The war against battered and confused drug addicts
Rodney King’s best statement isn’t what he’s famous for. Twenty years ago, the African-American suffered a sadistic beating at the hands of white Los Angeles police, an event caught on tape. When the officers were acquitted of brutality charges, rioting convulsed largely black South Central Los Angeles. The pandemonium cost 53 lives and destroyed 600 buildings. In the middle of it all, King, who died this month at 47, remarked with immortal simplicity: “Can we all get along?”
In his book, “The Riot Within,” King wrote (perhaps with input from his co-author), “I no longer blame them (lawyers and politicians) for taking a battered and confused addict and trying to make him into a symbol for civil rights.” King knew exactly what was up. He was a drugged or drunk black ex-con tortured by racist police officers whom he had just led on a high-speed hour-long chase.
Recipe for pain. But to what extent did the war on drugs accelerate the downward spiral of King and others like him? Suppose drugs were legal. King could have been open about his addiction. Perhaps he could have gotten treatment for it. If the ban on drugs hadn’t driven the price of narcotics so high, perhaps his jobs could have covered his “needs.”
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