Rodney King was not influential in the early 90’s for speaking out against the LAPD or rioting. He did however, incite riots after a bystander videotaped him taking a vicious beating by the police.
Some might say that he was a sacrificial lamb, that the brutality he endured was in some way necessary because it really showed how differently African Americans were being treated at that time.
No one should have to suffer that kind of abuse just to prove a point. King’s “fame” came at a heftier price than public humiliation and broken bones.
His memoir, published in April, detailed his past feelings and regret on being an being an addict who was made into a symbol for civil rights.
The New York Times points out that later in life he was more accepting of his role and that the 1991 incident “Opened the doors for a lot of people,” including Barack Obama.
King, an avid angler and swimmer, died in his pool on Sunday at the age of 47. Foul play is not suspected.
“His legacy should not be the struggles and troubles of his personal life but the immensely positive change his existence wrought on this City and its Police Department.”
– Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Chief of Police