#SAYHERNAME LATASHA HARLINS
Seeing how many people are making sure the death of Breonna Taylor is not overshadowed by George Floyd during these Uprisings, it got me thinking of Latasha Harlins. Nationally people associate the 92 LA Riots with Rodney King. However, the murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins played a significant factor in the LA Uprising.
Latasha’s killing inspired songs and a book. But the memory of her death faded in a way that King’s beating never did.
On March 16th, 1991, Latasha Harlins was murdered by a Korean store owner, Soon Ja Du, over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. This incident occurred 13 days after the videotaped beating of Rodney King became front-page news.
It was on a Saturday morning, Latasha went to Empire Liquor located 5 min. away from her home in
South-Central Los Angeles. Latasha grabbed an orange juice and placed it in her backpack. According to eyewitnesses, Du yelled to Latasha, "You bitch, you are trying to steal my orange juice." Latasha put out her hands to show she had money and explained she's going to pay. Du, standing behind the store counter, grabbed Latasha by the sweater and her backpack. While Latasha struggled to get free, she strikes Du in the face. Latasha then tossed the orange juice on the counter and attempted to leave the store. Du pulled a gun from under the counter and shot Latasha in the back of the head. Latasha Harlins was killed instantly. Police and eyewitnesses confirmed that Latasha Harlins was not trying to steal.
Du was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The jury recommended that maximum prison sentence of 16 years, however, Judge Karlin decided to give Du probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine. The judge said, "I know a criminal when I see one. I know a person who presents a danger to the community when I see one. When I don't, I treat that person as something other than."
The anger over the probation is why Korean owned stores were burned down during the LA Riots. That was for Latasha Harlins. However, after the fires were extinguished and the smoked cleared, Rodney King was the only one most people remembered.
In a 2016 article by the Los Angeles Times, it noted, "Latasha’s killing inspired songs and a book. But the memory of her death faded in a way that King’s beating never did. The King case resulted in changes over the years in how LAPD officers were allowed to use force. Latasha’s death left no standing monuments or policy changes, something that haunts her family."
One person who always remembered to say Latasha Harlins's name was 2 Pac. 2 Pac made sure Latasha Harlins lived on in his music. Here are tracks where 2 Pac mentioned Harlins:
Something 2 Die 4 (Interlude)
I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto
White Mans World
As we fight to stop the erasure of Black women and girls who are killed by law enforcement/anti-Black violence, remember Latasha Harlins. Her murder represents how our children's lives are not valued. So when you go to say the names of Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, and others, don't forget to say Latasha Harlins.
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