Was Rodney King a civil rights hero?

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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6 Responses

  1. Al Fann says:

    I think this one is resolved. Is there another we can have some fun with?

  2. Alfredo says:

    I completely agree that Rodney King was not a civil rights hero. He brought to light that there are police officers that abuse their power and it’s unfortunate that he had to be the example of that. After that incident he wasn’t on a a nationwide tour promoting civil rights or creating an organization to make a change, he wanted to be left alone and live his life. People labeled him as a civil rights hero but I don’t believe he wanted that title. He battled drug addiction and depression ever since the beating, it was shown vividly when he participated in Celebrity Rehab on TV.

  3. H E Rofinder says:

    Civil rights heros of today tell everyone about the importance of diversity, but they themselves choose to live where there is very very little diversity.

  4. Nemesys says:

    I must agree that King was not a civil rights hero just for being beaten up by cops, but I did respect him when he did that “Can’t we get along?” announcement.

  5. KJH says:

    Rodney King was a victim of a lack if civil rights
    That’s it

  6. Kenny says:

    What he was is demonstrated by how he handled a bad situation – he got drunk. Year after year