By Anonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2012

Twenty years have passed since the verdict in the Rodney King beating case, and yet the problems of police brutality and racial profiling remain with us.

On April 29, 1992, a mostly white jury found four Los Angeles Police Department officers not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive force against 25-year-old Rodney King following a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991. Police struck King more than 50 times with their batons, tasered him and kicked him in the head. Unlike most such incidents, this one was captured on videotape.

The verdict outraged black and Latino communities, who had suffered through years of police brutality and racial profiling. After the acquittals, riots broke out in South Central Los Angeles, resulting in 53 deaths and $1 billion in property damage.

Two decades later, some things have changed. The LAPD was forced to clean up its act and improve the way it interacts with citizens. Now the force is regarded as a model for community policing and reform.

The recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., reminded America that race still takes its toll in America. Further, the failure of police to immediately arrest George Zimmerman — the neighborhood watch member and self-professed shooter — highlighted the ways in which police treat victims of color with less urgency than white victims.

The Martin case bears some similarities to the police shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a black 68-year-old Marine veteran who was tasered and fatally shot by White Plains, N.Y., police. Police came to his home and broke down his door after his medical alert pendant had triggered a false alarm. In a recording made by his medical device, officers were heard mocking his military past and using the N-word. More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition demanding justice for Chamberlain.

In New York — where the city is still haunted by the shooting deaths of unarmed black men such as Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell — racial profiling and suspicion-less stop-and-frisks are rampant.

According to a report by the Center for Constitutional Rights, in recent years, the New York Police Department made 150,000 unjustified or unconstitutional stops. Most stops occurred in black and Latino communities. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to be stopped than whites, whether in areas with low crime, diverse communities or mostly white neighborhoods. And they are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than their white counterparts.

Further, the post-9/11 era increased police surveillance of minority groups. For example, the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on an NYPD surveillance program that spied on Muslim students, mosques and businesses.

Rodney King asked, “Can’t we just get along?”

The answer, at least from some police departments, seems to be no.

David A. Love is a writer based in Philadelphia, the executive editor of BlackCommentator.com and a contributor to theGrio and The Guardian. His blog is davidalove.com. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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