Rodney King's death just as protesters were demonstrating against abusive police practices in New York City cemented his spot in history, Khalil Gibran Muhammad writes in a piece for the Guardian.
With the exception of what was televised during the riots, police violence had remained covert and invisible outside poor black communities.
The crisis of legitimacy and sharp break with the past came with the King videotape. The raw violence did not match three decades of post-racial mythology, where the only racism supposedly left in America was affirmative action. King's tape and others that followed, along with greater federal scrutiny of police agencies, compelled criminal justice officials and politicians to re-engineer or rig the system into a labyrinth of ostensibly race-neutral policies — such as stop, question, and frisk or stand your ground laws. It is now this system that legitimates the routine targeting of young black men for harassment or violence and that is now under attack as witnessed by yesterday's silent march in New York City.
Three years ago, before his memoir was published, King gave an interview to a reporter where he claimed his place in history. "It would be a real mistake on my part," he said, "if I didn't find my spot in history before I leave this earth." He achieved his goal.
Read Khalil Gibran Muhammad's entire piece at the Guardian.
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