The year is 1992 and Los Angeles, California is on FIRE!!! Not from wildfire, or an earthquake, but through direct arson! Why would Los Angeles be set ablaze you ask? Well the answer to that question is simple, white supremacist inspired police brutality.
There is nothing worse than being brutalized and abused and for no one to believe you. Imagine walking down the street with your friends and all of a sudden the police drive up on you and friends and commence to searching and questioning you. It is sad to say, but some of you reading this can empathize with the aforementioned scenario because it has happened to them in real life…Imagine these so-called “officers of the law,” pulling you over for appearing to be intoxicated driving under the influence. Now picture them throwing you to the floor and mercilessly beating you with no aggression or provocation from you. Now imagine this beating being caught on tape for the world to view.
Rodney King was the unfortunate victim of the police brutality I just described. Rodney King’s beating was caught on amateur home video and was played on television nation wide and at the trial that tried and acquitted all officers involved of wrongdoing. The rage felt by native Angelinos sent a shockwave throughout the city of Los Angeles. Many African Americans felt that they have been complaining about the heavy-handed approach the Los Angeles Police Department had adopted. This is the early nineties where recording video was not as commonplace as it is today so imagine how excited for justice Blacks who have been harassed by the police were when someone happened to record the King beating. Maybe now that there is videotape evidence of how Blacks are treated by police maybe there would be some sort of retribution and justice? Nothing could be further from the truth!
Since Black folks could not receive justice in the politically correct way through the court system, the hood decided to exact its own justice…burn the city down. There comes a point where frustrations reach a fever pitch and there is no hope and only rage and despair remains. Black folks tried it the “correct” way by waiting to hear all the facts and letting the justice system do its thing. I believe the city burned because the Black residents there believed they were actually full citizens where their voices and concerns would be heard and their need for justice met. When Niggas With Attitude said in ’88 “fuck the police,” it became a slogan born out of the rage and oppression of Black inner-city youth who gave voice to the countless unnamed and unseen “Rodney King’s” whose stories were being told through their poetry. No even five years later Rodney King’s beating was caught on tape and the city of Los Angeles set ablaze! Their warnings of police brutality were heard and commodified, but we (Amerikkka) weren’t really listening.
Looking back on the impact of the Rodney King verdict I see two long-lasting effects: videotape and surveillance of any and all Americans have become normalized and police continue to brutalize Black folks. There would be no WorldStarHipHop.com if the precedent of recording violent acts wasn’t cemented with the Rodney King video. I believe technology began to advance to allow all of us to be able to record anything anytime easier and video recording equipment began to become more accessible and portable. Police officers have now learned that their actions don’t matter as long as the victim they are brutalizing is a Black person. They caught police officers beating Rodney King on tape, world saw it, and nothing happened to the officers so why not up the ante and kill a Black person?
In immortal words of 2Pac,
“Cops give a damn about a negro
Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.”