I was a freshman in high school on March 3, 1991 when Rodney King was beat down by a gang of Los Angeles Police officers and unknowingly caught on video tape. A bystander in an apartment complex across the street captured the police beating with a 15-pound VHS video camera, and then mailed the tape to KTLA-TV where it was broadcast as a Channel 5 exclusive revealing to White America, a reality only known by Black Americans.
These were the days way before citizens cell phone cameras and social media, which allowed for the capture and broadcast this week of another brutal police killings of Minnesota resident George Floyd.
Even as technology changes, police brutality, and the systematic oppression and violence against minorities — most predominantly black men — has not changed.
It is a plague on our country worse than the coronavirus, and it has not gone away.
As a white suburban teenager I’ve watched this virus spread before, and 30 years later the plague has still not gone away. New, young people continue to be infected by it — suffering a disease of white supremacy. New victims die from it every day.
A year after the Rodney King beating, police caught on camera kicking and pummeling were acquitted. It set off protests and riots in Los Angeles and cities across the country, including Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Calif., just a few miles away from my house where I was watching it on TV.
Sublime begins its timeless rally song “April 29, 1992” about the LA Riots with these lyrics:
April 26th, 1992
There was a riot on the streets
Tell me where were you?
You were sittin’ home watchin’ your TV
While I was participating in some anarchy
It’s May 31, 2020 and we can write the same song again. And many of us are still sittin’ home watchin’ our TVs — and Twitter feeds.
What are we going to do so that no other generation has to write this song again?