I was 11 years old and 2,000 miles away when L.A. melted down. I watched it on T.V., and at that age I couldn't wrap my head around most of what I was seeing. Most of those images have subsequently faded, except one.
On May 1, 1992, the third day of the riot, Rodney King had a bunch of microphones stuck in his face. He said, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" I thought that was very big of him. I thought it was admirable. And what did the country do? They laughed at him. Big joke. I think that, more than even the beating or the riots, taught me an early lesson about the cruel streak running through our culture via groupthink; that it would turn a victim's call for peace into a talk show punchline. I don't want to sound high and mighty, I've laughed at some messed up things, and there are times when most every person--no matter how kind they usually are as an individual--is a part of that harsh edge of societal judgement. I imagine King was sometimes, too. He had his demons. But there's a lot of lasting heart in his words of that day, and maybe a lot of sadness too because too few listened.