Malcolm X. Martin Luther King, Jr. Huey Newton. Angela Davis. The world knows their names. The world knows their legacies and impacts.
The concept of civil rights in America is anything but foreign. It’s apart of this country’s history and even present day DNA. Even today, we debate topics like same-sex marriage when decades prior, interracial marriage was outlawed. Yet and still, the running juxtaposition of races co-existing in harmony has always been a topic known to ignite the rawest of emotions.
Rodney King, unlike the names mentioned, never expected to be remembered in history as a pillar of racial change. In 1991, King – on parole from a March 1991 robbery conviction – was actually in the wrong to an extent.
“I had a job to go to that Monday, and I knew I was on parole, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be drinking, and I’m like ‘Oh, my God,” he told CNN.
To make a long story much shorter, King knew attempting to evade the police was a lost cause and eventually pulled over ready to accept his fate. In a turn of events Rodney never saw coming, King was beaten severely by several Los Angeles police officers. Thankfully the entire incident was caught on camera – keep in mind this was long before smartphones with cameras, so imagine the chances of this happening. King’s lawyer, Milton Grimes, even famously referred to the recording as “catching the Loch Ness Monster with a camcorder.” From there, the case would tackle national headlines revealing the ugly true about race relations and stereotypes in America. It was even the catalyst for the L.A. Riots.
His famous slogan “Can’t we all just get along?” came to trademark himself, the case and the era. It exposed a melancholy train of thought still infecting North American society. While things were indeed changing, a lot of views deep-rooted in generations prior to this one were still the same. In the years since, it’s been difficult to tell if much (or anything) has changed, but it is hard to imagine a world without Rodney King and what he experienced that fateful 1991 evening.