The man whose arrest and beating led to a government/media response that incurred the worst U.S. riot of the 20th century has been found dead, according to news reports (read my recent post on the Los Angeles riots here). His body was found by his fiancee in their home’s swimming pool 55 miles from Los Angeles. He was 47 years old.
I always thought convicted felon Rodney King was a sad person, whose eyes held such pain and sorrow when he spoke about what became of the city of angels in the wake of what he did and what was done to him. His famously uttered plea – “can we all get along?” – was immediately interpreted as some sort of universal challenge for everyone to love one another. But I think he spoke in desperation, as an exasperated, flawed black man suffering under the additional burden of racism, particularly the racism of those claiming to advocate on his behalf who were in some way demanding of him a duty to serve his race. Racism among blacks is as despicable as racism among any other race and its consequences are devastating (as I noted here in a post about an accomplished black journalist).
King, who recently wrote a book titled The Riot Within in which he expressed doubts about comparisons to Rosa Parks and other black heroes, seemed from the beginning of his unwanted fame to grasp that he was not a hero and he never seemed comfortable with being portrayed as a victim. That his body was found on Father’s Day is a reminder that being a man is about the sum of one’s choices, which form one’s character, not the blood in one’s veins. The sad, criminal life of Rodney King, who was arrested 11 times after the 1992 L.A. riots, is a lesson in how not to be a man.