That poor guy has now embodied the toughest black stereotypes: being victimized by cops and not being able to swim. Honestly, I think the only way he could have died that would have been more hilarious to racists is if he had choked on a chicken bone.
I always thought, from his interviews and his now famous “Can we all just get along?” statement, that he was a very thoughtful man, despite his problem with substance abuse. The images of him being beaten on television constitute some of the earliest news footage I remember seeing as a child (I was born in 1983), along with Gulf War footage and Bush Sr. urging me to “read his lips.”
Even all these years later (20 years after the trial, to be exact), that incident still seems as relevant now as it did then. If anything, we have devolved from having to worry about police brutality being ignored to neighborhood watchmen shooting black teenagers and being allowed to walk free… until there is national outcry.
If anything, what people like Rodney King teach us is that we can’t just stand idly by and let things continue as they are, because shit right now is fucked up. We have to demand better from our public servants, all of them. When we fail to expect more, what we end up with are Gestapo goons pepper spraying and tear gassing peaceful demonstrators.
It’s been easy for many Americans to ignore this, because the worst police brutality has been largely relegated to minority groups, but now any fool can see how complacency towards abuse of the poor and vulnerable has resulted in tyranny that includes those who formerly were above the fray. Most of America had its head in the sand, and now the tide is rising fast.