Bitter Fruit

Bitter Fruit: The Politics of Black-Korean Conflict in New York City

Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Bitter Fruit
    Book Description:

    Conflict between Blacks and Koreans has increased in American cities during the past two decades. In this timely book, Claire Jean Kim investigates the most prolonged episode of such conflict-the Flatbush Boycott of 1990, when Black nationalist and Haitian activists led a boycott and picketing campaign against two Korean-owned produce stores in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Drawing on years of in-depth interviewing, Kim helps us understand why Black activists engage in such collective actions and why other parties respond as they do.Kim rejects conventional wisdom that Black-Korean conflict constitutes racial scapegoating, the irrational venting of Black rage on Korean merchants. She argues instead that it is in response to White dominance in American society, which generates a distinct racial order that encourages conflict among different groups, provokes racial resistance, and delegitimates and silences such resistance. Kim asserts that the Flatbush Boycott was part of a larger resurgence of Black Power activism in New York City, that Haitian immigrants mobilized out of overlapping transnational and racial identities, and that Korean Americans responded by launching a countermovement seeking to restore the status quo. Racial protests are inevitable, she says, as long as conditions of racial injustice prevail.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14810-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Exposing Racial Power
    (pp. 1-13)

    Black-Korean conflict has become part of American urban mythology. Since the 1970s, conflicts between Korean immigrant merchants and Black customers and neighborhood residents in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have attracted growing media coverage. News magazine programs, local news broadcasts, newspapers, magazines—even talk shows likeGeraldoandSally Jesse Raphael—addressed this persistent form of ʺinter-minorityʺ conflict throughout the 1980s. Black cultural productions, such as Spike Leeʹs movieDo the Right Thingand Ice Cubeʹs rap piece ʺBlack Korea,ʺ also spoke to the phenomenon. Then, of course, the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992 played a...

  6. 2 Racial Ordering
    (pp. 14-52)

    One reason racial power remains invisible to us is that we take its effects for granted. We tend to think of the forces that bring Blacks and Koreans into contact, for instance, as objective, inexorable, and unmediated by politics and power. Yet, as I suggested in Chapter 1, it is racial power—concretely expressed in the myriad political, economic, social, and cultural processes that reproduce the racial order—that shapes the terms upon which these two groups come face to face. In this chapter I examine the way in which racial ordering set the stage for the Red Apple Boycott...

  7. 3 Black Power Resurgent
    (pp. 53-108)

    If racial ordering implicates intermediate groups like Korean immigrants in its operation, then the presumption that Black collective action against Korean merchants is irrational clearly needs to be reexamined. Indeed, once we realize that the Red Apple Boycott was not an isolated incident but rather an aspect of an overall resurgence of Black Power activism in New York City during the 1980s, the conventional notion that the boycotters were venting their frustrations on Koreansinstead ofon Whites loses its cogency. The resurgent Black Power movement in New York City was in fact a pointed response to continuing White dominance...

  8. 4 The Red Apple Boycott
    (pp. 109-155)

    Those who had voted for David Dinkins in the hope of greater racial harmony were quickly disappointed. Set off by the altercation between merchant Bong Ok Jang and customer Ghiselaine Felissaint, the Red Apple Boycott began on January 18, 1990, just seventeen days after Dinkins was inaugurated as the 106th mayor of New York City. Why did the December 12th Movement launch a boycott once Dinkins was in office? Revolutionary nationalist activists and moderate Black officials joined forces in the resurgent Black Power movement to oust Mayor Edward Koch, but they had never been more than temporary bedfellows. With the...

  9. 5 The Korean American Response
    (pp. 156-187)

    The Red Apple Boycott provoked an unprecedented countermobilization within the Korean American community in New York City. Korean American community leaders and merchant advocates had responded to previous Black-led boycotts against Korean-owned stores (including the Tropic Fruits Boycott of 1988) by trying to negotiate settlements behind the scenes. But the outbreak of the Red Apple Boycott was the proverbial last straw. It convinced Korean American community leaders that they had to take more decisive action to protect Korean merchants from future boycotts. Although a few merchant advocates explored the possibility of negotiating an end to the Red Apple Boycott, Korean...

  10. 6 Manufacturing Outrage
    (pp. 188-220)

    In this book I have sought to spotlight the role that racial power plays in shaping Black-Korean conflict. As we have seen, racial power both regenerates a distinct racial ordering that provides the parameters for group interaction and conflict, and shapes the imagination and form of Black resistance that arises in response to it. When targeted by Black protests, Korean American community leaders attempted to protect their collective interests through appeals to cherished national ideals and colorblind talk. In doing so, they reracialized themselves and Blacks in a way that buttressed the American racial order and their respective positions within...

  11. CONCLUSION: Bitter Fruit
    (pp. 221-224)

    Conventional accounts of Black-Korean conflict tell a story that is comfortable for us to hear. The story involves a group of aspiring newcomers caught in the crossfire of ancient feuding, a group of malcontents acting out of malice and rage, and a group of colorblind observers noting events from a distance. It depicts a Manichaean struggle between innocence and guilt in which the third-party observers are compelled by a sense of justice to intervene on behalf of the powerless. This story cheers us because it fixes the problem on a renegade minority, lets most of us off the hook, and...

  12. TIMELINE Key Events Relating to the Red Apple Boycott
    (pp. 225-226)
    (pp. 227-232)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 233-260)
    (pp. 261-284)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 285-300)