Lots of hyperventillation on the right wing blogs about the “truther” who was picked by the president as his “green job” Czar, Van Jones.

I’m not sure what a “green job” czar is supposed to do, but if they fired every Democrat who lauded conspiracy theorist Michael Moore the Congress would be half empty.

But Van Jones’ appointment has an Asian slant that few people have noted.

From Fox News:

In an essay he wrote soon after the (1992 Los Angeles) rioting and republished in The Huffington Post in May 2007, Jones said he “just marched around and chanted slogans” as other protesters set trash cans afire, smashed car windows and threw rocks at passing motorists. But he clearly reveled in the protest.

“Our moment had finally come! We were righteous, fired up, weren’t takin’ no more!” Jones wrote….

Jones continued, “Yes, the Great Revolutionary Moment had at long last come. And the time, clearly, was ours! So we stole stuff. Y’know, stole stuff. Radios, tennis shoes. Well, not everybody, of course.”…

“But the incident deepened my disaffection with the system and accelerated my political radicalization,” he wrote. “The political agenda I articulated for myself and my generation in this essay remains largely undone and incomplete.”

Now, let’s change the point of view from a self proclaimed “victim” to that of the Korean community. From Wikipedia:

The Los Angeles riots of 1992 were partially based on Anti-Korean sentiment. On March 16, 1991, Korean-American store owner Soon Ja-du shot and killed 15-year old African-American Latasha Harlins. Ice Cube’s song Black Korea which would later be accused of inciting racism was written in response to the death of Harlins and the preponderence of Korean grocery stores in primarily black neighborhoods. The event resulted in mass ransacking and destruction of Korean-American owned stores in Los Angeles by groups of young African-Americans.

Bet you didn’t know that last part. Indeed, I myself was unaware of it until I watched an interview on a Korean based TV Channel here in the Philippines, where Korean civil rights leaders were complaining about racial discrimination in the US, saying that the police refused to protect their stores from local gangs.

From historian Edward Chang:

In the aftermath of the Los Angeles civil unrest (1992) and highly publicized boycotts against Korean American merchants by African American residents in New York (1990) and Los Angeles (1991), the apparent conflict between Korean and African Americans emerged as one of the most visible and explosive issues of urban America.

Chang blames a lot of the misunderstanding on the strict Confucian values of the Korean shopkeepers, who get upset too easily at the minor misbehavior of their customers, while the customers see the reserved behavior of the Koreans as a personal affront.

Korean merchants most frequently mentioned loudness, bad language, and shoplifting as inappropriate behaviors by black patrons, stating that African Americans should show respect and courtesy, and should apologize more frequently. African American patrons commonly believed that Korean merchant/employee held negative attitudes toward them, ignoring and watching them constantly, as well as throwing change on the counter instead of placing it in the customer’s hand.

Chang is working with groups to educate the public on the myths that pervade the community on both sides of the issue. Korea is traditionally a mono cultural society, (only recently has it had to confront multiculturalism, as a result of a recent surge of immigrants and guest workers).

But in cultural clashes, it takes education and understanding to decrease misunderstanding.

The first thing one learns about living in other countries is that small things like how close one stands when talking to a person, the importance of greeting before discussing business, or whether or not to make eye contact, or touching a customer’s hand to give him change are all customs that vary from country to country, and are very important if one wants to be accepted.

Chang’s group is also seeking to dispel myths of unfair advantages given the Korean American community, or to point out that many of these immigrants and their families had also suffered  dire poverty, warfare, discrimination and even slavery in the recent past, but whose Confucian values, with their emphasis on dignity, honesty, and reverence for education, had allowed them to become socially prosperous in their new country.

In contrast, Van Jones doesn’t even seem to be aware that his feeling of triumph was about celebrating the ability of thugs to destroy shops run by minorities.

So, while the President goes around trying to instill in our children the value of hard work, cooperation, and getting an education, he has managed to hire a man who sees the destruction of the businesses of hard working immigrants by local thugs as a normal part of “fighting the system.

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Nancy Reyes is a  retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about Africa at MakaipaBlog

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