By Hardy L. Brown
None of us know why we are born into this world but happy we were after we live in it for a while. We struggle to find our place and legacy worthy for someone to recognize and to remember. Now I am sure Rodney King was floundering around to find his place, when on March 3, 1991 his legacy found him. King and some friends were returning home around midnight when he had a run in with the Los Angeles Police Department. King had been drinking and true to the history of some White police officers, they overreacted to the actions of an African American man.
What happened to Rodney King that night had been repeated thousands of time throughout America’s history to Black men and no one believed their story. Some of us have experienced abusive behavior from officers who wanted to show us who was boss. Only this time, what transpired over the next fifteen minutes, was Rodney King’s destiny being recorded by a witness. George Holiday was still up that night and had a video camera and decided to record the beating that took place and now etched in our memory.
Even with that video footage the Black community did not react violently only to say this type of treatment goes on all the time. Many people thought King had this beating coming to him after the police leaked that King had a criminal record. The system tells all of us, criminals have no rights that the public should believe so what is the big deal, especially if the person is poor, African American or Latino.
But then charges were brought against the officers and the trial was moved out of Los Angeles into Simi Valley where an all-White jury of King’s peers found the officers not guilty in 1992. That is when all of the frustrations minorities felt bubbled to the surface and spread across Los Angeles and afterwards, America. No one could believe that after the jury saw the video that had been aired around the world that the four officers could or should not be found guilty for their actions. I recall President George Bush, Sr. and Mayor Tom Bradley say I cannot believe the verdict. The video does not lie is what Mayor Bradley said.
This is when Los Angeles erupted into a fiery furnace and left some 53 people dead and billions in property damages that Los Angeles is still in the process of rebuilding.
Now back to King, he did not ask for this legacy nor did he know it was coming, it was thrust upon him. Some have tried to say now that he was a civil rights leader. He was not. King was not active nor to my knowledge even a member of the NAACP or any other civil rights organization. It seems King’s purpose for being born was to shed light and truth to a problem that has and continues to plague relationships between police and our community.
But then Rodney King was asked to try and quell the riots where he said on camera to the world “Can We All Get Along?” He went on to say we should not make it hard for our older and younger people in the community.
My question to us today after King’s death is, can we all get along? In our communities can we find common ground to coexist and thrive? Can we improve our race relations with each other? Can we improve police relations with the community? Can we improve better relations between Democrats and Republicans? Can we improve relations between teachers, students and parents? King asked back in 1992 if we can just get along and the question remains the same; can we all get along?