INGLEWOOD— “When you call the L.A. riots a riot, you’ve acknowledged that it happened, but you marginalize why it happened,” Shawn Stanton, a history teacher at City Honors High School, told his classroom April 25.
With those words, Stanton introduced a lesson to his Advanced Placement U.S. History class of sophomores and juniors about the Los Angeles Riots that ignited 25 years ago April 29.
He paralleled the riots, which he repeatedly called an uprising, to the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
“We would never reduce the Boston Tea Party to just a riot,” Stanton said.
He suggested that the language used to describe the Tea Party as a political protest — even though individuals reacted similarly to those during the riots — was different because of the race of the people involved.
Isabella Garcia, 16, who hopes to attend UC Santa Barbara to study marketing and business and minor in music, said that she first learned about the riots from her mother, who was 12 at the time.
“Her mom came home really early from work,” Garcia said. “At the time she lived in downtown LA and said it was really chaotic and a really scary time for her. … It was kind of traumatic in a way.”
Garcia added that she was amazed when she learned about the social movement that was sparked by the verdict in the trial of four white Los Angeles police officers who were accused of beating a black motorist, Rodney King.
“I don’t agree with the whole violence thing,” Garcia said. “I feel like there were other ways to go about that. But sometimes I think people just express what they need to feel, and that was something that hit home to a lot of people. … I don’t think that what happened was right, but I feel like we could’ve done something other than hurting our own people.”
Kaiya Farmer, 16, who wants to attend Howard University to study political science, said she knew the riots happened after the acquittal of the policemen that beat Rodney King, but didn’t know much else.
“It happened because the police kept beating people and nothing was happening,” Farmer said. “It frustrates me now because the same things are happening. Nothing has changed.
For Tyrek Edwards, 17, his knowledge of the riots came from his father. At the time, his father lived on Florence Avenue, close to where the riot began.
“Learning about the riots really moved me because I know that we still have problems like that today, and we shouldn’t respond like that again,” Edwards said. “ We have to find a different alternative to respond to things like this.”
Edwards said he believes that people in positions of power can do a lot to help communities like his.
“We need people in position to help us make big changes, not just small protests on the street. I’m talking like in court,” Edwards added, where police officials are held accountable for their actions.
He hopes to attend Loyola Marymount or UCLA to study business.
Kai Bell, 16, lives in South Los Angeles and hopes to attend Howard University or Morehouse College to become a pediatrician.
“I was surprised [when I learned about the riots],” Bell said. “I learned how to see [the riots] from every point of view. … I only knew it from King’s side. I didn’t know they were pulling people out from cars and beating them, or even about the girl [Latasha Harlins] in the Korean store.”
Stanton, who was 19 when the riots happened, recalled the day the riots broke out to his students.
“I wanted to be in the street, I was upset,” Stanton said. “At that time, I had been profiled, sat on a curb, sat in the back of police cars, been questioned because I ‘fit the description.’ All the frustrations that boiled over in ’92 I was a part of. … I wanted to fight, I wanted people to feel my pain and the injustice I felt on a regular basis.”
Stanton said he believes it is important for today’s youth to learn about the riots because it shows that the issues communities of color face today have been around for a long time.
“I think [students] need to know that the things going on in today’s society aren’t new, that we’ve been dealing with the same economic, social and political issues and problems for a long time,” Stanton said.
The 1992 riots, Stanton added, also provide students with historical perspective into the struggles of their elders and communities, and hopes that young people will reach out to those “who have gone through this already.”
Following the lesson, the students were assigned a one-page essay to reflect on what has changed since the riots and what has stayed the same.