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The Rodney King legacy lives

Richard Carter | 10/12/2012, 4:17 p.m.
Colony Records was my place for original Black R&B

As a teenager, I used to get stopped by cops with annoying regularity late at night on the way home from my girlfriend's house. I'd be nearly blinded by a powerful police spotlight and unceremoniously told to lean on the hood of a squad car and "spread 'em."

On one occasion, after my night shift at the main post office in my pre-journalist days, I'd had coffee at a diner and awaited a bus at 2 a.m. on a deserted downtown street. A black-and-white police car passed three times before it stopped, and a white cop rolled down a window and growled: "What the hell are you doing here this time of night, boy?"

"What does it look like I'm doing," I calmly replied, looking up at the bus stop sign.

The next thing I knew, I was facedown on the ground, a knee in my back, my arms pinned at my side as one of the two cops barked: "You keep up that smart mouth and you'll be riding an ambulance." Needless to say I survived, but my psyche was scarred.

Then there was the scene I witnessed on a quiet inner-city street. One of three male members of a Black family that owned a popular car wash was berated by a white beat cop for "talking back" when ordered to move a car the officer said was blocking traffic.

Pulling out his billy club, the cop foolishly shoved the 17-year-old--a prize-winning amateur boxer--and in the next instant was on his back from a straight right hand. He got up, spotted two more Black males, and ran to a corner call box to summon help.

Within two minutes, three squad cars showed up and the teenager, his brother and father faced seven big, billy club-wielding white cops. However, each of the Black males were boxers--the older brother a two-time Golden Gloves light-heavyweight champ and the 43-year-old father a middleweight GG runner-up in days of yore.

The ensuing brawl was a doozy, with the outnumbered car washers knocking over the cops like 10-pins to cheers by scores of Black onlookers, including me. When four more police cars arrived, the car wash men were overwhelmed, handcuffed and taken to jail.

Where does all of this leave us? Where, indeed. What about the thousands of Black people who aren't videotaped being beaten, as was King, or publicly or privately humiliated by white cops? What about them? And that's the name of that tune.