On March 3rd, 1991 video footage was taken by a bystander that showed LAPD officers repeatedly striking King with their batons while other officers stood by watching. Although the Internet did not yet exist, both footage of the beatings and coverage of the violent and explosive riots that followed the verdicts went viral, shown repeatedly on news programs around the world. King’s plaintive question, “Can we all just get along?” became a haunting plea for reconciliation that reflected the heartbreak and despair caused by America’s racial discord during the 1990’s.
Rodney King remains to this day a voice of hope that we as a nation really can find a way to peacefully coexist. But while Rodney King may be an icon, he is by no means an angel. In the years before and since the police beating, King was involved in a robbery, struggled with drug addiction, and has had problems with alcohol. However, he has also refused to be bitter about the crippling emotional and physical damage that was inflicted upon him that night in 1991, and instead has resolved to lift himself out of the legacy of his impoverished and abusive childhood to create a better life. While this nation has made great strides during those twenty years to heal, so has Rodney himself, and his story can teach us all lessons about redemption and renewal, both as individuals and as a nation. It is a story of one man’s determination to find peace despite the riot within.
May 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, the longest, most destructive urban conflict in modern U.S. history. The publication of this book will coincide with that anniversary.