Rodney King, the man famous for asking the critical question, “Can we all get along?” passed away in June. His famous quote was said during the notorious L.A. riots in 1992, which were triggered by his vicious beating by the police in 1991.
Although his June death was initially ruled an accident, a recent coroner’s report revealed that drugs found in his system contributed to his death. King was an avid swimmer, but was found dead in his backyard pool from drowning. The report now shows that King had PCP, marijuana, and alcohol in his system, which may have put him a delirious state that led him to jumping or falling into the pool. Regardless of the conditions of his death, his impact in the fight against police brutality must not be forgotten.
Police brutality is still a major issue in the U.S., as reports of police misconduct show the justice system doesn’t always fight fair.
Although the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not an act of police brutality, the controversy surrounding his death is reminiscent of the public outcry that rang out after the King incident. The young Martin was needlessly gunned down by Zimmerman because his dark hoodie made him look suspicious and allegations that the teen was acting belligerent. Nonetheless, this kind of vigilantism on the part of the a neighborhood watchman shows the kind of mentality that exists in too many officials that believe color determines character, and make rash judgments based on stereotypes. Although Zimmerman was not a cop, and King's assault did not lead to his death, both he and Martin shared the same trait that lead to violent confrontations; being black. Neither man did anything to deserve the violence that was bestowed on them, but because of it, both became symbols of why our flawed justice system needs to be fixed.
The former face of police brutality, King went on to win a $3.8 million settlement from the authorities, but the money did little to help him throughout his troubled life. At the age of 47, King had continuous run-ins with the law and died penniless.
During his life, King continued to champion the importance of peace among all people, but it seems as though his words were lost in the fray. Even though he and Martin are no longer on earth to see it, the least we can do is try to get along, for their sake.