The Wisdom of Rodney King

It’s been some time since I blogged but tonight I am moved to put into words what has been on my mind. I’m supposed to be packing for the beach but right now, the keyboard calls more than the suitcase.

Rodney KingThis past March 3rd was the 25th anniversary of Rodney King’s beating by Los Angeles police officers. He passed a little more than 4 years ago. But the simple words Rodney spoke when his attackers were acquitted still ring in my mind today maybe more than they did then.

I can only assume that Rodney wasn’t the first victim of police brutality, even if he may have been one of the first victims to be videotaped. Remember, evidence of police brutality wasn’t too easy to come by before the age of mobile devices, body cams or big brother’s eyes mounted on street poles. For better or worse, technology’s watchful eye showed us just the other night how much– or how little– has changed since Rodney’s beating. The girlfriend of a victim live streamed as her boyfriend’s life slipped through society’s fingers in Minneapolis after four shots rung out in the night. This, just the latest in a string of white on black police shootings and killings.

When the news cycle takes on these shootings, I can’t help but look within. What if the hand I was dealt gave me brown skin instead of ivory? What if my parents didn’t go to college and education wasn’t a priority? What if my family relied on food stamps to survive, or if my house had lead paint that I nibbled on when hungry? What if the vision of America I knew was through the trash strewn alleys of Baltimore where the overgrown grass hid yesterday’s heroin needles? Or if running at the site of a police car was burned into my brain me at the level of my chromosomes, not because I had something from which to run.

Skin color, racism, police brutality, they seem to me to only tell part of the story. They ignore a cycle not just of violence but of poverty, hunger, addiction; of wealth and opportunity versus fear and frustration. Welcome to America, land of the free, home of the billionaire and the homeless. And much like mass gun violence, the stories fade away leaving behind crime scenes strewn with withered pictures in frames, tattered teddy bears and wilted bouquets. A shattered family mourns with little more to show for their loss. No progress. No real change. No new solutions.

When shootings like this week happen, I wonder why i don’t do more, why don’t I march in a protest, hold up a sign, reach out a hand. It’s not that I turn a blind eye to what’s happening. I have meaningful conversation with close friends, both black and white, about deaths such as Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray. I have said countless times, “if we can have this conversation, why can’t other people have this conversation? This is where understanding begins, right?”

And yet, tonight, I come back to Rodney King. Maybe if we are all to get along, then I need to do more than just talk. Maybe we all do.

Comments are closed.

Free slider plugin for WordPress