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Remembering Rodney King

Memo Pad

Remembering Rodney King


There was always something hapless about Rodney King.

He entered the nation’s consciousness — and its conscience — as a shambling drunk, an unemployed black construction worker who tried to outrun L.A. police rather than be arrested for drunk driving. The result was a police beating, surreptitiously captured on video, so profoundly vicious that the chief of police himself said it made him sick. In 1992, when a suburban jury, conspicuously bleached of black jurors, acquitted four white police officers of any crime, the City of Angels went to h–l, erupting in one of the worst urban riots in modern American history.

Haplessness thereafter attached to King like a stink, as he bounced in and out of the news for domestic violence, drunken run-ins with police, driving into a tree under the influence of PCP. Even the manner of his death Sunday has about it that familiar odor of haplessness. King is believed to have accidentally drowned in his backyard pool.

If true, isn’t that about what you would have expected? Hapless could have been his middle name.

But there was a moment, a signature moment, when Rodney Glen King was not hapless. You remember it, of course: Los Angeles is burning, the death toll is mounting, property damage is approaching $1 billion, the National Guard is trying to restore peace, the Red Cross is trying to help the stricken, and there comes King, shaken and uncertain, agony on his face and tears in his voice, pleading for peace and asking a question deceptive in its simplicity:

“Can we all get along?”

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Doctor Faustroll June 20, 2012

    Well done, Mr. Pitts.

  2. ObozoMustGo June 20, 2012

    The last 3.5 years summed up in one photo…. unfortunately! ;-(

    Have a nice day!

  3. ObozoMustGo June 20, 2012


    Only one issue is actually of interest and import to the American people today……….

    FAST AND FURIOUS —-> Why, Mr. President Obozo, invoke executive privilege? What did you know about illegal gun running to Mexican drug cartels, and when did you know it?

    Please answer the questions.

    Have a nice day!

  4. David Bruce James June 20, 2012

    With dignity and decency, Mr. Pitts. Thank you.

  5. onedonewong June 20, 2012

    You mean he crack head that bilked the taxpayers out of millions that king??

  6. YepThatTell June 21, 2012

    Thank you for this article, Mr. Pitts. I cannot forget Rodney King, imperfect as he was (as are all of us), and aren’t we still hoping for a positive answer to his question after all these years? I think he moved many many people, but those who ridicule him – the haters among us – are, unfortunately, the ones with the loudest voices.


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