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But What Have We Learned Since the Rodney King Riots?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Amy Lee Coy     Permalink
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I was living in Los Angeles in 1992, the time of the Rodney King riots. I can still remember the unsettling feeling of the much too quiet streets during the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by Mayor Tom Bradley. It was eerie. Off in the distance, as I walked to work, hoping they would be open, I could see the normally crowded 101 freeway was deserted. Even the typically scurrying squirrels seemed to be unsure, standing motionless in the streets as I passed by. It's a very strange experience to have life as you know it, stop.

The Rodney King riots began after four white Los Angeles police officers, who had been videotaped beating a black man, Rodney King, were acquitted of the charges against them. Of course that provoked rage among the black community, though not only the black community. Much of Los Angeles was outraged and shocked at the verdict. However, to say the riots were provoked solely because of racial discrimination would be wrong. In 1992, the year of the riots, the entire nation was in a recession, and South Central L.A., where much of the rioting took place, was a particularly hard hit area.

That brings me back to today. I read Rob Kall's article, "Coming Soon""Riot in America?"- The article is disturbing, to say the least. It says the military is "training returning troops for riot control to take over US cities." That stirs up fear from two directions--the danger of being killed by an angry crowd, and the danger of being killed (or tortured?) by government employed military persons who were originally intended to protect us. That is scary. However, it's not altogether surprising.

What exactly have we learned about our culture and society since the Rodney King riots that we should expect anything but another riot in the face of even more inequity, more oppression, and more government control? Of course we should protest injustices, but is rioting a solution? We have had bloody riots throughout history, so clearly, as we repeat ourselves, riots are not a solution to the problems of social injustice but rather a result of it. So wouldn't it be a wise move then to discover the underlying dependency of our society that causes such turmoil and outrage, and therefore, deadly riots?

If a husband repeatedly beats his wife and the wife, finally, after she can't take it anymore, fights back in defense, we would not fault her for that response. But if, once she is safe, she does not learn why she remained in that abusive relationship for so long, there is a strong chance she will return to the abusive husband or find another one to match her personality dynamics. Similarly, if we as a society can view our connection to our government as a classic dysfunctional relationship, then we might be able to get a better perspective on what we need to do as a society to make significant, monumental changes. If we could do that, then we could better reevaluate -- and reinvent -- the entire construct of our social/political system, which clearly needs to be done.

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And as to Rob's poll, "Will the Economic Crisis Lead to Riots in the USA?" -- obviously it's possible.

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I am an artist living in Los Angeles, CA.


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