It's been 20 years since the riots in Los Angeles that left 53 people dead, thousands wounded and a country facing the demons of racism, again.
Who can forget the video image of that young black man named Rodney King, being savagely beaten by seven officers of the LAPD in a dark corner of the city where dreams are made? For the guy on the floor, it was a nightmare. For the rest of us, a wakeup call.
You see, it had been just over a couple of decades since the Civil Rights movement had swept over the country and turned it upside down with reforms that did away with Jim Crow's laws. Racism and segregation received a major blow back then. But it was not a fatal blow.
On the night of March 3, 1991, Rodney King was driving along a street in LA after a few drinks. Fearing the loss of probation, King sped off and the patrol called for backup. Soon enough, the guy was on the floor while seven officers hit him with clubs and kicked him. He ended up with broken bones all over.
A bystander caught the action on video and a few hours later, the whole world saw the savage beating. It was the first time that a home videotape showed policy brutality at its worst, right in our living room.
Four agents were charged with use of excessive force. But on April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted three officers and did not reach a verdict on the fourth. And hell exploded.
During three days, Los Angeles burned, literally. Angry mobs of folks simply took to the streets and let their anger free, burning entire buildings and destroying stores. Police, National Guard and even the Army, were called to step in. In the end, 53 people were dead, more than 2,000 were wounded and millions of dollars in damages left the city in shambles.
¿Can we all get along?¿ pleaded King from the steps at City Hall while the city bled almost to death.
Today, King is 47 years old and has misspent the more than 3 million dollars he received as compensation after a civil suit. Since then, he ventured into TV shows, launched a recording label and even boxed with celebrities at fund raisers. And this week he's launching a book: ¿The Riot Within: My Journey for Rebellion to Redemption.¿
But the scars remain, not only in his body but on the nation's soul.
We have come a long way from the time of segregated bathrooms and buses but the fact is we still have a long way to go. Racism is very well and alive in this country. Blacks continue to be relegated in major numbers in all aspects of life. And they continue to raise more suspicion and fear to the rest of us, fueled by old stereotypes that still pervade our collective conscience.
An example is Trayvon Martin, the young black kid who went to get some food in Sanford, Florida, and was shot to death by a community vigilante who had an eye for folks meandering the residence area, especially if they were black.
We may not have burning buildings or riots this time. But it seems we are still not able to get along.
Source: Eduardo Orbea