Mixing It Up

A closer look at cultural diversity

Was Rodney King a civil rights hero?

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Rodney King / Photo: contributed

When I think of civil rights heroes, I don’t think of Rodney King.

King died Sunday at the age of 47 in his swimming pool, according to reports.

King is famous because on March 3, 1991 he was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers, while a bystander George Holliday videotaped the incident.

The video of his beating fueled public outrage throughout the country. After going on trial, three of the police officers were acquitted and the jury failed to reach a verdict for the fourth police officer. The announcement of the verdicts sparked the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, which lasted for six days, killed 53 people, and injured more than 2,000 people.

King later won a $3.8 million settlement from the city of Los Angeles.

During the riots, King coined the famous line, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Publications have questioned if King was a hero. I say no.

Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, called King a “symbol of civil rights. He represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling of our time.”

While I agree that King’s beating brought attention to police brutality and racial profiling, I do not consider King a civil rights a hero or pioneer.

Lots of black men throughout the country have been beaten and harassed by police. I wouldn’t consider them symbols either – maybe victims.

When I think of a civil rights hero, I think of someone who had a desire and taken action to make things equal for all people in the country. In this situation, King was beaten and thrust into the spotlight. He wasn’t someone who fought visibly or consistently for civil rights.

I’m not trying to minimize what King went through, but I’m just saying he wasn’t a “civil rights hero.”

I always thought Holliday, who videotaped the beating, deserved more credit.


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