Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

"Can We All Get Along?" Blacks' Historical and Contemporary (in) Justice with Law Enforcement

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

"Can We All Get Along?" Blacks' Historical and Contemporary (in) Justice with Law Enforcement

Article excerpt

"I just want to say--can we all get along? Can we get along?"--Rodney King (1992)

When the late Rodney King (April 2, 1965--June 17, 2012) endured a brutal beating by four members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on March 3,1991, he immediately became the face of police brutality in America, a reality that was generally accepted by most Blacks that resided within and outside of the inner-city (Armour, 1997; Bell, 1992; Bonilla-Silva, 2009; King, 2011; Plant & Peruche, 2005; Tonry, 2011). Essentially, when King uttered the aforementioned words to the residents of Los Angeles two decades ago in the wake of the worst multicultural riot in U.S. history, he instantaneously and simultaneously became a catalyst for hope and change against a law enforcement system that has been historically harsh to Black males.

This qualitative study had one primary goal, and we will use Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as tools to meet this goal. The chief goal of this study was to examine the public quotes made by Rodney King, what these quotes revealed about the world paradigm of King, as well as how he perceived the police, himself and his place in the world. To answer this question, we examined 20 quotes that were offered by King from the Search Quotes (2012) website. Given King's notoriety in directly influencing how the public generally perceive the police, the following question was foundational to this study: What do Rodney King's words reveal about his world view, especially as it relates to the police, himself, and others?

There are four reasons why this topic is important. First, police brutality against people of color, primarily African Americans, remains an ever present and persistent problem (Chaney & Robertson, 2013; Gabbidon & Greene, 2013; Police Brutality Statistics, 2011; Robertson, 2014; Staples, 2011). A report on the extrajudicial killings of Black people by police, security guards, or self-appointed law enforcers by the Malcolm X grassroots organization presents some revealing findings. >From January 1--June 30,2012, one Black person was killed by law enforcement or someone acting in such a capacity every 36 hours, representing a total of 120 persons. Furthermore, 69% of those who lost their lives were between the ages of 13 and 31, which in essence, are killing off a generation of potential revolutionaries. Moreover, while five percent of the Blacks killed were women, the bulk of those killed have been Black men like Rodney King. Perhaps more alarming is that 46% of those killed were unarmed (just like King) and 36% were alleged to have weapons by police, including a cane, a toy gun, and a bb gun ("Report on the extrajudicial," 2012). Unfortunately, the aforementioned data provided by the Malcolm X grassroots organization possesses methodological issues as there is no generalizable, national, database on police killings of Blacks. Specifically, the data were collected from news reports posted on the internet during the last ten days of June and the first twelve days of July 2012 ("Report on the extrajudicial," 2012). With that said, the conditions by which a large number of Black men women and children are losing their lives speaks to the injustice experienced by members of this particular racial group.

Second, police departments have increasingly become objects of government scrutiny though it remains to be seen whether this entity can be effective policing the activities of other government entities (Gabbidon & Greene, 2013). The DOJ (Department of Justice) has investigated over 17 police departments across the country and has monitored five settlements involving four police agencies since 2010 (Gabbidon & Greene, 2013). To add, the City of Houston's Police Department (HPD) is currently being investigated by the justice department for an excessive number of recent shootings of unarmed citizens, most of whom were persons of color (Desmond-Harris, 2012; Lozano, 2012). …

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