Yesterday I was watching Don Lemon on CNN [is it just me, or does anyone else find this guy to be an insufferable DOUCHE sometimes?] and I found myself filled with the desire to scream at the screen and attempt to reach through to Falcon punch him in his light-skinneded chest. While he was announcing the very sad and unfortunate drowning death of Rodney King this past weekend, he kept mentioning how Rodney was the reason the L.A. riots occurred, which gradually ENRAGED me. Being a Black man, I would expect Don to have put more time, care and thought into his remarks, but it was clear he was either unable or unwilling to frame the riots in any proper context – and that is sad as HELL.
I expect any random person disconnected from the urban-Black experience to see the riots as nothing more than greedy, opportunistic negroes destroying property, stealing sh*t and throwing bricks at the domes of white truck drivers. Although that element is ALWAYS apparent in ANY kind of riot [regardless of race], to view the L.A. riots in 1992 as NOTHING more than that is to overlook an EXTREMELY important element of our community’s shared struggle. The problem with stating that Rodney King was the reason the Los Angeles riots occurred is to miss one VERY important part of the ENTIRE issue: The rioting did NOT begin after the video was released of King being excessively beaten and abused by the police – the rioting began after ALL four officers were ACQUITTED of assault and excessive force.
Understand the HISTORY of police brutality in the Black community BEFORE this event was captured on tape. These types of excessive, UNLAWFUL and over-the-top attacks were the sort of things the Black community had been complaining about for years – we just didn’t have any proof. Kids today can get caught up on ALL the police’s misuse of force simply by visiting Worldstarhiphip or surfing Youtube, but back in the days we didn’t have camcorders to catch the assaults in mass supply, and DEFINITELY were not lucky enough to be in the vicinity to catch cops red handed. And THAT’S why the Rodney King beating was so important to us – because it visually legitimized the concerns the politicians, the police and the rest of society had been IGNORING for so long. Basically, we GOT ‘em.
But on April 29th, 1992, a jury comprised of ten white people, 1 hispanic and 1 asian decided that the vicious beating of King was NOT vicious enough to convict the officers of ASSAULT. A beating that would have landed charges against those very same 4 men had it been on a Black cat, Black dog or even a Black bear, got them NOTHING for being on a Black man - and that VERY same day is when the RIOTS started.
I do NOT condone the actions of the looters, nor do I see the point in looting YOUR part of town. I always thought intelligent rioting should be aimed at destroying the court house or torching a police station, [ALTHOUGH THAT'S ALL WRONG] it definitely makes more sense than wrecking shops in YOUR neighbourhood. But what should be NOTED about the rioting is the emotional, mental and spiritual FATIGUE that ran through our community that day. We played the game the right way and did everything by the books. We abided by the judicial system and let due process take its place – only to get F*^KED over. And when your words, emotions, prayers and desires go unheeded and unanswered, it’s INEVITABLE that the rage will boil over and manifest itself physically [Once again, not saying it's right].
All I ask is that when we talk about the 1992 L.A. riots, we do so with PROPER CONTEXT. The Black community didn’t riot JUST because we saw one Black man being beaten by the police – we rioted because the justice system proved that even in the most OVERTLY OBVIOUS cases, they would STILL find a way to screw us over.
“We might fight amongst each other, but I promise you this/
We’ll burn this b*tch down, get us pissed”
- 2Pac “To Live & Die In L.A.”
This Is Your Conscience