Crossposted from ProudToBeAFilthyLiberalScum.com
Rodney King was found at approximately 5:25 this morning at the bottom of his pool at his home in Rialto, California. Emergency responders unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate King and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. There were no obvious signs of injury and no suspicion of foul play although it has not been ruled out. An autopsy will be preformed before an official announcement is made.
King is widely known as the spark that triggered the 1992 LA riots that stemmed from the acquittal of several police officers that had been videotaped beating King and subsequently charged with assault and excessive force.
Two things are going to happen here. Conservatives are going to vilify King and liberals will attempt to make him a hero.
Both will be wrong.
Rodney King is no hero. He had a history of robbery, assault and substance abuse. He was more than twice the legal alcohol limit in California (.19 BAC) the night he led the police on a high-speed chase and continued to suffer for years afterwards from his addictions. While his death may or may not be drug or alcohol related, I would not be surprised if a heart attack was involved.
On the other hand, Rodney King is not the villain of the story, either. The riots did not happen in a vacuum. The LA police have a reputation as some of the most violent in the world and the recipients of that rage tend to be overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. King was just another in a series of brutal minority beatings delivered by (mostly) white cops. Was the beating necessary? Depends who you talk to. King was 6’3″, strong, drunk and scared. Did he resist arrest? Did he really need to be beaten to a pulp?
That’s not important except within the narrow confines of that trial. What is important is to remember that this was twenty years ago. Video cameras were not built into little cell phones yet and camcorders were not as ubiquitous as they are today. The Rodney King video was cold, hard evidence of something that minorities had been screaming about for decades and that the rest of us had been ignoring for just as long: the police routinely prey on the disempowered. What we consider to be common knowledge now, thanks to YouTube and smart phones, was absolutely shocking in 1991-92. Rodney King became a symbol of that victimization even if he wasn’t necessarily a victim himself in the same way.
So as the circus unfolds over the next week, try to remember, both liberals and conservatives, that Rodney King was no angel but it wasn’t about him personally, it was about the violence visited on far too many by those we charge with protecting us for nothing more than the color of their skin.
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