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Karen Wallace: Post Rodney King, Where Have We Come As A Nation?

By: Karen C. Wallace, J.D.

On June 18, 2012, the day of Rodney King’s death, Professor Marc Lamont Hill, of Columbia University, tweeted: “Rodney King’s famous line “Can’t we all just get along?” wasn’t mere frustration or naiveté. He was urging us into a new sense of humanity.” I agree with the esteemed professor, who interviewed King just weeks before his death.

The videotaped beating, kicking and tasing of King, 20 years ago, by Los Angeles Police Department officers, shined a glaring light for the world to see the brutal savagery from law enforcement agencies that young black men faced every single day of their lives. Finally, there was direct evidence of what victims of police brutality, and many others, had been saying all along. Upon the acquittal of the officers involved, wide spread riots and looting erupted when the realization set in that there would be no justice for this heinous act against not just Rodney King, but against all of the Rodney Kings who were, in effect, victims without a voice. These protestors were desperate and hopeless that there would ever be retribution for this painfully flagrant crime against humanity.

Did King’s plaintive plea for us to all get along ever really resonate? As a nation, have we moved any closer to “a new sense of humanity” that professor Hill speaks of? Since the King incident, there have been countless unjustified and illegal violent acts committed against black men, women and other minorities by those who are charged with enforcing the law. Moreover, mass incarceration of black men has reached epidemic proportions.

It is up to those of us who want to live in a humane society, where its members are no longer brutalized and warehoused, to look beyond our personal comfort zones, move beyond mere dialogue and take the direct action that is needed to create “a new sense of humanity.” We can do this. I am convinced that we have the capacity to leave our ugly past behind.

©2012 Karen C. Wallace

Karen C. Wallace is a Chicago attorney, legal consultant, social justice advocate, and youth mentor.

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