean descent is escalating into a George Floyd case for Asians. The police’s announcement that singled out sex addiction as the motive created controversy as it was deemed an attempt diminish prejudice as a possible factor. “Asians are not virus, stop the hate!” became a rallying cry.
The racial composition of the United States radically changed after the immigration law revision in 1965 that opened the door to more immigrants. According to the 2019 Census statistics, White population shrank to 60.1 percent in 50 years from 84 percent. The Hispanic population soared to 18.5 percent from 4 percent, now more than the 13.4% of the Black population. Asian Americans make up 5.9 percent, a significant growth from less than 1 percent half a century ago. The collapse of the black-white structure accompanied an inevitable political and economic power shift, and crimes targeting Asian Americans increased.
When playwright Israel Zangwill’s “The Melting Pot” premiered in 1908, America was elated with the “great racial melting pot” myth. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to Zangwill, praising it for having strong influence on his philosophy and life. As the demographic map is changing, the outdated metaphor of “melting pot” has been replaced by another optimistic prism of the “salad bowl,” suggesting coexistence and harmony of diverse cultures.
As Republicans argue that the Floyd Act will result in the absence of public security, it is uncertain whether it will pass the Senate.