The traditional Memorial Day of May 30, 2020, was a day of historical significance. On that day many demonstations and protests erupted throughout the United States to speak out against police brutality against black men and the unjust death of George Floyd by a police officer of the Minneapolis police department with three other police officers in close proximity. No one stopped the mistreatment of a black man although bystanders tried to intervene.
Conditions should have improved by now instead of deteriorating regarding police brutality against black men. People who were adults or young people in 1991 know the name of Rodney King. Although his name became a household word for a while, younger people today may not have heard the name.
Rodney King was in a high-speed chase with Los Angeles police on March 3, 1991. He wasn’t innocent since he was being chased by the police, but what happened next caused turmoil and outrage. The officers pulled King out of the car and brutally beat him. An amateur cameraman caught it all on videotape which was broadcast to the nation. The four officers involved were indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force. After a three month trial held in Simi Valley, a predominantly white suburb of Los Angles, a mostly white jury acquitted the officers. There were no African American jurors.
This set off the violent 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Rodney King made a public appearance on the third day of the riots and said: “People, 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 with the other two being acquitted. Rodney King received some compensation.
Rodney King was an African American man born in Sacramento, California, in 1965. He was just shy of his 26th birthday when he was beaten by the police officers in Los Angeles. He became a symbol for the racial tension in America. He later said 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 he 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 brought the racial tensions back to the forefront. Although there have been other cases of police brutality against black people, this case has ignited suppressed feelings in many people.
As news reporters have noted, most of those in the peaceful protests across the country have been white people. They feel the pain of their black friends. Even in places where there are large populations of black people, the white people seem to outnumber those in the groups proclaiming their outrage at the treatment which George Floyd received.
Black Lives Matter has become a cry of the day. It is too bad that conditions did not improve markedly 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 affairs of the demonstrations across the nation after they turned violent, but they want change and fairness for their fellow citizens.
George Floyd’s name has become famous as well. He would not have wanted it to be this way. We don’t know if he was totally innocent, but he surely did not expect such treatment and to lose his life in such a brutal manner. Yet he has become a symbol for something very wrong in this country. May he rest in peace and may his family find some comfort in knowing that his 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 rioting, looting, vandalism, and violence being done.
Most racial minorities in the United States have experienced racism to some degree. There are countless cases of people being racist and prejudice against people who are different than they are. Japanese Americans faced extreme racism during World War II when they were unjustly incarcerated in camps although they were totally innocent. Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and other ethnicities have seen racism up close and personal, but many African Americans are still facing the worse kind of racism.
Will it go away? Will these peaceful protesters be able to get their message across to people who will listen and who will do something to remedy the situation? Let’s hope that this time it will work to improve conditions.
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by Irene Mori