Cover Story

'Fear is winnin' the day'

"'Fear is winnin' the day'" Continued...

Oh chafes at the notion that the Koreans as a people received unfair advantages at the expense of blacks. "Wait a minute," he says, "75 percent of Korean immigrants are college graduates with masters degrees or doctorates. How can you compare that segment of people one-on-one with African-Americans to start? That is not right; it is not fair."

But Oh says Koreans are not blameless. He said the riots provided an opportunity for second-generation Koreans to examine the other reasons many blacks are angry with them. "Within a week after the riot Korean-Americans got together and we had a prayer meeting, and about 350-400 Korean young people got together and started repenting of our sins... [and] the sin of our parents," whom Oh says were "in love with their neighbor's money."

"We recognized the fact that [some] Koreans had moved into a black community and did not really give back what they should have," Oh says, referring to the starting of "a lot of liquor stores and all these non-productive stores."

None of that is to excuse the criminality of the looting and burning-or, for that matter, the routine day-to-day crime that doesn't make national headlines.

"Fear is winnin' the day," Perkins says, referring to the proliferation of personal firearms and the erosion of public confidence in the police to keep the neighborhoods safe. He isn't advocating more Rodney King-style police beatings, but rather the old "cop-on-the-beat" style of community policing.

Just more brutal law and order, Perkins says, "could interfere with the peace we need." He says law and order without justice is likely to lead to more of the same. "What I want," Perkins says, "is a certain amount of peace so that we can have a process of educating the kids...But if you come down on the kids without considering the empowerment of the kids, That's a whole different situation."

Transcending politics

Although all the Christian leaders we talked to come from varied political viewpoints-conservative and liberal-they're all agreed on one point that transcends American politics: government alone cannot solve the deep institutional problems of the inner-city. The see the problem at root as spiritual: broken values, broken families, broken opportunities. Only the church, preaching the whole gospel, can "fix" the problem.

They all agree on the importance of community and family, but are not glib about how to restore those values. Perkins, the committed husband and father, put it this way: "You don't fix families like you do a car. It takes a generation to 'fix' a family. It took me 25 to 30 years to fix this family I've got. Know what I mean? And I'm still sort of fixin' it."

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