RIP Rodney King

[Content Note: Drowning; police brutality.]

headshot of Rodney King from a book signing in April
Rodney King smiles during a discussion for his memoir "The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption" at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in this April 21, 2012 file photo. [Reuters Pictures]
Rodney King, whose 1991 near-death beating by LA police was caught on tape, leading to a trial of four officers whose subsequent acquittal sparked riots, was found dead in his swimming pool by his fiancee yesterday at age 47.

Foul play is not suspected, but the death is being investigated just to determine what happened. King, who has struggled with addiction for many years, was reportedly doing well with his sobriety, and his fiancee said she "came back out after hearing a splash and saw him at the bottom of the pool," so it's possible he had a stroke or heart attack and fell into the pool.

I'm so deeply sad about King's death. He survived an incomprehensible attack that made him famous. To thrive was to be known, which forced him to relive the attack over and over, every day of his life. To fail was to provide fodder to the apologists for police brutality, always hunting for "proof" he deserved what he got.

In his years of survival, he thrived and he failed. He tried to figure out a way to do something good with the notoriety he'd been given. He seemed, to me, in television appearances, always haunted and always hopeful.

The thing about Rodney King that always struck me was that he was not resigned to the way things are, nor resigned to his own flaws. He expected more. He had every reason to give up and give in and be cynical, and instead, he expected better, right to the very end. Of himself, of the people who hurt him, of everyone. He was imperfect, as are we all, but the point was at least to try.

"People, I just want to say: Can we all get along?" That was his impassioned plea, turned into a punchline by people who don't expect more, least of all of themselves.

RIP Mr. King.

[Related Reading: Rodney King, Twenty Years Later.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus