Interview with Rodney King

Filed in National by on April 22, 2012

Twenty years after the LA riots, the Los Angeles Times sits down with Rodney King in a very thoughtful interview.

The riots began after the officers’ acquittal. You said in the book that you could understand a couple of hours of protest but not days of violence.

It got so scary. It felt almost like we were headed to Armageddon. Everybody had their own reasons. It wasn’t just police brutality. It was the way people were being treated over the years. People were [telling me to] say nothing, or go out there and say, “Burn it up,” but I was, like, no, that’s not how I was raised. It was a bad time, a combination of everything — race relations, police brutality, poverty. I was born [the year of] the Watts riots. This made me realize what people was going through back in the ’60s. I thought God had turned his clock back.


Your name is recognized around the country. Some people think it symbolizes a ne’er-do-well. Some people think of it as a civil rights rallying cry. Are you up for that role?

You don’t want to let anybody’s expectations down. People look at me like I should have been like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. I should have seen life like that and stay out of trouble, and don’t do this and don’t do that. But it’s hard to live up to some people’s expectations, which [I] wasn’t cut out to be. I didn’t go to school to be “Rodney King” and [be] beat up by cops and thrust into the limelight. It’s taken years to get used to the situation I’m in in life and the weight it holds. One of the cops in the jail [in a later encounter] said: You know what? People are going to know who you are when you’re dead and gone. A hundred years from now, people still going to be talking about you. It’s scary, but at the same time it’s a blessing.

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