by Alicia W. Stewart, CNN.com Identity editor
Rodney King died Sunday, 21 years after he first became a household name.
But it was the way that he almost died, in a severe beating by Los Angeles police officers, that made him a reluctant symbol of police brutality and spurred a conversation about race, economics and justice in America. The subsequent riot a year later, after the acquittal and mistrial of the four officers charged in the beating, was the "nation's deadliest urban race riot since the Civil War," according to Lou Cannon in his book "Official Negligence."
Rodney King looks back without anger
What impact did the beating of Rodney King, and the subsequent race riots a year later, have on America?
Here are five ways I have found. Are there other thoughts you have? Please leave them in the comments below.
1) It introduced a reluctant symbol, rather than a selected civil rights hero: The Rev. Al Sharpton called Rodney King "a symbol of civil rights," but in interviews with CNN, King was hesitant to be a symbol, much less a hero. In the past, civil rights icons like Rosa Parks, were carefully selected by leaders. Parks, who famously refused to get out of her seat, and spurred the Montgomery bus boycott, was selected by the NAACP over other women to test civil disobedience laws. King's legacy is still being debated, and he ushered in an era where more everyday citizens became accidental national figures. Amethyst Ross put it this way on CNN's Facebook page: "Rodney was not a civil rights hero. He made very wrong and stupid mistakes. However, I totally disagree with people calling others 'worthless.' Every human being and livings have some worth because they are God's creations. Rodney's situation gave the world a look into police brutality and cover-ups. Subsequently, the world witnessed the riots as a protest of racial inequality. Say what you want ... he may have been wasteful, but no one is worthless. He will answer to his Maker for being wasteful of his time, fame, and money...not us."
Overheard on cnn.com: Rodney King had demons. But called them his own
By Cody McCloy, CNN
(CNN) - After graduating from photography school in New York, Ester Jove Soligue began to collaborate with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice.
As part of its Immigrant Rights Program, the AFSC was collecting testimonies from children with family members who had been deported as illegal immigrants. Their stories were presented to Congress in June 2010.
Through her relationship with the AFSC, Soligue met 16-year-old Jocelyn. The girl’s mother, Maria, was deported three years ago after a fight with a neighbor, leaving Jocelyn and her father, Miguel, to take care of her sister and four brothers.
Jocelyn and her siblings were all born in the United States, making them legal U.S. citizens. Impressed by Jocelyn’s strength, Soligue turned her camera toward the family to capture their plight.
Read the full story on the CNN Photos blog
By Frederick Bernas, CNN
New York (CNN) - Rather than celebrating Father's Day on Sunday afternoon, Horace Russell marched with several thousand people to take a stand against the New York Police Department's controversial "stop and frisk" policy.
"I feel it every single day, practically," said Russell, who works as a teacher in the Bronx. "I've been pulled over and pushed against fences, frisked, but have never been arrested."
Russell's story sounded familiar to many of Sunday's marchers, who want to see action from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly - either by abolishing or reforming stop-and-frisk.
Last year, nearly 685,000 people were stopped by officers in cases that ended with no meaningful charge, according to police department statistics. Of these, 87% were African-American or Latino, the police department says.
Read the full post
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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