Ai Ogawa's Riot Act, April 29, 1992

1115 words - 5 pages

The poem “Riot Act, April 29, 1992” by Ai Ogawa seems to be a straight forward style of poetry, the poem involves anger, historical points, as well as racial controversy. Though the poem is in a way a voice for the African American group, the writer contradicts herself throughout the poem. While being told by what seems to be an unnamed black individual, the poem explains that white America does not care about Black America or the lower class. Ogawa is trying to state that America expects certain actions from the Black party, yet writes in the poem that they in fact participate in those actions.
The poet, Ai Ogawa, was, according to the biography “Ai,” a mixture of Choctaw, Caucasian, Japanese, and Filipino, she was upset at the fact that she could not identify with a specific ethnicity group (Goldstein.) She was bullied in school because of her mixed race; therefore she expresses a lot of pain through her poems (Goldstein.) In the case of this poem, it can be said that she felt gravitated towards the frustration in which Black America was feeling towards White America. She expresses that the character is going to loot certain items, he is tired of being imprisoned by the white man, then turns around and says that he is upset that that is what the white man expects (Ogawa, 688.) The poet leaves a sense of confusion as to what the character is trying to get across, is it that the individual is raged at the lack of respect he is receiving from White America? If that is the case, then why have the individual looting items and fitting into the stereotype, while trying to make the point that they are tired of being viewed that way and that way and that way only? This further clouds the message of the poem.
Understandably the poem was about the actions that took place after the nation heard the verdict of what had taken place on March 3, 1991 when four Caucasian Los Angeles police officers were filmed beating a Black man, Rodney King, for speeding; the tape was leaked and caused racial controversy throughout the nation (Matheson and Baade.) On April 29, 1992 the Officers were found not guilty by a white jury. After that the city of L.A was faced with riots for many days. According to “Race and Riots: A Note on the Economic Impact of the Rodney King Riots,” the riots caused much disaster, 53 losses, 10,000 arrests, 2,300 injuries and over 1,000 structures burned to the ground, it cost the city one billion dollars in compensations (Matheson and Baade.) The riots were in a way used as an excuse for many African American people, even those of another ethnicity to loot items, hurt people, or take out aggression on the White America. The day itself was controversial, black people were stating that the white race looked down on the black race because they were thought to be low class due to violence, looting, and gang affiliation. Yet African Americans took that historical event and in a way proved that they were indeed fitting the category that was...

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