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 Remembering Rodney King: Shake Your Head

By Jay Thomas Willis,

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

The Mid-South Tribune

and the

Black Information Highway


Rodney Glen King was found dead in his swimming pool on June 17, 2012. He was a construction worker in Los Angeles, California. He became well known after being beaten harshly by police officers during a traffic stop on March 3, 1991. The beating was captured on videotape. He was laid to rest on June 30, 2012. King was remembered as a man who was forgiving, and who bore the scars of his infamous beating with dignity. He never publicly demonstrated bitterness toward anyone.

After his beating, King made the comment, “Can’t we all just get along?” He will be known for this statement many years passed his death. I recall a scholar friend of mine had a statement attached to his office-bulletin board that said, “We can get along as soon as you realize I’m God.” I never questioned my friend in-depth about the statement, but I knew it was in response to King’s statement. To me it said, “As long as you recognize my so-called superiority, we should have no problem getting along.” My friend was a collector of these kinds of statements, and found them humorous.

King was beaten by several policemen. The policemen said he behaved like a madman who was on drugs, refusing to go down. He denied doing anything but drinking. We will never know the extent to which King was affected by the beating. He seemed to be the type to follow his father’s advice, to just man-up, don’t be a sissy, and take it like a man. In that sense he was prepared to take everything the policemen gave him—up to his death. I believe his philosophy also was you’ve made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it.

I don’t think he realized the effect the beating had on him. But the beating probably had something to do with his ultimate demise: if not physically, at least psychologically. Sometimes we can be affected by something, and don’t realize how it has affected us. If we only stop to examine ourselves carefully we could see the effects the situation has had on us.

I recall in high school. A friend of mine use to tell a story that he said the principal told him. The principal said it was during World War II in the Philippine jungle where the Americans were fighting the Japanese. A Japanese soldier approached him in the jungle in a fierce battle. The principal swung at the Japanese with a machete, and cut his head off, but the head didn’t immediately fall to the ground. The Japanese laughed and said, “You missed.” To which the principal replied, “Shake your head.” The Japanese shook his head and it fell off.

I also recall watching cartoons at a young age. It was bear hunting season, and a man was hunting. The man shot a bear with a shotgun. The bear immediately said, “You missed.” After running away from the hunter he was tired and thirsty, and sought a drink of water. As he drank the water it poured out of him like water coming through a sieve. The bear was surprised because he thought the hunter had missed.

Blacks in general have been so conditioned by the general society that sometimes they forget, or are just unaware of what effects this conditioning has had on them. This causes us to engage in many negative behaviors. But such conditioning is apparent because of our behavior.

So don’t be so sure a given condition hasn’t affected you. We often engage in denial because it is the easiest thing to do. If you examine your condition thoroughly you may see that you have been affected severely. King never was able to collect himself after the beating, though he went on much like the Japanese who had been cut with the machete.

We must constantly examine our behavior to be aware of how things are affecting us.


Mr. Willis is a Senior Columnist and Political Analyst for The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE and the Black Information Highway. He is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com . Email him direct at jaytwillis@gmail.com .







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