Today is the anniversary of the death of Latasha Harlins. Latasha Harlins was a 15 year old girl who was killed wrongfully by a Korean store owner Soon Ja Du. Harlins was accused of stealing, when she actually intended to pay for her beverage. Her death along with the beating of Rodney King was one of the reasons for the L.A. Riots. Everyday is Black History.
Du said she observed Harlins putting a bottle of orange juice in her backpack. Police say that Du erroneously concluded Harlins was attempting to steal, evidently not seeing the money Harlins was holding. Du attempted to grab Harlins by the sweater and snatched her backpack. Harlins then struck Du with her fist three times, knocking Du to the ground. After Harlins backed away, Du then threw a stool at her. Harlins then picked up the orange juice that dropped during the scuffle, threw it on the counter and turned to leave. Du reached under the counter to retrieve a handgun, then fired at Harlins from behind at a distance of about three feet and shot her in the back of her head, killing her instantly. Du’s husband, Billy Heung Ki Du, heard the shot and rushed into the store. After speaking to his wife, who asked for whereabouts of Harlins before fainting, he dialed 911 to report an alleged holdup. Harlins died with $2 in her left hand.
Du later testified that she acted in self defense, for she feared for her life. However, her testimony was contradicted by the statements of the two witnesses present at the time and the security camera video which showed her shooting Harlins in the back of the head as Harlins was attempting to leave the store. However, the Los Angeles police department ballistics expert report also found that the handgun Du used was altered in such a way that, compared to an ordinary handgun, much less pressure on the trigger was necessary to result in firing.
On November 15, 1991, the jury, believing that Du’s shooting was fully within her control and she fired the gun voluntarily, found Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter, an offense that carries a maximum prison sentence of 16-years in prison. However, trial judge, Joyce Karlin sentenced Du five years of probation, four hundred hours of community service, and a $500 fine.
Judge Karlin suggested that there were mitigating circumstances. She stated, “Did Mrs. Du react inappropriately? Absolutely. But was that reaction understandable? I think that it was.” The judge added, “this is not a time for revenge…and no matter what sentence this court imposes Mrs. Du will be punished every day for the rest of her life.” The court also stated that Mrs. Du shot Ms. Harlins under extreme provocation and duress and probably would never commit a crime again. A state appeals court later unanimously upheld Judge Karlin’s sentence.
Do you see. A black child’s life being lost was upheld in court. It was upheld again twenty one years later when George Zimmerman was left free for killing Trayvon Martin. Her life was deemed worthless. She was not afforded privilege or protection. The death of Latasha Harlins over 20 years ago, shows how we still currently live in an America who does not punish or value the death of helpless black children or youth.
Her name has all, but faded from history, but we should never forget her name. No grievance, misdeed, or hate done to us should be forgotten. This little girls death like the death of Trayvon Martin, was wrong. It was unneeded. Harlins was viewed as a threat, when all she was trying to do was buy juice. History is not always triumphant. It is often sad, and full of hatred. The past helps us understand our present and have a glimpse into the future. There has been a constant progression of disregard for the lives of black youth and children in America. From the killing of Emmett Till, to Latasha Harlins, to Trayvon Martin and countless other innocent black children, America does not care. They show us the middle finger and the door when our black children are in need or have been hurt.
What do we do with this history. We mobilize to create change that will benefit us. We have to arm ourselves with the knowledge to oust this oppression and hatred. We have to know that all of us black men, women, children, elderly are targets. We have to be careful. We have to say, hey let’s stop accepting the scrapes of injustice, and protest and fight. The injustice of America does not change it just gets covered in subliminal and covert propaganda and lies. But, we have the knowledge. We know the past, we are living the present. Use it to build a safe future for you, and your families. Let the death of Latasha Harlins, not be in vain.
Her name is immortalized in the Tupac song “Keep Your Head Up.” Her name and face should be stitched in our hearts as a remainder that being black in America is a fight. A fight we all can survive if we fight, demand more, and keep the knowledge to overcome ever flowing.
This is a great website that chronicles the abuses of black men, women and children by the police. I am not an advocate of violence or the racism of this article, but the information is great and grand. Check it out here http://waronthehorizon.com/site/?m=201204&cat=1