The traditional Memorial Day on May 30, 2020 was a day of historical significance. Many demonstrations and protests broke out that day across the United States denouncing police brutality against Black men and the wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Department police officer with three other police officers nearby. No one stopped the mistreatment of a black man although bystanders tried to intervene.
Conditions should have improved by now rather than deteriorating with regard to police brutality against black men. People who were adults or youth in 1991 know the name Rodney King. Although his name became a household word for a time, today’s youth may not have heard the name.
Rodney King was on a high-speed chase with the Los Angeles police on March 3, 1991. He was not innocent since he was being chased by the police, but what happened next caused confusion and outrage. Officers removed King from the car and brutally beat him. An amateur cameraman captured it all on videotape that was broadcast across the country. The four officers involved were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force. After a three-month trial in Simi Valley, a predominantly white Los Angeles suburb, a mostly white jury acquitted the officers. There were no African American juries.
This triggered the 1992 violent riots in Los Angeles. Rodney King made a public appearance on the third day of the riots and said, “Folks, I just want to say, can’t we all get along? Can’t we all get along?”
Later, the United States Department of Justice filed federal civil rights charges against the four officers. Two were found guilty and the other two were acquitted. Rodney King received compensation.
Rodney King was an African American man born in Sacramento, California, in 1965. He was about to turn 26 when police officers beat him up in Los Angeles. It became a symbol of racial tension in America. He later said that he forgave the officers and that he had been forgiven many times in his life, but his life was not easy after that encounter. He had a troubled life and was found dead in a swimming pool in 2012 at the age of 47.
The death of George Floyd caused by a Minneapolis police officer has once again highlighted racial tensions. Although there have been other cases of police brutality against blacks, this case has sparked pent-up feelings in many people.
As news reporters have pointed out, the majority of those who participated in peaceful protests across the country have been white people. They feel the pain of their black friends. Even in places where there are large black populations, whites seem to outnumber those in groups who proclaim their outrage at George Floyd’s treatment.
Black Lives Matter has become a shout of the day. It’s too bad conditions didn’t noticeably improve when that slogan first came out or when Rodney King and others were brutalized in the past. People did not want things to escalate to the state of demonstrations across the country after they turned violent, but they want change and justice for their fellow citizens.
George Floyd’s name has also become famous. I would not have wanted it to be like this. We do not know if he was totally innocent, but surely he did not expect such treatment and to lose his life in such a brutal way. However, it has become a symbol of something very bad in this country. May you rest in peace and may your family be comforted in knowing that your name should be a catalyst for change and improvement. George Floyd’s brother stated that the family wants George Floyd’s name to be remembered, but they do not condone the riots, looting, vandalism and violence that are taking place.
Most racial minorities in the United States have experienced racism to some degree. There are countless cases of people who are racist and have prejudices against people who are different from them. Japanese Americans faced extreme racism during World War II when they were unjustly imprisoned in camps, even though they were totally innocent. Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and other ethnicities have seen racism up close and personal, but many African Americans still face the worst kind of racism.
It will go? Will these peaceful protesters be able to get their message across to the people who will listen and who will do something to remedy the situation? Hopefully this time it works to improve conditions.