Monday, June 18, 2012

Rodney King

Rodney King takes me back to NY in the early 90s, when a feeling of martial law engulfed the city during one evening. The city was battening down the hatches, as were other cities, fearing contagion of the riots then incinerating LA. It turned out that NY remained calm, with nary a fatality. I seem to remember one Korean shop worker was killed, but that would have been a standard statistic, when the city was a rougher place than it is today (homicide rates were around 3,000 per year.)

The King riots might be the last of the great racial/class riots of the US. Though still breaking out in Europe (remember last summer's U.K. hoody mayhem) this phenomenon has cooled down much stateside, since it began in the 1960s. In one way the King riots signaled the end of an era, but in another way, his video-captured beating brought in a new era.  The ubiquity of camera phones and Youtube have probably altered police behavior.

I was surprised to read of King's death. Just a month or two ago I had heard an interview with him, when he was publicizing his memoir. He seemed a happy man, mellowed by time generously compensated, thanks to a civil suit. His swimming pool death is eerily familiar--seems that many LA celebrities, or their spouses, die this way.

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