The video of motorist Rodney King being beaten to within an inch of his life was the first viral video I can remember. When the LAPD officers who savaged King got a "not guilty" verdict 20 years ago today, parts of Los Angeles began to literally burn. Good thing King was still around to, as has been noted in many a retrospective recently, pour water on the whole situation with his famous question, "Can we all get along?"
In subsequent years, when it was no longer "too soon" to do so, the remark became comic fodder. It's no wonder some people don't remember the power of King's words, and how much they mattered then. An excerpt from King's new book, noted this week in the interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton above, reminded me of a lyric from perhaps the strongest track I remember about the riots, Ice Cube's "We Had to Tear This Motherf***** Up":
You had to get Rodney to stop me, 'cause you know what? We woulda teared this muthaf****up
As true as those words may have been, I was always struck by the lack of self-control they indicated. I don't judge it, because I was a young black teenager that day, full of my own rage. What if Rodney King had died, and there was no one with his prominence to pour water on the fire that was burning (metaphorically if not literally)? What if it were to happen today? Is it happening today?
In Sunday's show, Melissa will note the anniversary of the verdict by addressing not only the power of King's words, but correlating them to the Trayvon Martin case. You'll want to see this.
Melissa will also confront the question Ronald Reagan initially asked of voters when he ran against President Jimmy Carter, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Republicans are using that phrase again, presumably not only to draw a connection between Presidents Obama and Carter, but to use the economy as a talking point. Whether or not it's true may not matter; as so many have noted, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has a loose relationship with facts. The point is, it worked in 1980. Will it work now?
We'll also take a close look at the moral and legal questions surrounding the death penalty; examine the complex politics of Melissa's native Virginia; and look at the worth of social programs (that work). And if you haven't heard of Charles Taylor, Melissa will offer an introduction.
Our guests will include:
- Tom Perriello, former U.S. Congressman from Virginia, President and CEO for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Counselor for Policy at the Center for American Progress.
- Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst and Distinguished Senior Fellow and resident scholar at Third Way.
- Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project.
- Vera Thomas, whose son is on death row in Missouri.
- Faiz Shakir, editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress.org, and Vice President at the Center for American Progress.
- Jeff Jacoby, op-ed columnist for the Boston Globe.
- Dorian Warren, assistant professor of political science and international public affairs at Columbia University.
- Anthea Butler, professor of religious studies and graduate chair of Religion at the University of Pennsylvania.